Case 2: Urban Hoglin and Heidi Paakkonen (EPILOGUE)

THAMES, COROMANDEL PENINSULA. Parakiwai Valley is situated about 70km away from Thames, it is a tranquil and quiet place, famed mostly for the Wharekirauponga Track. A 5km trek through NZ bush, punctuated by natural swimming holes. Reach the end of the trek and you are rewarded with a series of waterfalls. A destination, under normal circumstances, Urban would loved to have visited. It was here, Sven Urban Hoglin met his end and his body lay for two and a half years; undiscovered.

Visit www.truecrimenz.com for additional information on this case. Including a transcript of this episode, with supporting pictures, sources, and credits.

Hosted by Jessica Rust
Written and edited by Sirius Rust

“Crossing the Divide”, “Day of Chaos”, “Floating Cities”, “Heart of Nowhere”, “Immersed”, “Lightless Dawn”, “Relaxing Piano Music”
Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

The podcast version is the intended way to consume this article but I make a transcript available for those that would rather read instead. This can be found below.

THAMES, COROMANDEL PENINSULA. Parakiwai Valley is situated about 70km away from Thames, it is a tranquil and quiet place, famed mostly for the Wharekirauponga Track. A 5km trek through NZ bush, punctuated by natural swimming holes. Reach the end of the trek and you are rewarded with a series of waterfalls. A destination, under normal circumstances, Urban would loved to have visited. It was here, Sven Urban Hoglin met his end and his body lay for two and a half years; undiscovered.

URBAN’S BODY FOUND

Fig 1. Parakiwai Valley

On October the 10th, 1991. A human skeleton was found in the Parakiwai Valley, near Whangamata by two native pig hunters. The next day, Pathologists assembled at the site. When the area below the remains were examined, a wedding band was discovered. Upon closer inspection, an engraving was uncovered on the band reading ‘Heidi 2.9.86’. Detective Inspector Denby wrote in his report “The finding of this band immediately raised speculation that the remains were of Urban Hoglin”.

In the analysis of the crime scene. It was determined early that this was the remains of Urban Hoglin based on the clothing and items left behind. Investigators determined that Urban was either dead or unconscious when placed where he was found. As the police report noted “The body was dragged to where it was found, and was dragged by the feet, backwards… the legs were straight and fully outstretched… Both the arms were outstretched in a forward direction, above the head, consistent with being pulled backwards, whilst arms were released, and the face was down”. Hinting at foul play in his perishing. 

More evidence would back that up as well. Analysis of the clothing found many stab wounds when the clothing was taken to Harry Harding of the Adelaide State Forensic Laboratory. Harding was an expert in the analysis of damage to fibres. Harding’s finding confirmed what we all feared “It was determined that the damage to the left shoulder and neck was likely the result of three stabs with a knife to that area… the simplest scenario which comes to mind would be a standing frontal attack by a right handed person… the weapon may have been a single-edged blade (knife). The presence of multiple stabs suggests that this was a deliberate attack”. When Urban’s remains were reconstructed by a trio of pathologists. Damage to the bones indicated something more frightening. The pathologists found cuts in the bones around the neck, indicating Urban had his throat cut “I believe that these marks, which represent two separate cuts, were produced by a knife with a very sharp edge in a probable cutting motion. I believe that either one or both of these cuts would have divided the major arteries in the neck on the left side and have caused death”. The perpetrator or perpetrators, unfortunately, were not finished with Urban “A deep cut… has been inflicted to the right side of the neck and passing backwards to the midline … has shaved off a piece of bone… with the line continuing on to the marks on the left side described previously. I think this kind of cut would have almost certainly divided the spinal cord and could be interpreted as being an attempt at decapitation”. For reasons currently unknown, it would seem that the assailant or assailants gave up on the idea of cutting Urban’s head off, then dragged his body to it’s final resting spot. Where it lay for 18 months, decaying into the NZ landscape.

