Staff members have recalled the fatal Red Fox Tavern hold-up, including the sound of an "explosion", and hoping against hope the slain publican was okay, more than 30 years after the events transpired.
Mark Joseph Hoggart, 60, and a man with name suppression are on trial for the aggravated robbery and murder of Christopher Bush, on the night of October 24, 1987.
Both of the accused men deny they were the ones that committed the crimes.
After counting the takings, Bush was having a drink with staff members Stephanie Prisk, Sherryn Soppet and William Wilson when the armed hold-up occurred.
Prisk, now 66, told the High Court at Auckland today she had been working at the Waikato tavern part-time some evenings to help support her family.
She said that day Wilson picked her up in his orange Datsun and they parked around the back because the front car park was full.
By 10.30pm the bar had emptied, leaving behind the four colleagues who began drinking together.
Kahlua, Southern Comfort and milk for the women and half-pint beer handles for the men.
"That [back] door that was unlocked burst open and two people came in and said, 'This is an armed robbery'," Prisk said.
One was armed with a sawn off double-barrelled shotgun and the other with a baseball bat, the court heard.
"Then something happened. I am not sure what," Prisk said.
There was an "explosion", she said.
"Then Chris fell on the floor and the gunman was screaming obscenities and yelling."
"How did you feel?" lead Crown prosecutor Natalie Walker asked.
"Frightened, scared, in shock, bewildered," she replied.
Bush's three staff members were told to lie on the floor while the intruders demanded the keys to access a safe.
Throughout the ordeal they were told they were covered with a gun and "one wrong move and you are next", the court heard.
Soppet did not have her glasses and Wilson was in total shock, Prisk said.
"He just couldn't move," she said.
"There was only one alternative and that was me."
She crawled along the floor and searched for the keys in Bush's pockets, holding them up when she found them.
The intruders demanded she now open the safe but Prisk had never seen the keys before and did not know which one was the correct one to use.
The one brandishing the bat ended up kicking down doors to reach Bush's office.
Prisk pleaded that she had three little children at home, the court heard.
She was taken back to the others, then dragged by her ankles face down to be tied up with them.
It was with yellow twine, she said.
"I remember that distinctly."
The incapacitated group were told not to move for eight minutes, otherwise the offenders would hear over a radio. The offenders then fled.
Prisk described herself as likely numb at this point.
"I remember saying to Sherryn we can't move until we hear a car leave and we waited and there was no car. There was no noise. We never heard a car."
After waiting for a time, she realised they needed to get help.
She had been holding out "hope against hope" Bush was okay.
Soppet, now 70, also recalled the sudden violent intrusion and Bush - her good family friend - getting up from his bar stool.
"The gun went off and bang. He was on the floor," she said.
Soppet said Prisk was hysterical, referring to her children and praying.
They were all scared, she said.
"This sort of thing doesn't happen in our little community."
Soppet's glasses were still on the bar, leaving Prisk the better placed to find the keys, the court heard.
"I didn't want to be thumbing around and making them more aggro than they already were," Soppet said.
Yesterday, Crown prosecutor Ned Fletcher opened the case, telling the court two heavily disguised intruders, clad in balaclavas and gloves, burst in using an unlocked back door.
"It all happened very quickly," he said.
The gunman seemed to have yelled something to the effect of: "This is an armed hold-up."
Bush his hurtled his glass at the gunman, the prosecutor said, while the gunman pulled the trigger.
"He [Bush] seemed to have just enough time to lift his left arm to shield his face but this was no protection."
Bush was struck full-on in the upper left side of his chest and under his arm.
A "tightly clustered grouping" of 215 shot-gun pellet strikes pierced his chest cavity, lungs and heart.
"He stood no chance."
The Crown case is that the two accused men are consistent with the descriptions of the offenders and they had the motive - they were broke and needed money.
Fletcher also said claims about their whereabouts that night could not be corroborated.
During the defence openings, Tauranga defence lawyer Craig Tuck said Hoggart had always said he was never involved.
Wellington defence lawyer Christopher Stevenson, representing the other defendant, also said the wrong people had been put on trial.
The trial, before Justice Mark Wooford, continues.