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Exclusive: Former police officer on Red Fox Tavern case 'shocked' at guilty verdicts

A former police officer deployed to the Red Fox Tavern hours after the infamous 1987 murder and robbery says he's "shocked" guilty verdicts were handed down this week.

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Tony Bouchier "never thought it would take 33 years" to wrap up the case. Source: 1 NEWS

Mark Hoggart and another man, who has name suppression, were convicted of aggravated robbery and murder at the High Court in Auckland on Monday.

The crown prosecutor admitted at the start of the trial there was no direct evidence tying the pair to the crime, and their case would be built on "circumstantial evidence".

They said the pair "burst" into the tavern, heavily disguised and armed - Hoggart with a baseball bat and the other man with a shotgun - where they shot publican Chris Bush dead, robbed the tavern safe of $36,000 in cash, coins, and cheques, tied up terrified bar staff with yellow twine, before fleeing into the night.

Three decades passed before arrests were made.

Defence lawyers for both men claimed it was a case of mistaken identity - the police had got the wrong the wrong men.

The 12-person jury disagreed - handing down guilty verdicts after 18 hours deliberation.

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A jury delivered the verdict after hours of deliberations. Source: 1 NEWS

Former police officer Tony Bouchier was sent down in early on Sunday morning on Labour weekend 1987. He spoke exclusively to 1 NEWS following the verdict.

It was a morning he remembered vividly - jumping into his own car and speeding down the motorway towards Maramarua. He was even pulled over by another police officer for speeding.

But only one thing was on his mind that morning.

"How quickly can we lock up the offenders was what was going through my mind at the time, and I'm sure going through the mind of every constable and detective that was on that job on that day," he told 1 NEWS.

Former police officer Tony Bouchier. Source: 1 NEWS

"That morning when I arrived there was a crime scene investigation ... there were some urgent area inquiries going on. Door knocking on anyone who was in the vicinity of the Red Fox Tavern."

There were several challenges the police immediately faced - Maramarua was a small town, and the Red Fox Tavern sat isolated itself outside the main township.

As media liaison officer, Bouchier quickly realised solving the case would rely on members of the public coming forward to the police.

"I decided my job was to keep the story on the front pages of the newspapers," he said.

"This was an inquiry from the outset in which we knew we would be relying on information from members of the public."

Bouchier recalled the challenge of feeding enough information about the investigation to the print, radio, and television journalists that descended on the township so the story would stay in the public eye, but not enough information so the investigation would be compromised.

"We were confident at the time there would be an early breakthrough, that there would be arrests made."

But he was wrong.

Police look for clues at the Red Fox Tavern in 1987. Source: 1 NEWS

"Whenever you go into these inquiries, we always have the idea we would wrap this up quite quickly - we never thought it would take 33 years."

Bouchier has long since left the police and is now a semi-retired criminal defence lawyer.

But he has kept a close eye on the Red Fox Tavern trial that began early this year.

"I've got to say I was a bit of a sceptic - I wasn't 100 per cent convinced they were going to get a conviction."

He was concerned about the reliability of some evidence - including that of "jail house snitches".

"Now there is a conviction after 33 years ... it's quite amazing," he said.

"It hopefully closes the book for Gay Bush and her family, her children, and certainly for the CIB team because whenever I drive through Maramarua, whenever I drive past the cemetery, whenever I drive past the Red Fox Tavern, I think of Chris Bush, and I think about that unsolved murder and I know that every detective that was working on that case would think exactly the same thing."

Chris Bush Source: 1 NEWS

Most of those detectives were now retired, and some, including the lead detective, Bryan Rowe, have passed away.

"You've got to take your hat off to this new bunch of detectives that are coming through that have managed to resurrect the case and have brought a successful prosecution."

Reflecting on the last 33 years, Bouchier said this case should prove a stark warning to those involved in crime the police have yet to solve.

“For all those unsolved crimes out there, the serious ones ... whoever the offenders are, don't rest well at night because you never know when you're going to get the knock on the door and they will arrest you, and take you to court and successfully prosecute you," he said.

Mark Hoggart and his accomplice are expected to be sentenced in early May.