SECRET WITNESS C

Urban’s body being found 70km away from where the crown said the rapes and double murder had taken place, raised some eyebrows from the public. The discovery of Urban’s watch on his skeleton’s left wrist was also problematic for Detective Inspector John Hughes and the Crown. During the trial, the Crown alleged that Tamihere had given Urban’s watch to his son. The public began questioning the strength of the crown’s case.

This new evidence was also at odds with evidence given by Secret Witness B and Secret Witness C. Secret Witness B testified that David Tamihere had confessed to him that the police would never find the bodies because he “Cut the fuckers up”. Secret Witness C’s testimony was also inconsistent with evidence found. For instance, Secret Witness C described David killing Urban with a piece of wood “He told me that he killed the man by smashing his head in with a piece of wood.”  and that he disposed of the bodies at sea “He said he had kept the boat for several days and used it to dispose of both of the bodies”. 

Nearly five years after the trial on 25 August 1995. Secret Witness C swore an affidavit. This affidavit was in regards to the evidence he gave at David Tamihere’s trial. This affidavit has been edited for clarity. I was approached by a journalist employed by Television New Zealand who formerly was teaching Maori at Paremoremo Maximum Security Prison whilst I was a prisoner at said prison. [The journalist] told me that he knew of two other prisoners, who were secret witnesses for the Police in the case against DAVID WAYNE TAMIHERE. [The journalist] told me that there were big offerings in it for [them] adding that if I were interested in becoming a secret witness I should let him know. I informed [the journalist] that I was interested. Shortly after this [the journalist] introduced me to a Detective Sanderson who I think was stationed in Hamilton at the time. Sanderson visited me at Paremoremo Maximum Security Prison. The meeting took place in [the journalist’s] office outside normal visiting hours. Sanderson told me that a sum of money up to $100,000 was available should I decide to give a statement helpful to the Police in their prosecution against DAVID WAYNE TAMIHERE. Sanderson told me things that would be beneficial to the Police. Sanderson told me about the blood stains on the tent which DAVID WAYNE TAMIHERE had supposedly concealed in a hut or shed. I was told about sexual activities involving the female Swede after the male Swede’s body was supposedly disposed of. I was told that a watch belonging to the male Swede was given by DAVID WAYNE TAMIHERE to his son. I was told about trampers coming upon DAVID WAYNE TAMIHERE and the two Swede’s and that at such time the female Swede was visibly distressed. I may have been told also about a body being dumped at sea. Sanderson wanted me to say that all of this had been told to me by DAVID WAYNE TAMIHERE. Sanderson said he would return with a typed statement for me to sign he also said that the officer in charge was the former Detective John Hughes on whose behalf, he acted. Sometime later Sanderson returned with a typed statement for me to sign. Again this visit was outside normal visiting hours. I saw him in the boardroom where parole board hearings took place. I refused to sign the statement and to this day do not know who did sign it. I was in my last 18 months of a 11 year sentence. I had no money to come out with. It was the money I wanted. Though I didn’t sign the statement I went along with the Police plan to be a secret witness. Again Sanderson emphasised the benefits for me should I assist the Police. He spoke of the money and the support Detective John Hughes was prepared to give me at my parole board hearing once I became eligible for such a hearing. After DAVID WAYNE TAMIHERE was convicted as the supposed murderer of the Swedes John Hughes flew to Christchurch where I had been transferred, to support me at my parole hearing. I was released from Prison December 14 1992. The fact of the matter is DAVID WAYNE TAMIHERE never made any confession to me of any kind. DAVID WAYNE TAMIHERE actually always maintained his innocence… After doing 11 years in prison I lost tract of things when I was released, but I always intended on doing something about the mistake… Eventually I got in contact with the Tamihere family. By making this affidavit I realise that I maybe compromising my own best interests. Violent reaction from other prisoners is likely. Police and prison officers and other official persons maybe equally unforgiving. They may exert pressure on me through their contact within the justice system. No matter what the consequences of this affidavit maybe for me personally it is the interests of DAVID WAYNE TAMIHERE that concern me most. I no longer want to be associated with the fabrication of evidence used by the Police in their case against DAVID WAYNE TAMIHERE.”  

