David Tamihere was framed

Written By: - Date published: 8:01 am, April 27th, 2018 - 25 comments
Categories: crime, law, law and "order", police, suppression orders - Tags:

I know a few Tamiheres.  They are a large westie family and some of their mokopuna got into the odd spot of bother.  Nothing too serious generally, although David’s history was not good. But they were always staunch.

I was surprised at the result of David Tamihere’s trial for the murder of two Sweedish backpackers.  The police officer involved, John Hughes was old school.  He never showed the slightest doubt that Tamihere was guilty as charged.  But I remember having major concern when back in the late 1980s Tamihere was forced to walk into the Court from the road handcuffed and in front of a phalanx of cameras while the investigation was ongoing.  This seemed so unfair, so unusual, and a move designed to corrupt his chance of a fair trial and to taint the recollection of the witnesses.  And I was not the only one to be worried by what happened.

From Noted:

While Tamihere himself believes the secret witness evidence turned the jury against him, the most compelling testimony at the trial was undoubtedly that of seasoned trampers and Search and Rescue veterans John Cassidy and Mel Knauf, who identified him as the man they’d seen with a blonde woman resembling Paakkonen at Crosbies Clearing just after 3pm on Saturday, April 8, 1989. The woman, they said, appeared ill at ease and out of place.

These days, most people don’t recall that trial judge David Tompkins regarded their identification of Tamihere as so tainted by unacceptable police practices that at a pre-trial hearing, he ordered it inadmissible. Crown prosecutor David Morris had argued the Cassidy and Knauf evidence was backed up by one of the secret witnesses, leading Tompkins to remark: “The danger of doubtful evidence being used to support and corroborate doubtful evidence is obvious.”

Tompkins’ decision was overturned pre-trial by the Court of Appeal – the same court that rejected Tamihere’s appeal against conviction in May 1992, seven months after Urban Höglin’s body was found, still wearing the watch the Crown had claimed during the trial that Tamihere gave to his son.

We don’t easily remember now that Cassidy and Knauf described the man they saw as clean shaven or with a “small mo”, when Tamihere had a big bushy moustache. Or that their certainty it was him dawned only after police showed them photographs of Tamihere, including police mugshots, and suggested they get a look at him at the Thames courthouse where, three months prior to being charged with murder, he admitted stealing the Swedes’ car.

Police did not put Tamihere in an identity parade; what they did broke every rule in their procedural handbook.

It is pretty clear that he stole their car.  After all he admitted this.  Our justice system should be able to differentiate between the offences of stealing a car and murdering someone.

But he was convicted.  Without bodies the Crown managed to persuade a jury that he had in fact killed the Sweedish tourists.  A secret witness persuaded the jury that Tamihere had confessed to him that Tamihere had beaten Bernard Hoglin and dumped his and Heidi Paakkonin’s bodies at sea.

There was a slight problem.  After the trial Hoglin’s body was discovered in bush on the Coromandel some 73 kilometres away from the scene where Tamihere was said to have killed him and Paakkonen.  And to make it even more embarrassing for the Crown Hoglin’s watch that Tamihere was said to have been in possession of was found safely strapped around the wrist of Hoglin’s skeletal remains.

Tamihere appealed on what I thought was the very reasonable grounds that the Crown’s case against him was fatally flawed.  Unfortunately for him the Court of Appeal disagreed.  Tamihere’s conviction was confirmed and many years later he was released on parole.

Secret witnesses were a huge part of the original trial.  As for their use Wikipedia has this passage:

Three prison inmates testified against Tamihere at his trial. One of them, known as Secret Witness C, who has permanent name suppression, claimed that Tamihere confessed to him in prison that he’d beaten Urban Höglin over the head with a lump of wood and dumped the couple’s bodies at sea. He also claimed Tamihere told him he gave Hoglin’s watch to his son.[19]Höglin’s remains were eventually found near Whangamata on 10 October 1991 with his skull still intact and the watch still on his wrist.[19]

On 25 August 1995, five years after the trial, Witness C swore an affidavit retracting this statement, saying police had fed him the information, and told him: “a sum of money up to $100,000 was available should I decide to give a statement helpful to the Police”. The prisoner also claimed the police indicated they would support his early release at his parole hearing if he did what they wanted.[20]

The existence of this affidavit only came to light a year later on 17 July 1996, when Witness C spoke to broadcaster Paul Holmes in a prison telephone interview. He publicly admitted to lying at Tamihere’s trial and confirmed that the affidavit he had signed in 1995, stating that he had lied and given false evidence, was the truth. He told Holmes that his original testimony against Tamihere had been “playing on his mind” and “they definitely have an innocent man inside”.[21] The publicity created immediate concerns about police conduct in the case, leading a Member of Parliament to request a ministerial inquiry. The Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA) was also asked to investigate the police handling of the case. The IPCA eventually concluded that the police had not been guilty of any wrongdoing,[22] and Minister of Justice Doug Graham rejected a call for further inquiry.

