26 Apr 2018

Identity of 'Witness C' in Tamihere case revealed

4:31 pm on 26 April 2018

The identity of a secret prison informant who gave evidence at David Tamihere's 1990 murder trial can now be revealed.

David Tamihere outside the High Court at Auckland.

David Tamihere outside court Photo: RNZ

His identity has been kept secret for almost 30 years.

Roberto Conchie Harris - a convicted double murderer - was the secret jailhouse snitch at the trial of David Tamihere, 27 years ago.

His evidence at Tamihere's 1990 trial included claims Tamihere had confided in him, disclosing how he had sexually abused Swedish tourists Heidi Paakkonen and Sven Hoglin before murdering them.

Tamihere was found guilty and was sentenced to life. He was paroled in 2010 and has always maintained his innocence.

Harris shot Carol Pye, 28, and and her partner Trevor Crossley, 25, after an argument over marijuana in 1983.

Mrs Pye's children found her body in the garden of their Titoki farmhouse in Northland when they arrived home from school. Mr Crossley's body was about nine metres away.

Both had been shot in the head.

Harris was an unemployed crane driver at the time of the murders.

While serving the sentence Harris told the police Tamihere had confided in him.

He later told Tamihere's trial that Tamihere had told him he had met the Swedish backpackers at a camping area before sexually assaulting both of them and dumping their bodies at sea.

Five years later he flip-flopped on his evidence.

While inside prison, Harris swore an affidavit claiming the police had offered him $100,000 for his evidence against Tamihere.

He claimed the police would also support him at his upcoming parole hearing.

The affidavit - sworn in front of a lawyer working for Tamihere's brother, former MP John Tamihere - was kept secret for a year before being released to the media.

But a year later, Harris changed his evidence again.

In 1996 he retracted the entire affidavit, claiming he had been threatened in prison by gang members.

"They would kill me and if they didn't get me, they would butcher my elderly parents," Harris told investigators.

The Commissioner of Police at the time called in the Police Complaints Authority, saying: "In the interests of maintaining public confidence in the police, I believe there should be no delay in investigating the allegations."

The Police Complaints Authority investigated the allegations of police corruption and bribery.

In Harris' statement to the authority, he apologised for damaging the integrity and credibility of the police.

"At the same time I would like it noted that it all came about due to a life-threatening sequences [sic] of events. That still concerns me and smoulders on my memory with unspeakable anguish."

He reiterated that the evidence that he had given at Tamihere's trial was true.

Detective Inspector John Hughes headed the police investigation into the murders of Heidi Paakkonen and Sven Hoglin.

He told the authority investigation that Harris had come forward of his own volition and was never offered any inducement.

The authority cleared police, finding that Harris' allegations of bribery had no basis.

In 2006 Harris was paroled for the second time. His first taste of freedom in 1992 ended when he was recalled to prison after being arrested for assault and demanding money.

His second release was even briefer.

On the day he was let out of prison, he sexually assaulted a 14-year-old, the granddaughter of the woman he was meant to be moving in with.

Harris denied the charge, saying the woman had got her granddaughter to fabricate the complaint out of jealousy because he had chosen to live with someone else.

He was convicted at his second trial, following a hung jury.

Since then Harris has been in prison, serving his life sentence for the murders of Mrs Pye and Mr Crossley.

He was sentenced to eight-and-a-half years in prison for the perjury convictions.


  • February 1983: Harris shoots dead Carol Pye and and her partner Trevor Crossley
  • May 1983: Harris committed to trial at the High Court in Whangārei
  • December 1992: Harris released on parole
  • October 1994: Harris recalled to prison after complaints of assault and demanding money
  • August 1995: Harris swears an affidavit, claiming the police induced his evidence at trial with a promise of $100,000
  • July 1996: Harris flip-flops again, withdrawing all allegations of police bribery
  • March 2007: Harris paroled for the second time but immediately recalled to prison after a complaint that he indecently assaulted a 14-year-old girl
  • 2010: Tamihere granted parole
  • April 2013: Harris' has a Human Rights Review Tribunal claim dismissed
  • September 2016: Arthur Taylor attempts to have Witness C's name suppression revoked ahead of Witness C's trial
  • August 2017: Harris goes on trial, accused of perjury and attempting to pervert the course of justice
  • September 2017: Harris convicted of perjury but found not guilty of attempting to pervert the course of justice

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