Yet another chapter in one of New Zealand's highest-profile murder cases has been written after a High Court judge today ordered the veil of secrecy removed from a second prison informant who testified against David Tamihere.

Witness B was one of three Crown witnesses to give "powerful" evidence during the 1990 jury trial, which saw Tamihere found guilty of murdering Swedish tourists Urban Hoglin, 23, and Heidi Paakkonen, 21, in the Coromandel Ranges in 1989.

The prisoners all claimed Tamihere had, at different times, while in custody, confessed to how he sexually assaulted and killed the Swedes.

Last week, inmate and "jailhouse lawyer" Arthur Taylor's argument to revoke Witness B's name suppression, which was granted for safety reasons, was heard in the High Court at Auckland.

Advertisement

The application came after Taylor successfully prosecuted Witness C for eight counts of perjury last year, proving the informant had lied during Tamihere's trial.

However, Witness C was found not guilty of obstructing the course of justice, which pertained to his 1995 affidavit recanting his testimony. He later recanted the affidavit.

Urban Hoglin and Heidi Paakkonen disappeared in April 1989 after leaving their car in the Coromandel Ranges. Photo / File
Urban Hoglin and Heidi Paakkonen disappeared in April 1989 after leaving their car in the Coromandel Ranges. Photo / File

Today, Justice Mark Woolford released his decision on Witness B, who died in a car crash in 1995.

"Weighing all the factors in balance, I am satisfied the order in respect of Witness B should be revoked," Justice Woolford said.

However, the judge said he was not purporting to set out a rule that name suppression should lapse after a witness dies.

"The events that followed the Tamihere trial, including Witness C's convictions for perjury, also take this case outside the norm. The public interest now requires a free exchange of information and opinions. The principle of open justice should prevail," Justice Woolford said.

He revoked the suppression order made on November 20, 1990, by trial judge Justice David Tompkins with effect from May 1, to allow the Crown to seek further legal options.

Witness B's family still reside in New Zealand, while the location and wellbeing of Witness A is unknown.

Justice Woolford said Witness B no longer requires the protection of a suppression order and there was no specific threat or danger to his family.

The judge also briefly discussed prison informants being used by the Crown in criminal trials.

"I accept there are sound policy reasons for Crown witnesses who are prisoners to normally receive name suppression. This is primarily to protect their safety in prison, but it could also be to protect the safety of their families," he said.

"Name suppression in such circumstances also serves as an incentive for other prisoners to come forward and give evidence."

Witness C's perjury convictions added further mystery to whether Tamihere (pictured during his trial) killed the Swedish tourists. Photo / File
Witness C's perjury convictions added further mystery to whether Tamihere (pictured during his trial) killed the Swedish tourists. Photo / File

Taylor told the court last week he "quite possibly" would have launched a private prosecution against Witness B, as he did against Witness C, if the prison snitch was still alive.

Taylor alleges all three witnesses are guilty of lying at Tamihere's trial and were offered inducements by the police to testify.

The Court of Appeal has described the trio's evidence against Tamihere as "wholly circumstantial".

Tamihere was sentenced to life imprisonment after his trial nearly three decades ago. He has had all his appeals rejected, and was denied leave to appeal to the Privy Council.

Eventually he was released on parole in 2010 but always professed his innocence.

He has, however, not ruled out a prerogative of mercy application.

David Tamihere has proclaimed all three jailhouse witnesses lied during his trial. Photo / Jason Oxenham
David Tamihere has proclaimed all three jailhouse witnesses lied during his trial. Photo / Jason Oxenham

Last year, when sentencing Witness C to eight years and seven months' imprisonment, Justice Christian Whata said the court proceedings were "truly exceptional".

He also revoked Witness C's name suppression at the sentencing but an interim suppression order was made as Witness C indicated he would appeal his perjury convictions and sentence.

A Court of Appeal judgment is expected soon on whether Witness C's identity can be revealed, while the court will also later hear Witness C's appeal.

Inmate and litigator Arthur Taylor has successfully argued for the revoking of Witness B's name suppression. Photo / File
Inmate and litigator Arthur Taylor has successfully argued for the revoking of Witness B's name suppression. Photo / File

The Swedes' disappearance sparked the largest land-based search ever undertaken in New Zealand.

In 1991, Hoglin's remains were discovered by pig hunters in bush near Whangamata, about 70km from where the murders were alleged to have taken place.

Witness C had testified that Tamihere told him the bodies were dumped at sea.

Paakkonen's remains have never been found.

Timeline

1989: Paakkonen and Hoglin disappear on Coromandel Peninsula

1990: Tamihere convicted of murdering the Swedish travellers

1991: Hoglin's remains found near Whangamata

1992: Court of Appeal rejects Tamihere's appeal

1994: Tamihere denied leave to appeal to the Privy Council

1995: Witness C swore affidavit retracting his evidence

1996: Witness C retracts his retraction

2010: Tamihere released on parole

2016: Private prosecution by Arthur Taylor alleges Witness C lied at Tamihere's trial

2017: Witness C sentenced after being found guilty of perjury and not guilty of perverting the course of justice

2018: Taylor's battle to have Witness C's identity made public reaches the Court of Appeal

2018: Witness C appeals his perjury convictions and sentence

2018: Taylor launches proceedings to have Witness B's name suppression revoked

2018: Witness B's suppression is revoked with effect from May 1, pending further Crown action