Witness C then repeated his statement to broadcaster Sir Paul Holmes in an interview. When Holmes asked “You’ve got no doubts about his innocence?”, Witness C replied “No, I have no doubts at all”

Detective Sanderson denied offering cash for testimony in a retort statement “At no stage did I give (Witness C) the information in relation to the Police investigation which is contained in his allegations in the affidavit, nor did I offer him any cash inducements or other privileges to give evidence for the Police. I am aware that there is a claim that I told (Witness C) support would be given for him at a Parole Board hearing. While I cannot specifically recall making such a statement, I am aware that it is not uncommon for support to be given at Parole Board hearings where prisoners have been helpful to the Police.”

DI John Hughes was similarly dismissive of the claims made by Witness C. “It’s absolute rubbish… Up until now, and despite (Witness C’s) background, I believed that he was sincere for his motive for coming forward. He didn’t ask for anything special at the time. He placed himself in jeopardy. I know that he was held in the cells for 20-22 hours a day, but when he came to give evidence he just came across very sincere. He was respectful to the Crown, Defence Counsel and everyone and explained why he was there. He was sick of listening to TAMIHERE quoting about what he had done.”

On the 8th of August 1996. In an additional twist, Witness C then retracted the affidavit and confession of lying under oath. Claiming he had received two letters with threats to his life. Witness C asserted that because of his ‘snitch’ status in prison, his life was in danger and gangs were threatening his family. The ransom, the threatening letters had asked of him was to repent and lie. The letters outlined for Witness C to state publicly “… the Police had offered me inducements and $100,000 and that I lied at his trial, and that the Police had told me what to say in my statement….”  According to Witness C, he had no other choice “They would kill me and if they didn’t get me, they would butcher my elderly parents. I’m fully aware of how some of these gangs operate, and I took the threats seriously.” 

To complicate things further, Witness C wrote Tamihere a letter in June 2007 stating once more that the “trial evidence was all false and fabricated by the police anyway”. He claimed once again this letter was the result of threats by fellow prisoners, in fact the same prisoners as in the mid-1990s “They were the same ones, they came into my cell wanting me to write this letter”. Shedding some light on this situation Witness C’s lawyer, Adam Simperingham, said that “in prison circles narks are considered lower than paedophiles”.

THE APPEALS OF DAVID TAMIHERE

Fig 2. David Tamihere

Viewing all this drama from afar was David Tamihere. Still maintaining his innocence. In 1991, when Urban’s body was found which contradicted some of the Crown’s evidence. Tamihere and his legal team unsuccessfully petitioned to the Court of Appeal to reopen the Swedish Tourist case. In May  , the court ruled that the Crown’s evidence provided “convincing circumstantial proof” that David had murdered the couple. Adding “nothing substantive in defence claims that the skeleton revealed new evidence”.

While in prison, according to a report released by the parole board, David Tamihere made huge breakthroughs in regards to his ‘risk’ to society “As a result of the counselling he received… and with special help from the Department of Corrections and encouragement from his family, he undertook and completed the Adult Sex Offenders Treatment Programme… He has moved from being a very closed person to being quite open about all aspects of his past life and is showing increased ability to manage his risk in a satisfactory way.” He had also made breakthroughs in regards to his consumption of alcohol “He now understands that he has to regard himself as an alcoholic and will never drink again.” 

