22 Apr 2020

David Tamihere: 'All I wanted was a fair hearing'

7:53 am on 22 April 2020

Convicted double murderer David Tamihere wants a retrial after he was granted a rare Royal Prerogative of Mercy.

David Tamihere outside the High Court at Auckland.

David Tamihere outside the High Court at Auckland. Photo: RNZ

Tamihere served 20 years for murdering Swedish tourists Urban Hӧglin and Heidi Paakkonen, who disappeared in the Coromandel in 1989.

He has always maintained his innocence and was yesterday granted a Royal Prerogative of Mercy to have his case reviewed afresh by the Court of Appeal.

Tamihere told RNZ the planks of the largely-circumstantial case against him have slowly fallen away over the years and should be put before a second jury.

"As the years progressed, each separate piece of the case started falling apart and we were going 'well hold on a minute, what the hell is going on, the conviction still remains'.

"And we're not talking about just little wee technicalities either. There were some quite major changes in the case."

The confirmation of a fresh appeal comes just three years after a key witness Roberto Conchie Harris - a jailhouse informant known as 'Witness C' - was jailed for lying in Tamihere's 1990 trial.

Harris told the jury Tamihere made a number of confessions to him in prison, including sexually assaulting the Swedish tourists and dumping their bodies at sea.

However, Hӧglin's body was found in a shallow grave in the Coromandel after the trial. Paakkonen's body has never been found.

Harris later changed his story, swearing an affidavit claiming the police offered him $100,000 for evidence against Tamihere; allegations cleared by the Police Complaints Authority.

Tamihere said the worst part of his case was that he'd served eight years of his sentence based on evidence the jury in his trial never saw.

"When they discovered Hӧglin's remains we arrived at the appeal hearing with the argument that if the jury had known this is where he was going to end up it also threw the rest of the evidence into doubt.

"Their verdict may have been different and because of that we would like retrial. What happened was the Crown arrived with a whole new scenario and the Court of Appeal agreed."

Tamihere said while he's been on parole for 10 years now, he wants to clear his name and move on with his life.

"All I wanted was a fair hearing; put it in front of a jury and let's see what happens. I'd be quite happy with a retrial.

"They got away with it once. They pulled a couple of fast ones and got away with it but they certainly won't be getting away with it twice."

Tamihere will be represented by his long-time lawyer Murray Gibson, who also acted for David Dougherty.

Dougherty was cleared of the rape of his 11-year-old neighbour in West Auckland in 1992 after being granted a Royal Prerogative of Mercy.

A hearing date in the Court of Appeal has not yet been set.