New book on Swedish tourist murders – Extract from Missing Pieces


By Ian Wishart


The book you are about to read has taken nearly 24 years to write. The story begins with the disappearance in April 1989 of two photogenic Swedish tourists – Sven Urban Hoglin and Heidi Birgitta Paakkonen. As the news director of a major Auckland radio station at the time, I had my ‘troops’ covering it.

When I joined TV3 in August 1989, I found myself quickly thrown into the case directly, covering the May 1990 court depositions hearing and the October – December 1990 trial of David Wayne Tamihere for the network.  When Urban Hoglin’s body was found by hunters in October 1991, my TV3 cameraman Pete Stones and I were the first TV journalists to reach the shallow gravesite in the Coromandel bush – helicoptered in to a place so remote that police had not even posted an overnight scene guard. Just a strip of tape,

“Crime Scene – Do Not Cross”, marked off Hoglin’s final resting place.

In the mid 1990s after establishing a publishing company, I was given a manuscript written by convicted double-murderer David Tamihere from his prison cell, entitled “Operation Stockholm”. Like many publishers around that time, we turned it down. Too hard, too guttural, and what if the cops had indeed convicted the right man?

Still, the issue nagged.

In 2010, one of the subscribers to our magazine, Investigate, passed away. His widow handed on some of his private papers to the magazine, including a lengthy report on the mystery of Swedish tourist murders. That information, which you will read in this book, proved to be a bombshell discovery.

In Missing Pieces, you will meet the protagonists – Heidi Paakkonen, Urban Hoglin and David Tamihere – and follow the accepted “narrative” of what happened: that the young couple met and were killed by Tamihere on Saturday 8 April 1989, in the vicinity of a distant Coromandel bush track known as “Crosbie’s Clearing” – about three hours’ walk from the nearest carpark at Tararu Creek Road, a few clicks north of Thames.

When you’ve seen how good the Crown case is against Tamihere, then we’ll examine the evidence the jury never heard. After that you can make your own mind up on whether this conviction was safe, or whether the real killer/s may still be at large.

Justice, in the New Zealand context, works at two levels: punishment for the crime itself, and protection for the wider community by taking a dangerous offender off the streets. There is no question in this case that the price for the crime – as set by the courts – has not been paid. Tamihere served 21 years behind bars before finally being paroled in 2010. There is arguably no question that the second part of the justice equation has not been served – Tamihere had a string of serious crimes behind him, and was off the streets for a long time.

The real question, however, is “Did David Wayne Tamihere murder the Swedish tourists?” Because if he did not, if he just filled a “case closed” quota on the basis of “he’ll do”, then the New Zealand public as a whole were cheated of their public safety while the person/s who slaughtered Heidi and Urban remained at large, free to strike again.

The significance of this may not be immediately apparent to some of you, so a celebrated American case might help get the point across:

“The cost to society of inaccurate eyewitness identifications is twofold,” notes psychologist Rod Lindsay of Queens University in Kingston, Ontario. “It’s a double error. Not only are you convicting the innocent — or at least putting them through the process of having to get out of the situation — but the guilty are still out there doing the crimes.”



A pointed reminder of the costs of misidentification is the case of Clarence Harrison. Wrongfully convicted of a brutal rape in Decatur, Georgia, Clarence Harrison spent nearly 18 years in prison before DNA testing proved his innocence — and showed the eyewitness evidence in his case to be false. After the exoneration, the District Attorney relayed that while the victim was upset by the DNA results, “she is more upset that this means the person who raped her is yet to be identified.”[1]

It is often said that the public have no right to criticise a jury’s verdict, because the public don’t get to hear all the evidence, only the jury do. You’ll hear that criticism often, but it is actually untrue. The evidence placed before a court, and therefore before the jury, is only the information that the prosecution or defence choose to let the jury hear, and it is usually a fraction of the total information. Ninety percent of the legal work in a court case has usually been done before the actual trial even starts, as both sides lobby the judge to block the introduction of certain evidence. The jury certainly hear more than the public, but they hear less than they think.

The Tamihere case was no different. There had been several hearings behind closed doors for precisely those reasons, hearings the jury was not allowed to know about.

