$80k reward for information leading to safe return of missing Marokopa kids

1News Reporters 1News Reporters | 06-11 08:20

Police have announced an $80,000 reward for information that leads to the location and safe return of the three missing Marokopa children.

Ember (8), Maverick (9) and Jayda (10) have been missing since December 2021 after they were taken by their father Tom Phillips.

They are thought to be in Western Waikato within Marokopa or the surrounding areas.

Phillips is currently being sought by police, and there is a warrant for his arrest. He does not have legal custody of the children.

He faces charges in relation to aggravated robbery, aggravated wounding, and unlawful possession of a firearm. These charges were the result of a criminal investigation separate from the missing person's investigation.

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It comes less than a week after police revealed Phillips is allegedly linked to a bank robbery.

Today, police announced a reward of $80,000 to anyone with information that would lead to the location and safe return of the children.

"We believe that Tom and the children are being assisted, and we're urging anyone who's doing this to please stop, do the right thing and tell Police what you know," Acting Detective Inspector Andrew Saunders said.

"We are committed to finding these children, and we're willing to take the step of offering a reward if it proves the tipping point to help people put the children's welfare first."

Saunders said the Commissioner of Police will determine the reward amount and will apportion it if there is more than one claimant.

Immunity against prosecution "will be considered" for anyone who has committed an offence in helping Phillips, if they provide information or evidence that leads to the location and safe return of the children.

The offer will remain in force until June 25.

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Anyone with information is being asked to call police on 105, quoting the file number 211218/5611, or email op.curly@police.govt.nz.

Anyone who sees Phillips is being asked to call 111 "immediately".

"Police consider him to be armed, and he should not be approached," Saunders said.

Also today, police launched a "new phase" in its investigation, deploying a team to Marokopa.

"Police will be visible in the community over the coming days, and we encourage anyone with credible knowledge of the whereabouts of the Phillips children who is prepared to assist the investigation team to make themselves known to our officers."

Saunders said a liaison with the family has been notified of the latest development and remains in "close contact with police".

In May last year, Phillips was linked to the robbery of a Te Kūiti bank. In August, police released a photo of a disguised Phillips at a Hamilton Bunnings after a stolen ute linked to the case was spotted three times.

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There have been fresh sightings of missing Marokopa kids' father Tom Phillips.

Police later sought sightings of a three motorbikes and a quad bike.

It's believed Phillips and one other person were behind the theft of a quad bike on Marokopa Rd in early November, and later smashed a shop window in Piopio.

More on this topic

Police narrow search for missing Marokopa family

Tue, Jan 23

Video: Marokopa fugitive and child seen disguised in town near Te Kūiti

November 14, 2023

2:04

Over a dozen reported sightings of Marokopa dad and kids

October 4, 2023

Phillips and his three children were first reported missing on September 11, 2021. The group returned home by September 30, and police said at the time they had been camping in dense bush.

The group was announced as missing again in January 2022 and they have not returned home since.

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