Swedish tourists' murder: What the pathologist found

by Donna Chisholm / 10 September, 2017

Help us find and write the stories Kiwis need to read

Urban Höglin.

RelatedArticlesModule - tamihere

The murders of Urban Höglin and Heidi Paakkonen will be revisited in the memoir of forensic pathologist Timothy Koelmeyer, due out in coming months. It’s why Koelmeyer, now retired, still has his files at hand.

He was one of three pathologists who examined Höglin’s skeletal remains and initially found no sign of any damage to the bones to indicate how he might have died. It wasn’t just those three who found nothing, he says. “Every pathologist who came through the lab looked at them.”

Koelmeyer, the pathologist for the Crown, had been called down to the Wentworth Valley when the remains were being painstakingly recovered, with each bone marked.

A couple of pig hunters had literally stumbled on the body when one of them went into the bush to have a pee, says Koelmeyer. The body was facing down, the arms outstretched above the head.

Stab wounds were found on the front of Höglin’s black sweatshirt and the pink T-shirt he wore underneath. There were also cuts in the waistband of the shorts and his underpants.

Back at the Auckland mortuary, the skeleton was reconstructed – only a few phalanges (bones that make up the fingers and toes) were missing. There were more than 200 bones laid out on the dissecting table, and Koelmeyer says he examined each one.

The pathologists found a hole in the middle of Höglin’s breast bone that excited them for a time. Had he been shot through the chest? It was, however, a rare congenital disorder and not a bullet hole.

Weeks after the first report was signed off by the pathologists – two worked for the defence – Koelmeyer says he was preparing the bones to return to Höglin’s family in Sweden when he decided to take one more look. What he found was down to sheer chance, he says.

Maybe it was because the bones of Höglin’s neck had dried out during those weeks in the dry, controlled atmosphere of the dissecting room, but when Koelmeyer next looked at them, the deep cut in the fourth cervical vertebra was suddenly very clear to see. It was a centimetre long and 3mm deep.

Not only had Höglin been stabbed in the neck and belly, but his killer had tried to cut off his head.

“If the idea is to dismember him and dispose of the body, you’ve got to start somewhere and the head is as good as any.”

Chillingly, Koelmeyer says the cuts to the waistbands of Höglin’s shorts and underwear only matched up if the underpants had been put on back to front.

“Most people, when they put their underpants on, put them on the right way around. Unless you’re in a state of terror or fright… It means you’re in a disturbed state, for want of a better term. If this boy was being threatened, or had already been subjected to some sort of violence and is then putting on his clothes again… it could be after this happened that he then was stabbed.”

Koelmeyer says he has examined the bodies of more than 100 murder victims and has testified in nearly 200 murder trials for both the prosecution and defence.

He hopes his book will be out by Christmas.

This was published in the August 2017 issue of North & South.

Latest

How to know if you have coeliac disease
92118 2018-06-18 00:00:00Z Health

How to know if you have coeliac disease

by The Listener

Coeliac NZ suggests you consider getting tested if you have some or all of the following symptoms of coeliac disease.

Read more
For coeliac disease sufferers, there's hope of treatment on the horizon
92091 2018-06-18 00:00:00Z Nutrition

For coeliac disease sufferers, there's hope of tre…

by Nicky Pellegrino

As many as 100,000 New Zealanders, many of them undiagnosed, are afflicted by coeliac disease.

Read more
As Jacinda Ardern takes her baby exit - the show goes on
92466 2018-06-17 00:00:00Z Politics

As Jacinda Ardern takes her baby exit - the show g…

by Graham Adams

The PM can happily go off on maternity leave knowing there is a cast of colourful and capable people to fill the gap — most notably Winston Peters.

Read more
The Spanish flu pandemic killed more than WWI. Are we prepared for the next?
92222 2018-06-17 00:00:00Z Health

The Spanish flu pandemic killed more than WWI. Are…

by Sally Blundell

This year marks a century since a flu pandemic killed 9000 NZers. Three more such plagues have swept the world since then – and another is inevitable.

Read more
How to stay safe from the flu this winter
92238 2018-06-17 00:00:00Z Health

How to stay safe from the flu this winter

by Sally Blundell

According to research, soap and water are more effective at removing the flu virus than alcohol-based hand-rubs.

Read more
How Las Vegas gets people coming back for more
86454 2018-06-17 00:00:00Z Travel

How Las Vegas gets people coming back for more

by Sharon Stephenson

Sharon Stephenson swore once was enough, but here she is, back in Sin City.

Read more
How to understand New Zealand's political tribes
92212 2018-06-16 00:00:00Z Social issues

How to understand New Zealand's political tribes

by Jane Clifton

In New Zealand politics, small groups often exert more influence than large tribes.

Read more
Revealing Earth's secrets: How JOIDES deep earth sampling missions help us all
92306 2018-06-16 00:00:00Z Science

Revealing Earth's secrets: How JOIDES deep earth s…

by Jenny Nicholls

When an odd-looking ship came to NZ in May, few would've known it was a symbol of one of the world’s oldest and most successful scientific collabs.

Read more