Red Fox Tavern trial: Accused men had ‘cash to burn’ after shooting – Crown

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The two men on trial over the Red Fox Tavern shooting and robbery more than 30 years ago appeared to have money to burn in the days and weeks after the crime, and the Crown says that points to them being the offenders.

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

Mark Hoggart is accused of murdering Chris Bush at the Red Fox Tavern in Maramarua in October 1987 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, who has name suppression, are on trial in the High Court at Auckland, charged with murder and aggravated robbery.

They deny any involvement in the crime and their lawyers have argued the wrong men are on trial.

In her closing address to the jury, Crown prosecutor Natalie Walker said before the robbery, neither man had much money and they were on the dole.

Hoggart had no money when he left prison, while the unnamed defendant had about $1000, Walker said.

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After Labour weekend – which was when the Red Fox Tavern shooting took place – the pair had “cash to burn”, she said.

The unnamed defendant previously had no vehicles, but witnesses described him coming into possession of a number of cars and motorbikes, including a near-new Ford Falcon.

Hoggart bought a Triumph motorbike, paid for mainly in $20 bills, grouped into lots of $200, as if the money had been carefully counted out, Walker said.

That did not match with Hoggart’s explanation in his 1988 police interview that he had smuggled the money out of prison in a radio, Walker said.

“Given they were on the dole, and given their claim to petty crimes – which even if true wouldn’t have earned them much – there really is no plausible alternative explanation to them being the Red Fox Tavern offenders that accounts for the money they had and their spending after Labour weekend,” Walker said.

“The Crown says there’s irresistible evidence that before Labour weekend they effectively had no money, but after Labour weekend they suddenly had cash to burn.”

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Meanwhile, the Crown said the jury should not get distracted by the defence proposition that another man, Lester Hamilton, could have committed the robbery.

Hamilton died in 2003 and was in the early stages a prime suspect, but Walker said it “doesn’t make sense” that Hamilton was one of the offenders and evidence showed he could not have been.

Walker also said the jury should discount the evidence of cellmates who said Hamilton had confessed his involvement to them, because they were unreliable witnesses.

Defence lawyers will give their closing statements to the jury before the judge sums up the case later this week.

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