The police had requested a condition of David’s release be that he disclosed the whereabouts of the body of Heidi Paakkonen. In total Tamihere appeared in front of the Parole Board fourteen times; over twenty years. He refused to admit guilt and maintained his innocence on every occasion. The report explains “Previous Boards have had what has been described as ‘vigorous and robust discussions’ with him about both his denial and where the body of one of the tourists who has yet to be discovered could be found. Mr Tamihere has been adamant in his denial and we are satisfied that there is no purpose to be served in further pursuing that issue. We feel strongly for the victim’s family that they cannot at present complete the usual funeral and burial procedures which may bring at least a measure of peace to them but we record that our attempts have not been successful and we do not think that we can take that matter any further.” 

David Tamihere was released on parole on 15 November, 2010. Almost twenty years after being convicted of the double murders. Tamihere, now 59 years old, was given strict parole conditions, including that he stay out of the area in which he murdered Heidi and Urban in 1989. Out of fear that David would move Heidi’s body.

Since David’s release, he has continued to maintain his innocence. In an article written for North & South in 2017 about Tamihere, the article described David’s current existence as “He spends a few hours every weekday morning on cleaning and handyman duties at the Hoani Waititi marae in West Auckland, and afternoons are spent quietly at home with wife Kris. He’s doing a course in te reo, in which he reached Year 12-level in prison, but he now wants to take his studies further.” Although, the article quoted Tamihere as saying his main priority was “to get this bloody thing sorted”, in reference to the conviction. 

Fig 3. Robero Conchie Harris (Witness C)

In 2018, twenty eight years after giving testimony at David Tamihere’s trial, Witness C was unmasked as Roberto Conchie Harris when he was convicted of perjury for lying in said case. With this unmasking, the nature of Roberto Harris’ crimes were also revealed. Journalist Michael Morrah covered the story for Newshub:

https://www.newshub.co.nz/home/new-zealand/2018/04/revealed-the-crimes-of-tamihere-murder-trial-perjurer-robert-conchie-harris.html

This was, in the mind of Tamihere, a huge boost for his campaign. With this breakthrough Tamihere’s lawyer, Murray Gibson, filed duel applications for both a pardon and a request to the Governor General to have the murder case re-examined by the Court of Appeal. Gibson indicated he would approach Prime Minister Jacinda Arden for a pardon “in the same way that Arthur Allan Thomas approached [former Prime Minister] Robert Muldoon” in 1979. As of 2019, nothing of significance has come of this.

SPECULATION

If we consider the possibility that David Tamihere is innocent. Where do alternate paths lead us, after examining the evidence? 

Fig 4. Missing Pieces by Ian Wishart

Ian Wishart, writer of Missing Piecesreleased in 2012; this book is a detailed investigation into the Swedish tourists murders. Wishart outlines some possible other scenarios based on the evidence he uncovered. 

One, Rotorua man Huia George Foley had escaped from a mental health institution and was living in Waihi, Coromandel in 1989. When he attempted to attack a priest, after being denied his request to take money from the donation tray. He fled into the Coromandel bush and ended up near Whangamata, close to where Urban’s body was found. Foley was described as looking quite similar to David Tamihere. Bill Davis, who had known Foley since he was at school with his own kids, said that weeks later Foley reappeared from the bush. He wandered up to his house in Whitianga, carrying a green army surplus sleeping bag. “He was quite a bit agitated, quite agitated. He had mood swings. He looked like David Tamihere. If you stood them 15 metres away you’d think they were related. If you got a photo of Huia and put them side by side, they’d look familiar.” He continued, saying that Foley then threatened their son with a baseball bat and stole his car “He then proceeded to go up to Auckland. Apparently he had an accident. There was a truck parked up on the side of the road, and they’d spoken to the truck driver who said, “This guy was coming straight for me. He knew exactly what he was doing, he was coming right towards me, waving his arm out the window, as if he was trying to commit suicide. He had issues’. He lost his arm in that accident.” 

