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Red Fox Tavern murder: 30 year trial delay allowed defendants to blame another man – Crown lawyer

The Red Fox Tavern in Maramarua.

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The Red Fox Tavern in Maramarua.
Photo: Google Maps

The two men convicted of killing a publican at the Red Fox Tavern in 1987 were advantaged by the more than thirty-year delay between the murder and the trial, a Crown lawyer has told the Court of Appeal .

In 2021, Mark Hoggart and another man, who cannot be named, were sentenced to life in prison with a minimum parole period of 10 years for murder and aggravated robbery.

Publican Chris Bush was shot dead at the Maramarua pub in October 1987 and the offenders fled with more than $30,000.

The men were appealing their convictions at the Court of Appeal in Wellington.

Defence lawyer Christopher Stevenson yesterday argued the Crown’s evidence was not reliable, given witnesses testified decades after the murder.

But Crown lawyer Charlotte Brook today said the delay enabled the defendants to blame another man, Lester Hamilton, who died before the trial.

“The death of Lester Hamilton enabled [name suppressed] and Mr Hoggart to point the finger at Mr Hamilton without him being available to defend himself.”

Brook said if the trial had been held prior to Hamilton’s death, it was inevitable he would have been a Crown witness.

“The approach that was ultimately taken, the Crown says, was more favourable to the appellant, indeed the most favourable, than if the charges had been brought earlier in time.”

Throughout her submission Brook reiterated the Crown’s initial arguments from 2021, detailing what it called “10 strands” of evidence against the pair.

Hoggart ‘didn’t get a fair go’

Earlier in the hearing today, Hoggart’s lawyer Quentin Duff said there was simply “no evidence” against his client, and that two innocent men were convicted of the crimes.

That echoed the arguments Christopher Stevenson set out yesterday.

Duff maintained the initial trial proved the “occasional fallibility” of the justice system.

The Crown asked the jury to make speculative leaps, rather than delivering concrete evidence, he said.

“There’s no evidence, direct or circumstantial, that was capable of convicting Mr Hoggart as being one of the two people who robbed the Red Fox Tavern.

“Crown proffered a narrative against Mr Hoggart without an evidential basis.

“And again I invite the court to contradict that, and we’ve already invited my learned friends for the respondent to contradict that, and it hasn’t.”

Duff’s co-counsel Scott McColgan argued Hoggart was prejudiced because he was associated with the unnamed man.

“These two men, and Mr Hoggart in particular, despite efforts to try and achieve it, I accept that, did not get a fair go,” he said.

“All Mr Hoggart asks for is a fair go.

“Grant us a retrial so we can give him that.”

The appeal, which was heard by Justices Christine French, Murray Gilbert and David Collins, was expected to end today.

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