One of the advantages of doing a book like this, particularly long after the events in question, is that fresh eyes re-examining all the evidence (and I do mean all), can introduce facts and information that the jurors never had a chance to consider; facts the police or the defence were sitting on and chose not to reveal.

In writing this, I have re-interviewed some witnesses (on rare occasions as memories noted down closest to the events in question are more likely to be accurate), I have perused hundreds of newspaper articles about the disappearance, the search and the eventual court cases. I have read through hundreds of pages of evidence given at Depositions, and a further 906 pages of the evidence transcript from the murder trial. I have read hundreds of pages of witness statements given to police at various stages of the investigation, and countless police job sheets recording investigations undertaken. I have read the submissions of the Crown and Defence, and the judge’s summing up. I have read the Court of Appeal documents and the Privy Council application.

In short, I had access to all the information the jury were given, and much more information either withheld from the jury or simply not available when they handed down their guilty verdict. Additionally, I covered the court case at the time.

I am grateful to David Tamihere for providing the legal files dating from the moment of the Swedes’ disappearance through to his failed Privy Council bid. All of the evidence in this book that readers may regard as incriminating Tamihere has come from the court and police files he handed me. This has allowed a thorough warts and all overview of the case. At no point did Tamihere request or have any editorial control over this book.

This is not a book that sets out to prove “Poor David”. In fact, readers can approach this work knowing Tamihere has served and completed a life sentence for the double murder, and in fact served nearly double the time he could have served. He was eligible for parole more than a decade ago but refused to acknowledge his guilt. He accordingly stayed behind bars for more than 20 years. He effectively served around twice the jail time he was actually required to.

This is not a book that sets out to prove David Tamihere is innocent. Absent a watertight alibi, it is virtually impossible to prove anyone innocent. There are three possibilities as I see it. One, the jury convicted the right man for the right reasons (in other words the evidence was perfect and garnered a deserved conviction; Two, the jury convicted the right man for the wrong reasons (the evidence did not support a guilty verdict but it doesn’t matter because we got the killer); Three, the jury convicted the wrong man for the wrong reasons (the Crown’s evidence was flawed, leading to an innocent man’s conviction).

What I, and indeed many in the news media, now realise is that it’s time to take a more critical look at the Crown’s case than we journalists gave it the first time around – and I include myself as one of those crime reporters who gave the police an easy ride.

There are calls for a retrial, and hopefully this book will help give the public some context to judge that against.

If he is guilty, Tamihere has done his time under the laws as they stand. If it turns out he is not guilty, then that’s a story for another time. A retrial could be held to set the record straight, if required. The important thing about this book is that it’s the first in-depth look at this case.

So Missing Pieces is a book for the victims – both the families of Heidi and Urban and the wider community – who deserve genuine closure, not a feel-good result akin to throwing a dog a bone to make it shut up. This is a book that takes a behind the scenes look at one of our most controversial murder mysteries and – having asked some very serious questions – discovers very sobering answers.

Answers that go to the heart of our policing and justice systems. Answers that could affect you…


“We’ve now come to New Zealand…we haven’t decided on a route yet, but we are staying here in Auckland some 5-6 days and then we’ll try to get further north. Everybody we’ve been talking to in Australia has said that everything is a lot more expensive here in New Zealand. We got very surprised when we went out shopping today and found that the prices were about the same as in Australia; some things were even cheaper.

“Among other things, we bought some mince that cost some 15 krona ($3) a kilogram. We bought potatoes that are a lot nicer and tastier than at home. Soon, we are taking the bus to the city and we are going to a market, we may go to the zoo. They borrowed two pandas all the way from China, maybe because we are here! After that we are visiting the world’s biggest underwater aquarium. We’ll see how much we’ve got time for…” – letter from Heidi Paakkonen, Auckland, 7 December 1988

In the right circumstances, it could have been a fairy tale. Young, blonde, blue-eyed and beautiful, the archetypal Swedish girl, 21 year old Heidi Paakkonen turned heads wherever she went: “I was going to phone you from Queenstown,” she wrote home at one point, “but I had to go to the Post Office and exchange some money. In there, I met three Swedish guys who looked at me as if I was a strange animal. They probably believed that I was a Swede, but they didn’t dare to ask.”