Justice recently prevailed at least in part and witness C was charged and convicted of perjury.  And his identity has now been released.  From the Herald:

David Tamihere spent two decades in prison for the twin backpacker murders he always denied committing.

The Crown’s pursuit to convict him was, in part, formed around the “powerful” testimonies of three secret jailhouse informants.

They were known as “Witness A”, “Witness B” and “Witness C”.

Their evidence has been remembered as a vital part of the puzzle for the jury to piece together, and it led to Tamihere being convicted of both murders and sentenced to life imprisonment in December 1990.

But last year, in a rare private prosecution by “jailhouse lawyer” Arthur Taylor and well-known barrister Murray Gibson in the High Court at Auckland, one of the secret witnesses was found to have lied.

He was found guilty on eight perjury charges and not guilty of obstructing the course of justice, which pertained to a 1995 affidavit recanting his murder trial testimony.

That man who took the stand 27 years ago was Witness C.

That man is Roberto Conchie Harris.

And Harris’s reputation is not pristine.  He was serving time for murdering Northland farmers Carole Anne Pye and Trevor Martin Crossley.  But this was not the only time he had been in trouble.

His first conviction came in 1964 when he was just 15 years old.

When released on parole in 1995 for the Northland killings, he soon committed a serious assault and was recalled to prison.

Later in October 2008, he was found guilty of performing an indecent act on a young girl on the same day he was released.

He was sentenced to a further two years and three months’ imprisonment.

A​ 2012 Parole Board decision, released to the Herald, referred to Harris’ psychological report which assessed him as being at a high risk of reoffending but that something was “amiss” about his latest crime.

“He tells us that previously he had always confessed when charged with offending, which was true, and the fact that he denies this [latest offending] indicates that this time there was something amiss with the conviction,” Parole Board chairman Sir David Carruthers said.

“He is assessed to be at high risk of reoffending and has done nothing to reduce that, and has no adequate release proposal to manage his risk at the present time.

Harris had the decency of trying to recant his evidence although he subsequently maintained that what he originally said was correct.

His convictions for perjury stand.

Meanwhile Tamihere’s convictions also stand although his lawyer Murray Gibson is preparing an application for a pardon.

I hope this succeeds.  I can’t help but feel that a terrible injustice has occurred.

25 comments on “David Tamihere was framed”

  1. james 1

    There could not be much worse than being sent to jail for murders you did not do.

    I know little about the trail but reading about this recently (Witness C) – it sure seems that this is worthy of looking at officially.

    If found that he was setup (a real possibility) while there is nothing that can be done to return years to him – he should have everything possible done ($ and apologies) to make it as right as possible.

    Also – people who were involved and found to have been dishonest in the process should be held to account with serious penalties (years in jail).

    • reason 1.2

      What you say in this instance is correct James …. but contrast that to your calls for NZ to rush into punishment …. for other unproven crimes ….

      Or your ‘conspiracy theorists’ and ‘loons’ put downs / Scott Watson post….. Flaming and insulting those holding doubts over the police version of events.. or the subsequent guilty verdict of Scott Watson …. an insult that applies against Gerald Hope …. the father of Olivia…. who does not think highly of the police investigation / conduct and ‘evidence’.

      Watching this video … it became evident that the majority of the witness s, contradicting the crowns “no ketch” story-line … were never called to court.

      from the 47 mins Minute mark…

      … And the use of secret jail house snitches .. aka same with Tamihere

      The lesson from both cases seems to be …. if your innocent and accused of murder … hire a detective to accumulate the evidence that the crown will not show in court.

      Finally … If Tamihere is innocent of the murders he was convicted of … the injustice is tempered by the crimes he did inflict …. and judicial injustice upon his victims that followed.

      If Watson is innocent … the crowns crime is worse.

      • james 1.2.1

        “What you say in this instance is correct James …. but contrast that to your calls for NZ to rush into punishment …. for other unproven crimes ….”

        No its not – you know that when somebody is found guilty the crime has been proven.

        Scott Wilson was as guilty as hell.

        Im just saying that IF others have committed crimes (ie a setup) – they should also go to court and be held to account..

        • reason 1.2.1.1

          Not only are you inconsistent James …………..

          Your also wrong on a couple of things…. like leaving out “the beyond reasonable doubt” caveat…….

          ” you know that when somebody is found guilty the crime has been proven.” … Arthur Allen Thomas was found guilty … Lindy Chamberlain was found guilty …

          Actually James its been repeatedly proven that some guilty verdicts are contrived falsehoods ….. https://www.innocenceproject.org/cases/

          You also state your opinion as fact… which is in fact a non fact …. and undermines your opinion.

          You can think he is as guilty as hell … and even be correct in your belief ….

          But only Scott Watson ‘knows’… same with Tamihere … David Bain …..or other cases with botched flawed police investigations creating doubt.

          The police investigation… and changing their story mid-trial was as dodgy as hell in the Scott Watson case …..

