A man who police claim was approached to kill two people at the behest of AC/DC drummer Phil Rudd has refused to discuss his apparent links to an alleged murder plot.
Rudd appeared in Tauranga District Court yesterday afternoon facing charges of attempting to procure the murder of two people, threatening to kill and possession of methamphetamine and cannabis.
He was arrested following a police raid on his Tauranga harbourside home yesterday morning.
The alleged intended hitman said he was running a Tauranga parlour some years ago when he first met Rudd. They had been friends ever since. He said the rock drummer was "a good fella", though he'd had some problems.
The man, who has not been charged, told the Bay of Plenty Times that Rudd would often let him drive his cars - the latest Ferrari and Lamborghini models - as well as take him for trips in his helicopter or out fishing.
When asked about murder plot allegations, the man replied: "I don't know what you're talking about."
He said Rudd had recently asked him to work for him after firing two other employees. The ageing rocker had become irritable recently and burned a lot of bridges, the man said.
"He's burning the ones who care about him."
Despite the allegations, Rudd was a good person, he said.
"The joys of being a rock star, always in the spotlight. You've got to feel sorry for him - just the expectations everyone has of him. He's a good fella. He's got a big heart."
The man said police called him yesterday morning to inform him of Rudd's arrest.
Both people alleged to be the intended victims refused to comment yesterday.
In court, Rudd appeared exhausted as he stepped into the dock wearing a grey jersey and jeans.
The 60-year-old did not seek name suppression but his lawyer in court, Tony Rickard-Simms, asked Judge Louis Bidois to deny the media permission to film Rudd in court, arguing they simply wanted to get photos of him "at his worst".
Rudd had been in police custody since 7am, he said.
Judge Bidois refused the request, but suppressed the names of the alleged intended victims and the alleged intended hitman.
Rudd was placed on bail to his home until his next appearance on November 27 and ordered not to have any contact with the three other men.
The maximum penalty for procuring a murder is 10 years' imprisonment, while threatening to kill carries a maximum of seven years.
The drummer refused to speak with gathered media as he pulled away from the court in a late-model soft-top Mercedes, driven by a woman who had watched the court proceedings from the public gallery.
Rudd's defence lawyer, Paul Mabey QC, said he was not prepared to comment on the police allegations.
Rudd's two-storey home yesterday remained under guard by security contractors, who were running errands for him and keeping people away from the property.
A resident told the Herald he was shocked to have arrived home from work to learn what his friendly next-door neighbour had been charged with.
"I know Phil, he's a good neighbour ... we'll chat about any old thing.
"I even see him out mowing the lawn for the elderly lady next door, so he's a pretty down-to-earth guy."
Another neighbour said: "This is quite a surprise."
Ex-AC/DC manager Michael Browning told Daily Mail Australia that the charge was a "bit of a shock, but there you go", while current management in Australia declined to comment last night.
Rudd was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2003 along with the other members of AC/DC.
In 2011 he bought a restaurant at Tauranga's Bridge Marina and called it Phil's Place.
It closed temporarily in 2012 but reopened in April this year.
AC/DC are gearing up to release their new album this month, called Rock or Bust, the follow-up to their eight-million-selling 2008 chart topper Black Ice.
Rolling Stone reported that Rudd had been absent from a new press photo of the group last month.
However, a band spokesperson told the magazine the drummer was still an active member of the band.
It was unclear how Rudd's arrest would affect the group's upcoming 2015 world tour.