Whatever else they may say in the voluminous police files, Heidi Paakkonen is writ large in comment after comment from eyewitnesses: “striking”, “very attractive”, “a movie star look”. At 176 cm tall (5 ft 9), the Swede stood head and shoulders above many other women.

Born 14 October, 1967, Heidi was the only girl of five children and, at 21, second youngest. Like all Swedish kids in the seventies, she began school at the age of seven, graduating from high school at 19. She dreamed of becoming a kindergarten teacher and planned tertiary studies to achieve that, but in her gap year had chosen to work at the cosmetics counter of a local supermarket, hoping to get some money in the bank.

With her on this trip of a lifetime to Australia and New Zealand, fiancé Urban Hoglin, a 23 year old from the same Swedish village both had grown up in – Storfors, 225km west of capital city Stockholm. Hoglin shared the same rugged good looks and athletic frame as his well-known older brother Johnny, a gold medallist at the 1968 Winter Olympics in France in the 10,000 metre speedskating final. There was a big age difference between the brothers. Johnny was born in 1943, the first of four children – Urban, born 2 December, 1965, was the youngest.

At 183 cm tall (6 ft) and around 75 kg, Urban had the trademark Scandinavian blue eyes and medium brown hair. He’d attended the same high school as Heidi, but with a two year age gap their paths didn’t really cross till they worked together in the Storfors village supermarket, Domus, after Urban had completed his ten month military training at the age of 19.

Striking up a relationship, the couple became engaged on the Spanish island of Mallorca in September 1986, a month shy of Heidi’s 19th birthday, and began living together back in Sweden that December. Their engagement rings were special, each wore a gold band engraved with the other’s name on the inside.

On top of his army experience, Urban Hoglin was an outdoorsman by nature, accompanying one of his older brothers – Stefan – on frequent wilderness trips in Sweden:

“He was mainly interested in tramping and particularly fishing,” Stefan Hoglin said in a briefing for the police inquiry team in 1989.[2] “I often used to go with Urban on fishing trips…We would go out overnight and sometimes up to ten days at a time. On these longer trips we would have backpacks and sometimes canoes, and would be up to 60 kilometres from any civilisation.”

Urban, explained his brother, liked to be prepared, ensuring they carried  more food and clothing than they needed, in case of emergencies. “He would have been even more careful on his own or when he was with Heidi.”

On occasion, Urban would go camping in the Swedish summer without a tent, and “sometimes just sleep under a tree overnight, but never taking any risks.”

The latter point is debatable, given Stefan Hoglin’s next revelation:

“The forest in Sweden is quite open and you can walk through it quite freely, however there are the dangers of bear, snakes and sometimes wolves that you have to be aware of.”

Coming to New Zealand, the bush here posed no such threat. Or so Urban Hoglin thought.

It was Urban’s idea to come down under. He and Heidi signed up to a Swedish magazine published by the Scandinavian-Australian-New Zealand Friendship Union. The journal regaled readers with tales of fabulous fishing, hunting and sightseeing in the Antipodes. Urban and Heidi thrashed out an itinerary taking them from Stockholm to nearby Copenhagen and then onto Los Angeles for the famed Air New Zealand “Raro route” flight that stopped off in Tahiti and sometimes Rarotonga before arriving in Auckland.

Auckland was initially just a transfer point for a flight to Brisbane – the couple’s adventure would start in the land made famous by the recent Crocodile Dundee movie. On their second arrival into New Zealand in December 1988, they planned to buy a car and drive around.

“Heidi and Urban left Sweden on Friday the 16th of September 1988,” Heidi’s 32 year old brother Johni told New Zealand Police.[3] “Their departure was very early in the morning and my parents drove them both to the airport in Stockholm to see them off. They had with them their two large green backpacks full of their property, and a small blue carry bag which had the name Salomon  on it.”

Also stashed away  were their sleeping bags, a tent and Urban’s fishing and camping equipment. To all intents and purposes it was an ordinary airport departure, of the kind repeated at transit lounges across the globe every day. But unlike most, and unbeknown to anyone there that dark September morning, it was the last time any of them would see each other.

Australia wasn’t all prawns on the barbie; or perhaps it was one too many prawns: a few weeks after after arriving in Brisbane, Urban Hoglin was struck with a vicious infection. Doctors never got to the bottom of it, but he was hospitalised for two weeks in Alice Springs while the medics fought fevers peaking at 41 degrees. “I lost 6kg,” a recovering Urban wrote to family in mid November 1988.

