The Crown is closing its case in the infamous Red Fox Tavern robbery and murder trial, alleging it does not make sense that one of the accused disposed of a shotgun unless it was the murder weapon.
A man with name suppression and Mark Joseph Hoggart are on trial for the 1987 aggravated robbery of the pub and murder of its owner, Christopher Bush, in Waikato.
The Crown says two heavily disguised intruders, clad in balaclavas and gloves, burst in through a back door of the Maramarua tavern on Labour Weekend.
It is alleged the unnamed accused fired a sawn-off double-barrelled shotgun, killing Bush before his three staff members were tied up and just over $36,000 was stolen.
Crown prosecutor Natalie Walker said the largely circumstantial case had several strands, which when proven together, were enough to convict both accused men.
In the early 1980s the unnamed defendant was jailed alongside Charles (Charlie) Ross for an armed robbery in Auckland.
The unnamed defendant had “cased out” the place before the group sprung using two sawn-off shotguns to rob a safe while in full disguises, Walker said.
When released from prison, the unnamed accused’s movements were “fairly mysterious” and he seemed to surface again in the week leading up to the Red Fox robbery.
About that time Ross took a sawn-off shotgun out of the ceiling in his home, for them to practise firing the gun at a Napier vineyard, Walker said.
The Crown argues that the jury can be sure that on the early afternoon of October 23 the two accused men were in Cambridge under the guise of first visiting one’s ex-girlfriend.
She had been shocked to see them, the court heard.
Walker then recalled the statement given by Robyn Anna-May Pyle, who died in 2014.
On October 23, 1987, Pyle had been working at the Maramarua dairy when a car pulled up outside about 8.45pm, parking at an angle that would have blocked some cars.
“I couldn’t figure out why they stopped there,” Pyle said
“So I just stood watching what they were doing.”
In her statement Pyle described two people in the car but they never even glanced her way as the driver strained to look at the pub.
“It was as if we weren’t even there,” she said.
The driver was European in his early 20s with sandy-colour wavy hair who she also described as “average looking”.
Walker repeated the description over for the jury, saying there was a “most telling part”.
It was an agreed fact that at the time Hoggart had long light brown hair, the prosecutor said.
“What innocent explanation could they have for being up in Maramarua on Friday night?”
Maramarua is a fair distance from Cambridge, where they were last seen that day, Walker said.
The occupants had parked with the car idling but did not get petrol, change a tyre or go inside the dairy, she said.
“They were there very deliberately casing out the pub under the cover of darkness to scope out what they were going to do the following evening.”
'Turning then to the robbery'
After counting the takings, Bush was having a drink with staff members Stephanie Prisk, Sherryn Soppet and William Wilson when the armed hold-up occurred.
Bush hurtled his glass at the gunman “near enough to simultaneously” as the moment when the trigger was pulled.
“Christopher Bush stood no chance. The injuries were unsurvivable,” Walker said.
“The defendants seem hardly to pause to take stock of what they had done.
“Instead they both swung into action.”
Prisk had to crawl along the floor and search for the keys in Bush’s pockets, holding them up when she found them.
The intruders demanded she now help get to the safe but Prisk had never seen the keys before and did not know which one was the correct one to use.
The offender brandishing the bat ended up kicking down doors to reach Bush’s office, the court has heard.
One by one, those who had survived the fatal robbery were tied up.
The incapacitated group were told not to move for eight minutes, otherwise the offenders would hear over a radio. The offenders fled.
'After the robbery'
In late 1987, Philip Dunbier nominated the unnamed defendant to police.
He told the court that he had earlier been in prison with the unnamed accused, who had talked about having a job lined up outside of Auckland.
Both defendants were interviewed by police in January 1988.
Walker said there were “provable lies” in the first account given by the unnamed defendant.
When he is spoken to by police about test firing a sawn-off shotgun at the vineyard he knew his brother-in-law and Ross had “spilled the beans” about the gun, she said.
And the unnamed accused speaks of the gun as a “real rough job” with the barrels cut on an angle.
But what happened to this gun, the prosecutor asked.
Well, the unnamed defendant threw it into the sea, she said.
“It doesn’t make sense that [unnamed accused] would dispose of a shotgun that wasn’t the murder weapon.
“And that for all he knew could have proved his innocence if he was not one of the Red Fox Tavern offenders.”
Remember when he disposed of the gun, he could not have known – “unless he was the true offender” – that the murder weapon also happened to be a sawn-off double-barrelled shotgun, Walker said.
“Just like the one he had.”
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