David Tamihere has told a court that none of the purported Witness C conversations used to help convict him of a double murder ever took place.

Witness C, whose identity is suppressed, is accused of perjury and attempting to pervert the course of justice after he testified that Tamihere told him in prison that he'd killed Swedish tourists Urban Hoglin and Heidi Paakkonen and dumped their bodies at sea.

The alleged false testimony came at Tamihere's murder trial about 27 years ago, but Witness C's name and identifying details have been suppressed since.

Tamihere told the High Court at Auckland that he was "very careful" about what and who he talked about prior to his high-profile murder trial.

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He said he knew "somewhere along the line" a group of secret witnesses may be used to testify against him.

"They're a pretty dangerous sort of a crew," he said.

"They will stand up and say 'he said this, he said that' and all you've got to do is say, 'no I didn't'."

Tamihere said none of the jailhouse confessions discussed during Witness C's testimony ever took place.

The 1989 disappearance of Swedish tourists Sven Urban Hoglin, 23, and Heidi Paakkonen, 21, sparked the biggest land-based search ever undertaken in New Zealand. Photo / Supplied
The 1989 disappearance of Swedish tourists Sven Urban Hoglin, 23, and Heidi Paakkonen, 21, sparked the biggest land-based search ever undertaken in New Zealand. Photo / Supplied

On August 25, 1995, Witness C swore an affidavit stating that he lied and gave false evidence in the trial.

However, in 1996 Witness C retracted his affidavit.

"The police had put him up to it," Tamihere said.

Then in June 2007, Witness C hand-wrote Tamihere a letter stating the "trial evidence was all false and fabricated by the police anyway".

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However, Witness C has since said that his testimony was truthful and signed the affidavit and letter out of fear from prison retribution.

Tamihere said the secret witness, one of three to give evidence at his double murder trial, had "quite a bit" to be sorry about.

"One of the things about jail is there is always going to be someone there who will try to use your situation to improve their own," Tamihere said.

He added that he would tell prison inmates erroneous information and wait to see if it came back to him, then he'd know who was talking to police.

Under cross-examination from Witness C's lawyer Adam Simperingham about when police first began investigating him for the murders, Tamihere said he immediately disliked the attitude of the lead officer, Detective Inspector John Hughes.

"I thought okay, you want to play around, I'll play with you," he said.

Detective Inspector John Hughes outside the High Court on December 6, 1990, waiting for the verdict in David Tamihere's trial. Photo / File
Detective Inspector John Hughes outside the High Court on December 6, 1990, waiting for the verdict in David Tamihere's trial. Photo / File

Tamihere admitted stealing the Swedes' car but denied having met them.

"I didn't know anything about the Swedes when [the police] arrived.

"They'd come to see me over a stolen car and I was thinking, 'this is a bit [over the top]'.

"If you want to string me along over a hot car, then I'll play the game with you ... I just figured if they want to muck me around, then I'll muck them around.

"It took them two hours before they told me why they were there," he said of when detectives told him he was "in the frame for two murders".

Hoglin, 23, and Paakkonen, 21, disappeared in April 1989 after leaving their car at the end of the Tararu Stream road in the Coromandel Ranges.

Tamihere said the subsequent public and media interest in the Swedes' murders and his case was "massive".

"A cousin of mine going through law school had a session on the media coverage of my case," he said.

David Tamihere says he never confessed the Swedish tourist murders to Witness C. Photo / Jason Oxenham
David Tamihere says he never confessed the Swedish tourist murders to Witness C. Photo / Jason Oxenham

Witness C entered a not-guilty plea at the start of his trial in the High Court in Auckland to eight counts of perjury and one of attempting to pervert the course of justice.

He is expected to give evidence tomorrow.

Justice Christian Whata reminded the jury that Tamihere's murder convictions are not subject to challenge.

The case was laid as a private prosecution by Witness C's long-time fellow prison inmate and serial litigator Arthur Taylor, and will be led by lawyer Murray Gibson.

Witness C was one of three jailhouse informants who gave evidence for the Crown during Tamihere's trial.

At the murder trial, Witness C testified that Tamihere had told him he met the Swedes at a picnic or camping area before he sexually assaulted and killed both.

He told the court that Tamihere killed Hoglin by beating his head with a lump of wood, and dumped their bodies at sea in the Firth of Thames.

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