Then there was the Australian wildlife to deal with:

“I was looking mostly up in the trees because I was looking for some tree kangaroos up there,” Heidi wrote of the couple’s experiences at Cape Tribulation in the far north. Since there were so many people on the path in front of her, she wasn’t paying overly close attention to the ground.

“Just as I was putting my foot down I saw that something moved and it was a snake…The snake was not supposed to be deadly poisonous, but if I’d got bitten I would have believed it was poisonous and probably died of the shock!”

The tour guide later explained the snake was venomous to the point of making a victim sick “for some days”.

Then, there was the Australian “wildlife” to deal with:

“We stayed in a backpacker’s hostel in Darwin with a lot of odd people…the place only had two toilets and one shower, and one of the toilets was in the same room where the shower was. When Urban went to take a shower, a drugged girl came in and knocked with a wooden stick, she was going to the loo and couldn’t wait. He hadn’t started yet so he went out and let her start instead. When he came back in there was another drugged girl coming in but then he just closed the door. When I took a shower later she came again and if you could murder anyone with your eyes.”

Heidi later discovered the second druggie had thrown a fully-clothed Swedish girl into the swimming pool apparently after failing to get access to the toilet.

“Before we fell asleep,” she wrote, “there were some guys fighting out in the kitchen. It was rather unpleasant to stay there but we survived.”

Hoglin’s brush with death and hospital stay forced a two week extension to their Aussie adventure, and the couple didn’t arrive back in Auckland until December 5, 1988. One of the first items on their NZ agenda was transport.

“We’ve bought a car, a Japanese wreck of a Subaru,” Heidi told her family in a letter. The seller was another Swedish tourist – a BMW salesman back home – who turned out to be a neighbour. “He has a summer house just close to yours! Talk about a small world.”

Heidi and Urban had been stunned at the prices of cars in Auckland at the Newmarket car fair. “We went around and checked them out and saw just a lot of bad expensive cars. Some of them were damaged and rusty and still they asked for some 8,500 krona ($2,100). At home you can find nicer ones in a garbage tin.

After turning down a 1970 VW Beetle for $4,000, the Swedish couple found their compatriot with the 1976 Subaru wagon. He wanted $2,200 but sold it to them for $1,750. Packs and camping gear loaded in the back, Heidi and Urban were off, albeit hesitantly at first.

“The people here in NZ are nice and very helpful. We stayed in a private home in Auckland and the woman who owned the place…when she heard that we were a bit worried about how to get out of Auckland (big motorways, and it’s important to get on the right road, in the right direction and on the right side of the road) she took her car and showed us all the way to the motorway.”

One of the first tasks was to tune the car radio to one of Auckland’s two FM stations – either the top rated 89FM or the less popular Magic 91. Evidently our playlists were a novelty to the young Swedes:

“I’ve heard another great song with a girl called Melissa Etheridge, have you heard anything from her at home? Is she popular?” Heidi wrote to a friend in December 1988. There was, she noted, “one song that is rather funny with a dark guy and that one is called Don’t Worry Be Happy. We heard that a lot when Urban went to the hospital.

“I’ve heard another good song from the Moody Blues. The song is named, or at least they sing like this, ‘I know you’re out there somewhere’, and that song is so beautiful.”

Given what would transpire, the lyrics to the 1988 Moody Blues hit are more than poignant and bittersweet – they are downright eerie:[4]

The mist is lifting slowly
I can see the way ahead
And I’ve left behind the empty streets
That once inspired my life
And the strength of the emotion
Is like thunder in the air
‘Cos the promise that we made each other
Haunts me to the end

I know you’re out there somewhere
Somewhere, somewhere
I know you’re out there somewhere
Somewhere you can hear my voice
I know I’ll find you somehow
Somehow, somehow
I know I’ll find you somehow
And somehow I’ll return again to you

The secret of your beauty
And the mystery of your soul
I’ve been searching for in everyone I meet
And the times I’ve been mistaken
It’s impossible to say
And the grass is growing
Underneath our feet