Ian Wishart summaries this possibility in his book ‘Missing Pieces’ as follows “…A 28 year old man, of similar muscular build and appearance to 36 year old David Tamihere, decamped from a mental institution and tried to attack a Catholic priest inside his Waihi church. He then fled into the Coromandel bush heading for Whangamata at the same time as the missing Swedes were in the general area. Hoglin’s body was found in the Parakiwai Valley, due north of Waihi on the route to Whangamata. Although off the main road, it was accessible from an access road back over to Thames and Coromandel, then across to Whitianga over a long period of time, during which he has suddenly come into possession of a European sleeping bag, which he dumps at Whitianga, then steals a car after threatening the owner with a softball bat. Foley then manages to take his right arm off by driving directly up against a parked truck on  the other side of the road at speed while waving his arm out the window”.

On top of this, apparently Huia confessed to the Swedish murders to his mother. His mother confessed this to the Davis family. The Davis’ tried to contact ‘Operation Stockholm’ but allegedly the police were not interested in the tip. As they already had a suspect David Tamihere.

Two, there was evidence of further criminal activity in the area. The Coromandel bush was a known haunt for cannabis growers. Could the Swedes have stumbled upon something they were not supposed to?

Three, Heidi was kidnapped. There actually is some evidence to back this up. Ian Wishart uncovered a couple, John and Mary Heaven who operated a campground on Kawau Island, in the Hauraki Gulf. The Heaven’s claimed to have met Urban and Heidi one night at some stage over the 88/89 summer. It was apparently raining quite heavily, the Heaven’s offered the Swedes, their living room to sleep in to avoid being drenched. They ate dinner together that night. Heidi and Urban left the next day. There is some evidence in the letters that suggest that this may have been around New Years.

Months later, after the Swedes were already missing in May, 1989. The Heaven’s saw Heidi without Urban with a ‘thin Pakeha man’. A letter obtained by Ian Wishart about the incident, explains “They saw Heidi Paakkonen near their home just as the police were starting to search for them in the coromandel (they live nearly two hundred kilometres from the Coromandel). Heidi was struggling to hoist a very heavy pack on to her back. The straps were down near her elbows and she was clearly distressed. My friend’s wife stepped forward to help lift the pack, where-upon the man snarled, ‘Don’t touch her!’. He then walked on and impatiently beckoned her to follow. She seemed terrified and kept scanning the surrounding bush as if anticipating something. My friends were convinced it was Heidi and so phoned Detective Hughes who was heading the investigation… Detective Hughes thanked them for the information but assured them that it couldn’t have been Heidi as they were sure she was in the Coromandel. The police did not contact my friends any further regarding their sighting.” The Heaven’s added further that they were suspicious of a certain “local underworld character”. Although, we must remember the potential pitfalls with eyewitness testimony when considering this evidence.

One thing we do know is that the trial of David Tamihere does not tell the whole story. As Ian Wishart explains in his introduction to ‘Missing Pieces’. “It is often said that the public have no right to criticise a jury’s verdict, because the public don’t get to hear all the evidence, only the jury do. You’ll hear that criticism often, but it is actually untrue. The evidence placed before a court, and therefore before the jury is only the information that the prosecution or defence choose to let the jury hear, and it is usually a fraction of the total information. Ninety percent of the legal work in a court case has usually been to block the introduction of certain evidence. The jury certainly hear more than the public, but they hear less than they think.”

HEIDI PAAKKONEN

Even now, 30 years later, the tragedy hangs over the Coromandel like a black cloud; a puzzle that could be solved, if only we found all the pieces. 

In 2017, three bags of women’s clothing was found in the Whangamata Peninsula by bushman Alan Ford, the bags contained decaying women’s leggings “I felt really eerie. I was quite uneasy actually. You don’t come across female leggings in a plastic bag in the forest very often do you,”  Ford handed in the clothing to the police, thinking it could be Heidi’s. The police dismissed this idea and two months later they destroyed the evidence.

