Marokopa family go bush again, no search initiated by police – Stuff.co.nz

A man and his three children who were missing from a Waikato west coast settlement have gone bush again, but police are not launching a search and rescue operation.
Thomas Phillips initially disappeared with his children Jayda Jin, 8, Maverick, 6, and Ember, 5​ – in September for over two weeks. Despite an extensive search they walked from the bush themselves, sparking charges for the father.
The group is now understood to have gone bush again.
In a statement, police say they are aware of the situation and are working with Phillips’ wider family.
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Police are making initial enquiries and no search has been initiated.
“We are aware Thomas and the children are not currently at the family home and will continue to monitor and regularly reassess the situation,” a police spokesperson said.
Phillips has been charged with causing wasteful deployment of police personnel and resources.
He is due to appear in the Te Kūiti District Court on January 12.
Tom and the kids, who live in Ōtorohanga, had been at his family farm on Marokopa​ Rd, about 6km inland from Marokopa Beach, on September 11.
The alarm bells were first sounded after Phillips’ ute was found below the tideline at Kiritehere Beach.
Local Māori who live in caravans and portable cabins on ancestral land at Kiritehere Beach, 5km over a mountain road from Marokopa, noticed Phillips’ 2004, grey-coloured Toyota Hilux parked on the beach, below the tide line.
There was no sign of the occupants. The child seats in the back were empty and the keys were under the driver’s side mat.
The family were not seen for 18 days, until they walked through the door.
Police and search and rescue volunteers scoured the desolate coast at Kiritehere to no avail. Despite extensive searches, including with heat-detecting drones, a helicopter, a fixed-wing plane, an IRB and a jet ski, no sign of the family had been found, bar a few “items of interest”.
Police also went through the family’s home in Ōtorohanga hoping to find clues. The house, a modest brick bungalow, is owned by Tom Phillips’ parents.
And the local hapū set up a dining area in a small shed and fed the teams of searchers rotating through.
Despite being a keen outdoorsman, over the week the weather was atrocious – driving rain, howling winds and huge seas – the last place you’d want three children to go missing.
While there were concerns the family might have been swept off the rocks during the weekend of stormy weather, the Phillips family had remained hopeful the father had taken his children on a camping trip.
Phillips had worked as a fencer and spent several years in the South Island. He separated from the children’s mother a few years ago and had become a full-time father.
Jayda, Maverick and Ember didn’t go to school, instead they were home-taught by their father, who himself was home-schooled, apart from a stint at a private school in Hamilton.
The Phillips have farmed the area for generations and are well-respected.
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