I know you’re out there somewhere
Somewhere, somewhere
I know you’re out there somewhere
Somewhere you can hear my voice
I know I’ll find you somehow
Somehow, somehow
I know I’ll find you somehow
And somehow I’ll return again to you

And the words that I remember
From my childhood still are true
That there’s none so blind
As those who will not see
And to those who lack the courage
And say it’s dangerous to try
Well they just don’t know
That love eternal will not be denied

I know you’re out there somewhere
Somewhere, somewhere
I know you’re out there somewhere
Somewhere you can hear my voice
I know I’ll find you somehow
Somehow, somehow
I know I’ll find you somehow
And somehow I’ll return again to you

Yes I know it’s going to happen
I can feel you getting near
And soon we’ll be returning
To the fountain of our youth
And if you wake up wondering
In the darkness I’ll be there
My arms will close around you
And protect you with the truth

I know you’re out there somewhere
Somewhere, somewhere
I know you’re out there somewhere
Somewhere you can hear my voice
I know I’ll find you somehow
Somehow, somehow
I know I’ll find you somehow
And somehow I’ll return again to you

Justin Hayward’s haunting Moody Blues track became one of Heidi and Urban’s favourite songs during their five month stay in New Zealand. And why not? They had wheels, they had the road unwinding in front of them, they had the wind in the hair and the sun on their faces. This was the summer of ’88 and, for these northern hemisphere migrants, the year without a winter. The cold would come soon enough, but right now they had each other and they had an adventure to share. Returning home was for another day.

Heidi cranked down the window and wound up the volume just a little more as the small Subaru cleared the city fringes at Albany and headed north. Visions of her family huddled around the fire in a bitterly cold Swedish Christmas season came to mind. She just smiled, and joined in the chorus.

I know I’ll find you somehow
And somehow I’ll return again to you

To continue reading…




[1] From Eyewitness Evidence: A Policy Review, The Justice Project, page 9

[2] Statement of Stefan Hoglin dated 22 September 1989

[3] Statement of Johni Paakkonen, 22 September 1989

[4] “I Know You’re Out There Somewhere”, written by Justin Hayward, performed by the Moody Blues, released 1988,


  1. For Ian Wishart…”Missing Pieces”…I hereby issue a challenge to David Wayne Tamihere…David,do you not deny,that about 8am,1989,one day in Wellington,as my marked Police look-alike Holden Commodore station wagon security vehicle pulled level with the white Subaru wagon…with the big bullbar in front…that YOU were driving,remember we stopped just out of the Terrace Tunnel extension at the lights at the Victoria st. intersection…while i`ll never forget that evil eyeballing you gave me,at close range,I could not equate the ABBA- Like couple perched obviously mortified in the back seat,just ahead of two giant sand-coloured tramping packs behind them…dressed in “Safari” style light tan tunic tops…beutiful “Big-Hair” Nordic blonde matching hairstyles…they looked too terrified to be normal David…I have heard on Bruce Russell`s talkback session,A “BRUCE”,who calls from Little Whanganui,South island,says he is adamant that the Two Swedes called at his then grocery shop,in the south island….SO David…how did you get control of thier car?…at the Ferry Terminal?…did you meet up with another mate in Coromandel?….Police were notified one year ago about this,David,when you popped your head up on TV3,David….

  2. Hi Rick…I have the police file, and there is no mention of such an event. The couple’s diaries and letters disclose no mention of picking up a hitchhiker in Wellington at the times the Swedes passed through, and Tamihere’s movements mean he could not have been there at those times if the police witnesses and backpacker hostel records in the COromandel are correct.

    I have no doubt you saw what you saw…but if it was Heidi and Urban I’d expect them to have written about it. If such a sighting took place after they disappeared, that too counts against it being the Swedes because the movements of the car are well established in the police file…Stolen by Tamihere on the 10th April, driven around Coromandel on 11th with witnesses, went to Auckland on 12th, carrying a witness. Left abandoned at Watling St Epsom on 14th.

    Happy to hear more if you can firm up dates. Cheers

  3. Huia George Foley made a deathbed confession to his mother in 2002, this is probably why his mother buried his ashes in an unmarked grave at Rotorua cemetery in 2003. By the way, when did his mother die?
    I assume the confession was passed on to you by Tania Rangiheuea Willie Jackson’s wife and Huia’s foster sister.

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