Graeme Pearce, the man who had found Heidi’s jacket back in 1989 explains how his life was changed that day in the Coromandel. For nearly a decade after, Pearce would return to Crosbie’s and the track that led to the clearing and keep looking. “It’s like it’s unfinished business… Something that haunts us.” He and his wife, take in backpackers these days, rather than see them camping out. Fearing that something similar might happen. 

CONCLUSION

As a reminder of the tragedy. In 2010, a backpackers hut was built in Crosbie’s settlement area. Near the site, a memorial was placed to honor the memories of Heidi Paakkonen and Urban Hoglin. If Heidi was alive today, in 2019 she would be 52 years old, Urban would be 54. If life had followed a path less tragic, they could be back in Sweden, reminiscing with children and grandchildren about that trip they took to NZ all those years ago. Instead, in 1988, two young adults, just beginning their lives together chose Aotearoa as their dream destination. A safe, welcoming place which Heidi described in a letter home as ‘…the perfect country, almost anyway. By 1989, this young couple was swallowed by the ‘ominous’ NZ bush and it only ever gave one back, Urban. We live in hope that one day the elusive final missing piece of the puzzle will be uncovered. Creating a complete picture. Giving closure to the families and greater NZ. 

Until then, It feels appropriate to end on lyrics from one of Heidi’s favourite songs while she travelled through the Land of the Long White Cloud; a song by the Moody Blues:

“I know I’ll find you somehow,
And somehow I’ll return again to you,
I know you’re out there somewhere”.

This podcast is dedicated to the memories of Heidi Paakkonen and Urban Hoglin.

Wherever you are, we hope you are at peace.

AFTERWARD

If you are interested in reading more about this story. The book mentioned in the podcast, ‘Missing Pieces’ by Ian Wishart, is an essential read. This book was fundamental in the making of this series of podcasts. If you are interested in the case any further, especially if you are interested in the contradictory evidence in the David Tamihere trial. Please, check out Ian Wishart’s book ‘Missing Pieces’

Visit www.truecrimenz.com for additional information on this case. Including a transcript of this episode, with supporting pictures, sources, and credits.

SOURCES

Books
Ian Wishart, ‘Missing Pieces: The Swedish Tourists Murders’, 2012 (Primary Resource)

Articles
Stuff.co.nz, Swedish murders: Clothing found near murder site sparks renewed interest in casehttps://www.stuff.co.nz/national/crime/95346417/the-swedish-murders-clothing-found-near-tamihere-murder-site-sparks-renewed-interest-in-case
NZ Herald, David Tamihere to be released from prisonhttps://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10685089
Noted, The Tamihere case: In the Shadow of Murder – https://www.noted.co.nz/currently/crime/the-tamihere-case-in-the-shadow-of-murder/
Department of Conservation, History of Crosbies Settlementhttps://www.doc.govt.nz/parks-and-recreation/places-to-go/coromandel/places/coromandel-forest-park/things-to-do/crosbies-hut/
Stuff.co.nz, Fears Tamihere would move body http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/crime/8344326/Fears-Tamihere-would-move-body
Stuff.co.nz, Tamihere and Thomas – worrying links – http://www.stuff.co.nz/auckland/local-news/manukau-courier/opinion/3067330/Tamihere-and-Thomas-worrying-links
NZ Herald, Murder of Swedish couple Heidi Paakkonen and Sven Hoglin still haunts Thames man Graeme Pearcehttps://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11891422
NZ Herald, Witness C revealed: The story behind Roberto Harris, the man who lied at David Tamihere’s trial – https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11931561
NZ Herald, Swedes’ killer up for parole but history is against him – https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=162644

Audio
Newshub, Court of Appeal dismisses Tamihere trial perjurer Robert Conchie Harris’ sentence appeal – https://www.newshub.co.nz/home/new-zealand/2018/09/court-of-appeal-dismisses-tamihere-trial-perjurer-robert-conchie-harris-s-sentence-appeal.html

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