The widow of slain Red Fox Tavern publican Christopher Bush has welcomed a "sense of relief and justice" after the two culprits were jailed for life.
Gaye Bush said today's sentencing brought an end to a "painful chapter" of her life, 33 years after the murder.
"Having some closure after all these years brings about a sense of relief and justice for the family and it is now time to move forward and put this painful chapter behind us," she said.
Mark Joseph Hoggart and a second man with name suppression were found guilty in March of aggravated robbery and the murder of father-of-two Bush.
The law requires the men be sentenced according to penalties available in 1987, when the murder happened.
For that reason, no minimum period of imprisonment applies.
Apart from the life sentences for murder, Hoggart received seven years' imprisonment and his accomplice eight years for the aggravated robbery.
The two men were found guilty after a seven-week trial in the High Court at Auckland.
Bush was killed when two heavily disguised robbers burst in through a back door of the Maramarua tavern on October 24, 1987.
Today, Hoggart and his accomplice were both sentenced to life imprisonment.
"Someone was killed for no good reason out of the blue," Crown prosecutor Anna Devathasan said.
"Those ripples are enormous and they persist 33 years later.
"This was not a robbery gone wrong. It was a successful robbery ... which the offenders nearly got away with.
"The one positive that's uniformly expressed in the victim impact statements is that after this enormous passage of time, this matter was brought to trial and this verdict delivered."
One person who presented a victim impact statement said the guilty verdicts provided closure for the family and for the north Waikato town.
Hoggart appeared to acknowledge a supporter when he entered the courtroom.
Both men were silent and motionless when asked if they wanted to say anything before sentencing.
The Crown said even if the shooting was not planned in advance, it could not be deemed an accidental or even reckless shooting.
"This case continues to throw up unusual and somewhat complicated issues," said Christopher Stevenson, defence lawyer for the man with name suppression.
He said the shooting was "a reflexive action" and his client maintained his innocence.
The shooter retains name suppression until he decides whether or not to lodge an appeal.
Stevenson said a lesser penalty for murder was available in 1987, and though a life sentence then could've been imposed, there would have been no minimum jail term.
"It is a highly unusual case," Hoggart's defence counsel Craig Tuck said.
"And in relation to Mr Hoggart, less culpability can be attributed."
Hoggart was armed with a baseball bat and his accomplice with the shotgun.
Justice Mark Woolford said Bush was shot at the tavern after throwing a half-pint glass at the robber with the shotgun.
The publican was shot from a distance of three to five metres, the judge said.
"Mr Bush's injuries were unsurvivable. He died within a minute."
The shooter then walked over to Bush, kicked his body and said: "What did you do that for?"
Robbers demanded to access the safe. Terrified pub staff were told: "If the alarm goes off, you're history."
Justice Woolford said one of the robbers said: "Maybe if we started breaking some arms and legs we'd get somewhere."
Three bar staff were tied up and the robbers made off with about $36,000 from the safe.
Hoggart had a criminal career stretching back 45 years.
The judge said Hoggart's father was in the 1950s Milk-bar Cowboys gang.
Hoggart later joined the Filthy Few motorcycle club, becoming the gang's Waihi president in the 1990s.
Now aged 61, he had two biological children and one stepchild with whom he maintained contact.
"It is clear that you are highly valued by these people," Justice Woolford added.
But the only reason Hoggart was ever able to spend time with his children growing up was because he'd avoided conviction for murder, the judge said.
The court was told the man who shot Bush was also in his 60s now and had a previous conviction for aggravated robbery.
Manukau's Crown solicitor Natalie Walker and Ned Fletcher led the prosecution.
Relief for town after tragedy
Today, Detective Senior Sergeant Mike Hayward of Counties Manukau police said the guilty verdicts had brought huge relief to Bush's family and to Maramarua.
He said the members of the Bush family he'd spoken to were elated today.
"No family should have to endure 33 years for justice."
Hayward said he hoped former bar staff would also take comfort from the life sentences imposed.
And he paid tribute to police who worked on two earlier investigations decades ago.
"The work the initial investigators did back in 1987 and 1999, this whole case to date has been based on the foundations by those guys."
He made a special mention of Detective Inspector Gary Lendrum, who died of cancer in December aged 62.
It was Lendrum who inspired a re-investigation of the case when the 30th anniversary of Bush's death approached in 2003.
Hayward said Maramarua had for years been identified with the disturbing unsolved murder.
The weight of that sinister mystery was now lifted, Hayward said, and he expected the community would feel much relief.
Bush was 43 years old.
Additional reporting: Chelsea Boyle