A more than 20-year-old interview between the late Sir Paul Holmes and Witness C, whose evidence was key in convicting a double-murderer, has been played before a court.

The identity of Witness C is suppressed, but his testimony in the 1990 trial of David Tamihere helped lead to a guilty verdict for killing Swedish tourists Urban Hoglin and Heidi Paakkonen.

However, Witness C is now accused of, and denies, perjury and attempting to pervert the course of justice for what he said on the stand.

He said Tamihere told him, in detail, while the pair were in prison together that he killed the Swedes. Tamihere has always professed his innocence.

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Today Witness C gave evidence during his trial in the High Court at Auckland, before being cross-examined by prosecutor Murray Gibson.

Later, the jury was played the July 17, 1996 prison phone interview between Holmes and Witness C.

In the interview, Witness C retracts his murder trial testimony and affirms that what he signed in a 1995 affidavit, stating that he lied and gave false evidence, was the real truth.

However, Witness C later recalled his affidavit and said he signed it because he and his family were under threat of violent reprisal for his reputation as a jailhouse "nark".

"I kind of had to," Witness C told the court.

"It would've been a wonderful opportunity to tell the whole country you were under threat," Gibson said of the Holmes interview.

"I didn't want to die," Witness C replied.

Gibson said Witness C was "very clear" in the nationally televised broadcast that he was retracting his Tamihere testimony for two reasons.

Witness C told Holmes that his testimony was "playing on his mind" and "they definitely have an innocent man inside".

Holmes asked Witness C, whose voice was altered during the interview to protect his identity, that if he'd lied during the trial then he may also be lying to him.

Witness C told the broadcaster that police had offered him "major inducements" and were aware his testimony was a lie.

"There was nothing on paper, it was all verbal, and I took their word for it," Witness C said of a proposed $100,000 police payment for giving evidence.

"I never got anything," he told Holmes.

In the affidavit, Witness C also said police offered him inducements.

Witness C told Holmes he had "no doubts at all" that Tamihere was innocent of the murders.

"He always maintained his innocence to me," he said during the interview,

"I'm terribly sorry," he added.

David Tamihere says none of the purported Witness C conversations took place. Photo / Jason Oxenham
David Tamihere says none of the purported Witness C conversations took place. Photo / Jason Oxenham

Earlier Gibson told Witness C to "man up" and take his chance to confirm his original testimony was fabricated.

"Everything I said at that trial was told to me by [Tamihere]," Witness C rebutted.

"[Tamihere] maintains his innocence and has always maintained his evidence," Gibson said.

"A lot of them do," Witness C quipped. "But even the highest courts in New Zealand have found him guilty."

"Guilty on your fabricated evidence, Witness C - nonsense," Gibson replied.

Gibson said the "theme" of Witness C's affidavit was that he was "trying to rectify a wrong".

"The reality is, Witness C, that you lie so glibly and effortlessly, isn't it?" the lawyer said.

Witness C replied: "In certain respects I feel sorry for you guys. You got dropped in the deep end on this by another prisoner [Arthur Taylor]."

The jailhouse informant also wrote Tamihere a letter in June 2007 stating the "trial evidence was all false and fabricated by the police anyway".

He has told the court he was pressured to do so under threats from fellow prisoners.

The case was laid as a private prosecution by Taylor, serial litigator and Witness C's long-time fellow prison inmate.

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

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

Paakkonen's remains have never been found.

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

Closing submissions in the perjury trial will be heard tomorrow.