Man on trial for Red Fox shooting was jailed for similar crime

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One of the men on trial over the Red Fox Tavern shooting more than 30 years ago was jailed for a similar robbery several years earlier, a jury has heard.

The Red Fox Tavern in Maramarua.

The Red Fox Tavern in Maramarua. Photo: Google Maps

Father of two Chris Bush, 43, was gunned down during a robbery at the pub in Maramarua, northern Waikato, in October 1987.

Mark Hoggart, 60, and another man who cannot be named, are on trial in the High Court at Auckland, charged with murder and aggravated robbery.

They deny any involvement in the crime and say the police arrested the wrong people.

In agreed facts read to the court, the jury heard the man with name suppression was convicted for his role in the aggravated robbery of another tavern, in the Auckland region, in the early 1980s.

In that robbery, the accused and his two co-offenders went into the bar in the early hours, after all the patrons had left.

A number of the bar staff were still there socialising.

The two offenders who went into the tavern – one of them the Red Fox Tavern accused – wore disguises and carried shotguns, the jury heard.

The bar staff were threatened and ordered to lie face down on the floor.

The duty manager was told to open the safe, but in his fear, he forgot the combination.

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One of the offenders hit him on the back of the head with the butt of a shotgun – and the impact was sufficient for the shotgun to go off, with a single shot going through the ceiling, hitting a light and showering the bar staff with debris.

The duty manager fell backwards from the force of the blow and he explained to the offenders that the combination number was written down in another place nearby.

The duty manager was escorted at gunpoint to retrieve it and the contents of the safe was put into a sugar sack.

The amount stolen came to more than $45,000 in cash, coins, cheques and credit card vouchers.

The Red Fox Tavern accused and the other two offenders were quickly apprehended.

The man with name suppression pleaded guilty to his part in the crime and was jailed.

‘I’ll probably do another one when I get out’

One of the Red Fox Tavern accused’s co-offenders in the earlier tavern robbery has also given evidence in court.

Charles Ross said he had known the man with name suppression for many years.

As well as being involved in the earlier aggravated robbery, Ross said he and the man had spent time in prison together.

Responding to questions from Crown prosecutor Natalie Walker, Ross said the topic of committing another aggravated robbery came up on a number of occasions while they were in prison.

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Ross said the accused told him: “I’ll probably do another one when I get out”.

Ross was asked whether the Red Fox Tavern ever came up.

“There were several occasions where it was spoken about in prison, not only by [the accused], but by most of the other inmates,” he said.

The accused always seemed to be there when the Red Fox was discussed, Ross said.

Ross said he made it clear he didn’t want to be involved in any more robberies once he got out of prison.

When he first heard about what happened at the Red Fox Tavern, Ross said his first thought was that it was the “spitting image” of the earlier aggravated robbery.

Ross said he saw the accused in the days after.

Ross said the man told him he had already got rid of a gun “in the bay”.

The man also told him they would be “getting some heat” and the “cops will be busting our houses” – because of the earlier aggravated robbery, Ross said.

Ross didn’t ask the man if he had been involved in the Red Fox Tavern shooting and robbery.

Ross said the accused had asked him to give him an alibi for Labour weekend.

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“My reaction was a total no, I wasn’t getting involved in anything,” Ross said.

Walker asked Ross why he hadn’t mentioned the alibi or the discussions about the Red Fox Tavern in prison, when he first provided statements to the police in 1988 – and only mentioned them when he provided another statement in 2018.

“At that time, I was trying to distance myself from the whole thing, both me and my family,” he said.

“It’s always been in the back of my mind.”

The trial continues.

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