Revealed: The identity of secret Witness C whose false testimony helped send David Tamihere to jail for 20 years for the 1990 Swedish backpacker murders

The identity of the prisoner whose false testimony in 1990 helped send David Tamihere to jail for 20 years for a double murder in the Coromandel can now be revealed.

Robert Conchie Harris (wearing tie and facing camera).
Robert Conchie Harris (wearing tie and facing camera). Source: 1 NEWS

He is Robert Conchie Harris, who had originally been convicted of the double murder of a couple near Whangarei in 1983.

Last year Harris was jailed for a further eight years after being successfully prosecuted, by jailhouse lawyer Arthur Taylor, on eight counts of perjury, including in the Tamihere case.

Harris was given permanent name suppression after Tamihere's 1990 conviction but that was revoked after last year's perjury convictions and replaced with interim suppression until Witness C's final appeal. Witness C has now abandoned his appeal against the perjury convictions.

Sven Urban Hoglin's body was found in 1991, 73km from where police said he died. Heidi Paakkonen's body has never been found.

David Tamahere
David Tamahere Source: 1 NEWS

The Tamihere case

Urban Höglin and Heidi Paakkonen
Urban Höglin and Heidi Paakkonen Source: 1 NEWS

In 1990,Tamihere was convicted of the murders of Swedish backpackers Sven Urban Hoglin, 23, and fiancee Heidi Birgitta Paakkonen, 21, who disappeared while tramping in the Coromandel, in 1989.

His conviction was based largely on the testimony of inmates, including Harris, with Tamihere maintaining his innocence throughout. 

Secret Witness C, one of the former prisoners who had testified against Tamihere at his murder trial, was found guilty of perjury in 2017.


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1 NEWS political team discuss what happens for Simon Bridges, once leak investigation is finally released

The 1 NEWS team discuss the potential aftermath for leader Simon Bridges once the investigation into the National Party leaker is released.

It comes after the Opposition leader launched an investigation to look into who leaked Mr Bridges' expenses. 

Mr Bridges' MP expenses were released earlier than scheduled last week, with $113,973 spent on travel and accommodation between April and June.

Yesterday, an independent review found no evidence that staff in the office of Parliament's speaker, Speaker Trevor Mallard, or Parliamentary Service finance and corporate staff released details. 

Read: Jessica Mutch McKay's analysis on the Simon Bridges leak. 

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The 1 NEWS team discuss the potential aftermath for leader Simon Bridges once the investigation into the National Party leaker is released. Source: 1 NEWS


New trial in Monsanto's $446m judgement over whether weed-killer caused cancer

A San Francisco judge said today she is considering tossing out the lion's share of the $446 million judgment against agribusiness giant Monsanto and ordering a new trial over whether the company's weed-killer caused a groundskeeper's cancer.

San Francisco Superior Court Judge Suzanne Bolanos didn't formally rule on any issues after a two-hour hearing to consider Monsanto's demand to toss out the entire jury verdict in the first of thousands of similar cases across the country to go to trial.

The San Francisco jury in August said Monsanto knew - or should have known - its best-selling Roundup weed-killer causes cancer and hit the company with $386 million in punitive damages, which are designed to punish companies who act recklessly.

The jury also awarded DeWayne Johnson $50.9 million in so-called "pain-and-suffering" damages and $9.2 million in actual damages.

But Bolanos issued a written tentative ruling ahead of the hearing saying she intended to strike down the punitive damages and schedule a new trial on that issue.

During the hearing, Bolanos also said she was troubled by the $50.9 million in "non-economic" pain-and-suffering damages the jury awarded. Johnson's lawyer argued for $1.5 million a year for the next 33 years.

But Monsanto's lawyers argued that Johnson is expected to live for two more years - an argument that appeared to resonate with Bolanos who mulled out loud about fashioning an order reducing the entire verdict to under $13.8 million.

Ultimately, Bolanos ordered lawyers to submit written arguments by Saturday and said she would rule after that.

Johnson and his lawyers left court without comment. So did Monsanto's legal team.

"Tentative rulings are common in California and it's rare for judges to reverse themselves," said David Levine, a professor at the University of California's Hastings Law School in San Francisco.

During the hearing, the judge said she was concerned with improper statements Johnson's lawyer Brent Wisner made during his closing arguments.

Despite the judge's order not to, Wisner compared Monsanto to tobacco companies and said company executives would be drinking champagne in their boardroom if the jury sided with the St. Louis-based company.

The judge admonished the jury to disregard those comments at the time, but wondered Wednesday if they entitled Monsanto to a new trial.

The San Francisco jury in August said Monsanto knew - or should have known – its best-selling Roundup weed-killer causes cancer. Source: Associated Press

Search continues overnight for crew member missing from Sealord vessel off Wairarapa coast

The search for a crew member missing from a Sealord vessel  off the Wairarapa coast is continuing through the night. 

The company says mid-morning this morning crew onboard the Otakou became aware a crew member did not report for duty.

A full muster was conducted to confirm this, and a search was immediately commenced and authorities notified, Sealord said.

The four vessels involved in the search will search overnight, and will review the situation after sunrise tomorrow.

The two helicopters searching were stood down at nightfall.

Weather conditions in the area are fair but are predicted to deteriorate tomorrow.

Source: NZ Topo Map

Sealord said it is making all effort to notify next of kin. 

It said the crew member was not on active duty at the time of disappearance and the reason for the disappearance is not known at this stage.

All other crew are accounted for, however, they are very concerned for the safety of their team member, the company said. 

Sealord is taking this situation very seriously and is providing support to all staff, it said.

The company is also cooperating with all search and rescue instructions, it said.

Earlier tonight Vince Cholewa of the Maritime Rescue Co-Ordination Centre said the centre was advised of the crew member overboard around 11.30am. 

At that time the person had been in the water for 50 minutes or less, he told 1 NEWS. 

Mr Cholewa said there were four vessels and two helicopters involved in the search - Otakou, two other fishing vessels, the police launch Lady Elizabeth IV, a LifeFlight helicopter and an Air Force NH90. 

The estimated location is 11km east of Glendhu Rocks.

Sealord's Otakou
Sealord's Otakou Source: Sealord