Was David Tamihere really guilty?
Well-known investigative journalist Ian Wishart has turned his attention to the case of the Swedish Tourists’ murders. Heidi Paakkonen and Urban Hoglin disappeared in 1989 – Urban’s mutilated body was found some years later, but Heidi was never found. Wishart recently published “Missing Pieces“, examining this case. (see interview)
In 1990, David Tamihere was jailed for the double murders, despite there being no bodies at the time. The only evidence against him was that he admitted to stealing the Swedes car and selling their possessions. The other key evidence was two eye witnesses who, after multiple statement revisions, swore they saw him with Heidi in a bush clearing – however, as Wishart points out, the original statements categorically stated that the woman was not Heidi (and they knew what she looked like as the two men were part of the search team).
Tellingly, the police officer running the investigation was a key player in the Arthur Allan Thomas case – John Hughes. In my opinion, Wishart (who you’ll recall also wrote a book about that case) clearly feels that Hughes zeroed in on Tamihere to the detriment of other suspects – in other words, fitted the crime to the suspect, and didn’t follow the evidence.
In Wisharts book, using the original police files and other reports, he states that:
- Saturday 8 April, the Swedes camped near their car at the start of a bush track in the Coromandel area
- Sunday 9, they went to church, then came back and started their tramp late morning/early afternoon. The car was still there until at least 5pm that day.
- Monday 10, their car was seen near where Urban’s body was eventually found (an hours drive away) but back at the bush track later in the day, when Tamihere stole it. He had it when he checked into a motel later that day.
A possible scenario suggested is that one or more persons came across the Swede’s on the Sunday afternoon, forced them into their car, drove the 73km to Parakiwai, murdered Urban Hoglin, did goodness knows what with Heidi – and then took the car back to it’s original location and left?
The area where Urban was found has since been extensively deforested and no other skeletons were found. There were multiple reported sightings of Heidi in the company of various shady characters in the three weeks after this apparently. So either the murderer/s of Urban kept her alive, or perhaps, after Urban was murdered and she was seeking help, she stumbled into other bad people who took advantage of her plight?
Either way, although Tamihere was definitely not a good person having already been convicted of manslaughter and rape in other cases, I certainly do agree with Wishart that there is reasonable doubt that he did do it. Especially as there were two other violent offenders known to be in that same area at the time – and the family of one of them even went to the police believing that he had been involved in the murders!
For me, this book has raised more questions than answers. I feel like I need to read it again to try and get it all straight, because there’s a lot of information in here. But it definitely has achieved Wisharts aim, which I feel is to get discussion started again about this case, and perhaps eventually find out what did happen to Heidi.