There is enough evidence to say that double murder convictions in New Zealand high profile cases are unsafe, not just because of yesterday's convictions of witness 'C' for eight counts of perjury he committed in the David Tamihere double murder convictions. The bad run started in Arthur Thomas's case from 1970. Arthur was twice convicted before being pardoned. At the Royal Commission which followed, police tried to bring in 2 secret witnesses who claimed Arthur had confessed, such was their obviously manufactured evidence that the Royal Commission showed them the door and commented adversely against their kind.
A relatively at the time, young detective, John Hughes featured in the Thomas case where the primary evidence was a planted cartridge case, said to been fired in the Thomas rifle, but later discovered as not having been manufactured at the time of the deaths of Jeanette and Harvey Crewe. The country was told after Arthur's pardon that the Thomas case was a one off and couldn't happen again. But from that garden where the planted shell case was found something else grew, a police propensity by some officers to plant evidence. There were other cases, one being Ngamu where Hughes made a false confession attributed to Ngamu confirming his part in an armed robbery. When Hughes left the room Ngamu took the false confession out of the rubbish bin and managed to pass to his lawyer Barry Hart. Nothing happened by way of police discipline against Hughes, as nothing had happened with the planted Thomas shell case. Already, for those so inclined in the police, administrators would turn a blind eye to planted evidence and the Courts would be equally ambivalent.
Hughes was in charge of the disappearance of a young Swedish couple Urban Hoglin and Heidi Paakkonen, soon attention was drawn to David Tamihere, who would admit having stolen the couple's car. Quite quickly it would later emerge, 3 prison snitches would be helping out Hughes, one of them, 'C', would eventually say that his testimony was fabricated by yes, John Hughes. For this observer that was the signature of the 1970s corruption that began in the Thomas case. There may have been prison snitches before that time, but after the Thomas Royal Commission they became more prevalent like a disease inflicted on Justice in this country which the Courts were willing to ignore, and for which police would never be held responsible. By this time time snitches had 'handlers' who went into prison to gain help to fabricate false evidence. Snitches had become an extension of 'policing' in NZ.
One of the familiar characteristics of 'snitches' testimony was the lack of imagination, there appeared only one tactic, outlandish and sick 'confessions' by accused in cases where there was little other evidence, in which the 'snitches' would hold the weak case together with their reported confessions, often given by seasoned criminals who happened to be 'sickened' by the confessions to the point they contacted police. Most often the snitches would be particularly brutal criminals themselves, in at least 1 case, a snitch blaming a life long friend for the murder of a young Auckland housewife would go onto being convicted of a similar crime after the man he falsely accused of murder suicided in prison before he went to trial, that case has never been resolved - and the false accuser now serves life imprisonment for an identical crime to that he blamed long term friend for.
It was no surprise for this observer that when Scott Watson was eventually arrested for the 'Sounds murders' that secret witness were involved, 2 prison inmates and an anonymous couple who after changing their stories several times would accuse Scott of revealing that he was a violent women hater prepared to kill. The 2 prison witnesses for their part would reveal yes, of course, sordid details they alleged Watson revealed to them and for which they were overcome by outrage and reported it to 'police snitch handlers'. That their confessions were dissimilar never caused a batted eye lid in the Court system, as it had not in Tamihere. The only proceedings where such witnesses were tossed out was from the fiercely independent Thomas Royal Commission who had no truck with such bottom dwelling liars.
A few more years and we advance to the Mark Lundy retrial and find, with the case somewhat in trouble, a good old 'snitch' who claimed Mark Lundy confessed to him in a prison yard where Mark had never been held. So the idea that planted evidence and stoolies was moved on from in the 1970s was proved to be false once again. The Teina Pora case also had snitches as prime witnesses, showing that it doesn't require double homicides but rather high profile cases which police struggle to solve.
The reality is that 'snitches' don't solve cases, they become an obvious part of miscarriages of Justice that Courts and Governments continue to ignore. Justice does not benefit from lying prisoners or secret witnesses, a high majority of controversial cases show that plainly no more that the reminder given by the eight guilty counts in the private prosecution brought by Arthur Taylor which police refused to do themselves.
As a matter of interest, the Lundy appeal is next month and the highly suspect 'novel science' is going to be scrutinised as it has never before been. The key evidence against Mark Lundy is highly suspect and has no authenticated forensic basis, there is no other evidence against him that would result in a conviction and the story to be revealed, I am told, is a shocking revelation that brings no credit to the New Zealand Courts and prosecuting authorities.
I am also told that the Watson case is to be re-visited, not just because 1 of the secreted witnesses there 'recanted', 'reaffirmed' and then disappeared, well at least Kirsty McDonald QC couldn't find him after 4 years of searching around her office, and never asking police for help finding their 'contact.' But also because highly suspect forensic evidence in the case, upon which the Watson convictions barely hang is no longer strong enough in the modern forensic context to solely uphold the Watson convictions as Ms McDonald claimed in 2013 after mulling over the papers for 4 years and being paid over $400,000.
Justice as we know it in controversial cases in NZ, corrupt and sinking by the minute.