29 Mar 2021

Red Fox Tavern trial: Two men found guilty of 1987 murder, robbery

7:06 pm on 29 March 2021

Two men have been found guilty of murder and aggravated robbery over the Red Fox Tavern shooting more than 30 years ago.

Mark Hoggart is accused of murdering Chris Bush at the Red Fox Tavern in Maramarua in October 1987.

Mark Hoggart and another man with name suppression have been on trial in the High Court at Auckland. Photo: RNZ / Dan Cook

Father of two Chris Bush, 43, was gunned down at the pub in Maramarua in October 1987 and the offenders fled with tens of thousands of dollars in cash, coins and cheques.

Mark Hoggart and another man with name suppression have been on trial in the High Court at Auckland for the past seven weeks, although it was disrupted by two Covid-19 lockdowns.

The jury returned guilty verdicts after 18 hours of deliberations.

Chris Bush

Photo: Supplied / NZ Police

The two men were arrested and charged in 2017, after police decided to reinvestigate the cold case in 2016.

During the trial, the jury heard the men were considered suspects in the earlier investigations, but there was never enough evidence to lay charges.

The Crown argued a web of circumstantial evidence pointed to the defendants being the two heavily-disguised offenders who burst into the tavern late on the Saturday night of Labour weekend in 1987.

The Crown said the man with the sawn-off shotgun who fired at Bush was the unnamed defendant, while Hoggart was the man wielding a bat, who subdued the other bar staff and took the money from the safe.

The Crown said both men had a motive - they were effectively broke and needed the money from the robbery.

Their movements before and after the robbery were consistent with them having committed the crime, the Crown said, and they were not able to account for where they were at the time of the robbery and lied about it in their interviews with the police.

Both men appeared to come into a significant amount of cash in the days and weeks after Labour Weekend, purchasing motorbikes and cars, the Crown said.

There was also evidence during the trial that the unnamed defendant had talked in prison about committing another aggravated robbery after his release, and the Red Fox Tavern had come up in conversation as a good target, the Crown said.

A car matching the description of one belonging to Hoggart was seen near the Red Fox Tavern the night before the robbery, with two men inside, and the Crown said it was the defendants scoping out the area in preparation.

During the trial, one Crown witness said the unnamed defendant also hinted at his involvement in the crime - and when the witness suggested to him that two shotguns would have been better, he replied "one shotgun and a bat was enough".

Lawyers for the two defendants argued that the wrong men were on trial.

The unnamed defendant's lawyer Christopher Stevenson said another man - Lester Hamilton - was responsible.

Hamilton died in 2003, but a prison inmate, who gave evidence for the defence, said Hamilton had confessed his involvement to him while they were both in jail.

Stevenson said the Crown needed to prove that Hamilton was not the offender - and there was far more evidence of Hamilton being responsible and his client was innocent.

Hoggart's lawyer Craig Tuck said his client had been almost invisible in the evidence heard during the trial and there was nothing that pointed to him being involved in the crime.

The two men are due for sentencing on 7 May.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs