By Theresa Garner


Ten years ago this week a young Swedish couple headed off for a tramping holiday on the Coromandel Peninsula.

Sven Urban Hoglin, aged 23, and his fiancee, Heidi Birgitta Paakkonen, 21, vanished, their disappearance sparking the biggest land-based search undertaken in New Zealand.

For months after they were reported missing in May 1989, farmers and townsfolk, police, search and rescue crews and military personnel undertook a series of painstaking and soul-destroying grid-searches of the rugged terrain.

On May 14, to mark the anniversary, they will go back to Crosbie's Clearing, 12km into bush-covered hills near Thames, where the search was centred.

Sergeant Jim Corbett of Thames said anyone who helped in the search was welcome to attend the "combination of a reunion and a memorial ... out of respect for Heidi still up there somewhere."

John Hughes, the former detective who led the inquiry and arrested David Wayne Tamihere for the murders, will be there.

"We'll walk up to the memorial, and have some sort of ceremony, and laying of flowers," Mr Hughes said. "It's a chance to go back over what we did, and retell a few stories. It will be quite a moving ceremony."

The remains of Mr Hoglin were discovered in bush country near Whangamata, but Heidi Paakkonen's body has never been found. "There is only one person who can help us in recovery of the body, and that person may see it as an option closer to his parole date," Mr Hughes said.

"It was so tragic. They had come halfway round the world, and they had a passion for the Coromandel Peninsula. The odds of their paths crossing with a person who was a convicted killer and a rapist at that time were a million to one."

Thames search and rescue volunteer Graeme Pearce said: "Every time you go up there, you find yourself looking. Every hunter who goes out, they are not just hunting for pigs or goats. In the back of your mind there is always Heidi."

Mr Pearce has developed a protective shield. "If I'm in town and there's hitchhikers, I bring them home. I tell them not to go off camping; that we'll look after them. I'm terrified of it happening again."

The 58-year-old home appliance repairman said he formed strong bonds with fellow searchers. "We spent a lot of time up there together. I took a week off work; some guys took more. Family life was strained.

"You would come home half-frozen. I've never been so cold in my life. The weather couldn't have been worse. It was an hour- and-a-half tramp, and then you would search all day. It was soul-destroying."

Speaking from Sweden, Stephan Hoglin said his thoughts turned to his brother every spring.

He wanted to thank all the people who helped his family at that time and the people who searched for the pair.

Stephan Hoglin visited New Zealand in 1989, when searchers were still looking for his brother, then the following year, for the trial of Tamihere.

The generosity of New Zealand police, the search team and even the media impressed him. "I really want to thank the police. I met a lot of them and some of them are very close friends."

Mr Hoglin said he got to know many of the families of police officers who helped search for his brother.

He keeps in contact with the family of Heidi Paakkonen. "Because we have a graveyard to go to - they don't know, they are hoping they will find Heidi one day."

The Operation Stockholm file remains open. Detective Senior Sergeant Bruce Raffan of Hamilton said there were many questions still unanswered, such as how the couple met their fate and where, and what happened to some of the property.

Tamihere, who was convicted of the murders in December 1990, and is serving a life sentence at Paremoremo prison, will be eligible for parole in July next year.

His brother, urban Maori leader John Tamihere, said yesterday that he hoped that it would be over one day.

"It is a tough ask for any family to have the victims, and equally being on the side of a person charged with inflicting that hurt."