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'Very, very frightened' - Witnesses speak of terror at trial for Red Fox Tavern murder

Witnesses to the Red Fox Tavern murder in 1987 have described being frightened, scared, in shock, and bewildered as their boss was shot dead in front them.

Chris Bush Source: 1 NEWS

Two men, Mark Joseph Hoggart and another man who has name suppression, have pleaded not guilty to murdering publican Christopher Bush and aggravated robbery.

It's day two of their 12-week trial at the High Court in Auckland.

Today, the court heard from witnesses who were at the bar having drinks with Bush at the time.

Stephanie Prisk worked at the bar part time to help support her young family, and Sherryn Soppet had been working at the bar for less than a week and considered Chris Bush a "close family friend". William Wilson was also present that night; his testimony was read out.

All three worked the evening of October 24, 1987. Last drinks were at 10pm, with the bar shut and front doors locked about 10:30pm. The only door that remained unlocked was the back door.

The three workers stayed with their boss, Chris Bush, for a drink, and ended up sitting in the "lounge bar" area of the tavern: Wilson standing behind the bar, Bush, Prisk and Soppet sitting opposite.

Crown prosecutor Natalie Walker asked Prisk to describe what happened next.

"[The back door] that was unlocked burst open, and two people came in and said, 'This is an armed robbery'," Prisk told the court.

"One had a gun, and one had a baseball bat. The baseball bat man came over towards me and the gunman stayed further by the door."

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Murder trial begins for 1987 Red Fox Tavern slaying, one of NZ's highest-profile cold cases

Bush stood up and walked into the lounge area, but the gun went off, the court heard.

"Chris fell to the floor and the gunman was screaming obscenities and yelling... He said, 'Get on the floor, get down on the floor - all of you now'," said Prisk.

She was forced to search Bush's pockets for his keys; her colleague Soppet did not have her glasses and Wilson was "in shock".

The intruders made it clear they wanted access to the tavern's safe, despite the bar staff saying they had no idea how to open it.

Prisk was taken by the intruder with the baseball bat to Bush's office, kicking through a locked door.

She pleaded with the intruder not to hurt her as she had three young children.

When she could not open the safe, she was ordered back to the lounge bar. The safe was eventually "cracked", she said. 

The three bar staff were tied to the bar leaner with yellow twine.  

Soppet told the court she felt "very scared, very, very frightened".

"This sort of thing doesn't happen in our little community."

Prisk said she was "frightened, scared, in shock, bewildered".

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More than three decades ago Christopher Bush was shot dead at the Red Fox tavern in Waikato. Source: 1 NEWS

The intruders eventually left through the door they entered, ordering the three bar staff to say on the floor.

The staff waited to hear a car leave but after hearing nothing, they decided they had to move and managed to untie themselves before calling for help.

Yesterday in their opening argument, the defence lawyers for the two men said the defendants were innocent.

The trial continues.