          Let alone the multitude of witnesses who saw the Ketch

          Why do you think the police lied to two witnesses …. telling them they had never contacted the murder investigation …. and which was refuted on the spot by quick thinking and production cell phone bill which showed the call …

          And other witnesses with “edited”statements …., edited by the police

          Hardly a firm basis to be 100% certain on

          55.10 secs

  2. Andre 2

    I’ve kinda reached the point where I view the use of a jailhouse snitch as strongly suggesting that the prosecution doesn’t have a real case but feels the need to be seen to be doing their job and is just trying to send somebody, anybody, away. And is therefore evidence pointing towards innocence rather than guilt.

    Which is one of the issues that makes me uneasy about Scott Watson’s conviction.

  3. Me 3

    David Tamihere was driving the missing tourists car when he was arrested.

    • Andre 3.1

      The appropriate response for that is charging him with stealing a car, not framing him for murder.

      • dukeofurl 3.1.1

        David Tamihere had a prior conviction for the manslaughter of an Auckland stripper, 23-year-old Mary Barcham, whom he killed in 1972 when he was 18 by hitting her on the head with a rifle

        Thats a bit more than a ‘rough sort’

        In April 1986 he broke into an Auckland house, where he sexually violated and threatened to kill a 47-year-old woman over six hours. He pleaded guilty, but fled while on bail and was still at large, living rough in the bush on Coromandel Peninsula, when the two tourists disappeared.

        1992 he was found guilty of assaulting a 62-year-old woman in her home in 1985

        • mickysavage 3.1.1.1

          I said his history was not good and I accept that this is an understatement.

        • Andre 3.1.1.2

          So it appears they had enough on him to keep him properly locked away while they could have followed where the evidence led with the missing tourists. But no, it appears they chose to induce a false statement from a dodgy witness instead of doing their jobs properly.

    • dukeofurl 3.2

      No he wasnt driving the car ‘when arrested’ . he had dumped the car at Auckland railway station.

    • millsy 3.3

      There is a theory that Tamihere helped someone else kill the two Swedish tourists, and he is protecting him.

  4. Anne 4

    Me,me,me has nailed it. He stole a car what he found parked up somewhere so’s that means it must’ve been him what did it. [sarc].

    • OnceWasTim 4.1

      yea yea yea, and because he wasn’t the perfect law-abiding specimen, and even if it wasn’t him wot dun it – he deserves wot he got …… (end of story!!!!!!!!!)
      /sarc

  5. dukeofurl 5

    Court of Appeal only see its job as keeping Judges in line and following precedent not for keeping prosecutors and Police in line and following precedents

  6. dukeofurl 6

    Interesting story from pathologist who examined the bones of Urban Höglin

    They didnt notice anything on first examination- a hole in the breast bone was a congenital disorder but only found cut marks ‘ weeks later’ which always has me suspicious
    ‘What he found was down to sheer chance, he says.’

    So they are either experts at their job who do a through examination and write a substantial report or they find things like obvious cuts on bone on sheer chance some weeks later

    https://admin.noted.co.nz/currently/crime/swedish-tourists-murder-what-the-pathologist-found/

  7. Ross 7

    Mickey

    Its Urban, not Bernard.

  8. McFlock 8

    [edit: crap, missed the reply tab again. @duke comment 6]
    Well, the drying out in storage is a reasonable explanation.

    What raised my suspicions at the time was in the doco TV1 had ready for the day after the verdict was announced (that sort of timeframe). The senior investigator said “we had our suspect and we proceeded to build a case around him”. Even to a kid that sounded dodgy as fuck.

    • dukeofurl 8.1

      Really ? Drying in storage is a thing in the literature then ? As an expert they would be expected to take account of that for bodies that were some years outside and delay their full assessment.
      Arthur Allan Thomas cartridge cases were a ‘lucky find’ after the first through search of the garden.

      • McFlock 8.1.1

        dunno. Lent my copy of “autopsying skeletal remains” to a friend lol.

        But funny things turn up in the garden sometime. Joys of composting back in the day. A bit of bone or stick half in vs half out of the ground looks quite different between the halves, no? Bit darker, slightly more swollen?

        Either way, the existence of the skeleton is inconsistent with the supposed “confessions” that contributed to Tamihere’s conviction. And I believe the cops stopped looking for suspects after they found him in the car, and “built their case around him”.

  9. JustPassingThrough 9

    I don’t think confessions should be allowed especially in murder cases. The risk of a false confession is just too high even if the police have done everything by the book and given the modern forensic technology there’s absolutely no need for them.

  10. Zorb6 10

    He admits stealing the car.Apparently he drove it for sometime,quite unconcerned about any chance of being apprehended.Some may speculate that is because he was safe in the knowledge that the cars owners,wouldn’t be reporting it as stolen.

    • McFlock 10.1

      It was in the 1980s.

      No ANPR cameras in cop cars in those days. A hot sheet of all the cars stolen in the general area at best – and I wouldn’t be surprised if he crossed police area boundaries into where they had a different sheet.

      Basically, if he’d gotten pulled over for speeding and they queried his reggo over the radio, he’d have had a problem. How often do you get pulled over?

  11. Tamati Tautuhi 11

    Some of the same detectives as the Arthur Allan Thomas Case ?

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