UPDATE DEC 18 2012: BREAKING NEWS
See latest story here: https://investigatemagazine.co.nz/?p=3166
BY IAN WISHART
UPDATE: ANOTHER NEW WITNESS STEPS FORWARD TODAY AS RESULT OF STORY BELOW, READ MORE HERE
While Metro magazine has an interview with David Tamihere, Investigate magazine has the exclusive testimony of the witnesses who could blow his murder conviction out of the water. Heidi Paakonen was seen alive by people she had stayed with, after Tamihere had already been arrested, meaning Tamihere could not have killed her.
Documents obtained from the estate of a deceased Investigate reader have thrown new light on a 23 year old cold case – the disappearance of Swedish tourists Urban Hoglin and Heidi Paakkonen.
The couple disappeared in April 1989 on the Coromandel peninsula, and David Wayne Tamihere was arrested soon after on suspicion of their murders. The body of Urban Hoglin was subsequently found by pig-hunters at the foot of a bluff in the Coromandel ranges in 1991, but Heidi’s body has never been found.
For years it has been presumed Heidi Paakkonen is also buried somewhere in the Coromandel bush, but the documents passed to Investigate suggest that is not the case – she was last seen alive north of Auckland.
The story begins on Kawau Island in Auckland’s Hauraki Gulf, and a Christian couple’s suspicions in the mid 1980s that a local criminal with drug and organised crime connections had constructed a house complete with a large underground facility. The couple, who’d accidentally discovered the facility while visiting the property on business, felt the complex could have been used to hold people against their will, and because of its remote position primary access to the outside world was via the sea and a private jetty.
The couple raised their concerns – including what they believed were criminal activities they’d witnessed – with Auckland detectives at a special meeting in 1986 with members of the Criminal Intelligence Section.
“We suggested that the police simply needed to get a search warrant and raid the place, as that way they could expose and contain anyone on the property. It would be a very easy place to surround and isolate, and my friends would be able to furnish them with detailed plans of the house, as they had visited there on occasions,” reported the deceased Investigate reader in a confidential briefing paper for former police commissioner John Jamieson in 2002.
“The detective suggested that they had surveillance devices and that they could check it out without necessarily moving in physically. So we left it at that, assured that something would be done. There has been no indication that anything was ever done, and as far as we know the activities have continued since then.”
That was in 1986. However, the briefing paper for the former police commissioner contains a bombshell revelation from the couple in May 1989.
“They saw Heidi Paakkonen [at Kawau Island near the campground] just as the police were starting to search for them in the Coromandel (they live nearly two hundred kilometres from the Coromandel). Heidi was with a dark-haired man, definitely not David Tamihere, and was struggling to hoist a very heavy pack on to her back. The straps were down near her elbows and she was clearly distressed.
“My friend’s wife stepped forward to help lift the pack, whereupon the man snarled, ‘Don’t touch her!’. He then walked on and impatiently beckoned her to follow. She seemed terrified and kept scanning the surrounding bush as if anticipating something.
“My friends were convinced it was Heidi and so phoned Detective Hughes who was heading the investigation… Detective Hughes thanked them for the information but assured them that it couldn’t have been Heidi as they were sure she was in the Coromandel. The police did not contact my friends any further regarding their sighting.”
The couple told police they had also seen what they believed was the Swedes’ Subaru vehicle parked at the Sandspit ferry wharf – the vehicle police were at that stage still seeking sightings of. The police paid no attention and the car was eventually found empty in a Mt Eden street.
On the face of it, you could be forgiven for wondering if this was just another one of hundreds of “possible” sightings of Heidi Paakkonen. Indeed, the late inquiry boss Detective Inspector John Hughes told Metro in October 1989: “Just about every psychic and medium in New Zealand contacted us. We’ve got two entire files packed with letters – a lot of them very sincere and we recorded them. There are also a few nutters.”
But Hughes appears to also admit, he was concentrating on Coromandel because that’s where he believed they died.
“We also had a team of detectives carry out a canvas of the whole of the Coromandel Peninsula. They interviewed everybody – people in shops, hotels, schools, camping grounds – in an endeavour to trace the movements of a person we were interested in at the time.”
But not at Kawau Island, and not as late as the end of May 1989, long after the last public sighting of Heidi on April 11.
Disenchanted by the response from police, and worried about the drug house with the dungeons, the Kawau Island couple decided discretion was the better part of valour and said nothing further until 29 September 2002, when the late Investigate reader told former commissioner Jamieson, “the couple, whom I haven’t seen in years, visited my church.
“After the service we discussed the aforementioned events and I was shocked when they retold the story of Heidi Paakkonen. I can’t explain this but a crucial part of the story they related on Sunday was news to me. Either I somehow didn’t hear it when I spoke to them years ago, or they neglected to tell me, but their sighting of Heidi was not the first time they had met.
“Heidi and Urban had actually stayed [with them] before they moved to Coromandel, and they had spent some time talking to them. They even had some sort of church service together and had shared Communion with them.
“So, their later [May 1989] encounter with Heidi was not a case of mistaken identity! Heidi could not have been in the Coromandel at that time.”
More to the point, Heidi Paakkonen was alive long after police thought she was dead, and the man she’d been seen with could not have been David Wayne Tamihere because he had been arrested on a separate matter in mid-May 1989 and jailed on remand, so he could not have been stalking the bush on Kawau at the end of that month. In other words, this was a positive sighting of Heidi in the company of a man who was not Tamihere, about 150km away from Coromandel, just before police began searching for her.
The next question that arises is, “Why Kawau?” It’s only accessible by boat, and while the Swedes’ car was seen at Sandspit it’s highly unlikely her captor took her across on the public ferry. That means a private boat had to be used for the trip, presumably one belonging to a house on Kawau Island.
The briefing to former police commissioner John Jamieson draws that link as well.
“It’s interesting that she was brought back from Coromandel to the same ‘out of the way’ place that she and Urban had visited earlier. Was an initial contact made while staying [at the island] by someone who subsequently followed them to the Coromandel and then, after killing Urban, brought Heidi back?
“There are two issues here: the criminal base and the ongoing activities there [and] the Heidi Paakkonen sighting. The two may be connected, but both need to be thoroughly investigated for the sake of the many people involved, especially the Swedes’ families and particularly David Tamihere who may be innocent of that particular crime – he is certainly not responsible for the murder of Heidi Paakkonen.”