‘Witness C’ convicted for perjury, Tamihere still convicted

The murder case against David Tamihere in 1990 was controversial. The guilty verdict relied in part on testimony of secret witnesses (prison inmates claiming Tamihere confessed), but ‘Witness C’ has now been revealed as a double murderer who was last year convicted of lying in the Tamihere case.

RNZ: Identity of ‘Witness C’ in Tamihere case revealed

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

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.

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.

As well as callously killing two people and leaving a dreadful discovery for their children Harris may have ruined tamihere’s life as well.

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

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.

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’s conviction for perjury was as a result of a private prosecution. Last year: Convicted murderer David Tamihere slams ‘ludicrous’ claims

The Weekend Herald reported that a jailhouse informant who claimed Tamihere confessed to murdering Heidi Paakkonen and Sven Urban Hoglin is being sued for perjury.

The private prosecution is being brought by self-styled jailhouse “lawyer” Arthur Taylor, who claims that the informant made direct admissions to him that he had lied at Tamihere’s trial.

Tamihere, who has served his time and now lives in West Auckland, told Fairfax he has a letter from a secret witness who admits lying at his trial.

He also rejected the snitch’s claims about what he is supposed to have done to the dead tourists.

“I dumped them at sea, according to him, stole a runabout from a camping ground and run him out to sea … weighted the body and dropped it over the side. I cleaned the boat up and put it back and then did it again with the female.

Ms Paakkonen’s body has never been found but the discovery of Mr Hoglin’s remains near Whangamata conflicted with testimony by the prison informant, who testified that Tamihere had told him he had weighted their bodies and dumped them at sea.

According to perjury charges filed in court, the informant had claimed Tamihere had told him that he:

• Met Ms Paakkonen and Mr Hoglin at a picnic area.
• Assaulted and tied up Mr Hoglin.
• Sexually assaulted both.
• Disposed of Mr Hoglin by beating his head with a lump of wood.
• Had Ms Paakkonen with him when he “almost got sprung” when “a couple” came across
• Strangled Ms Paakkonen.
• Gave Mr Hoglin’s watch to one of his sons.

Mr Hoglin’s body was found with his watch and a pathologist found no evidence of skull fractures or a broken neck.

Tamihere is still a convicted murderer with a life sentence, and could be recalled to prison if he breaks the law.

The perjury conviction on top of other claims since unproven make the conviction look very shaky.