Mum’s plea for help

Police have played a trump card in efforts to find Marokopa dad Tom Phillips who has been missing with his three children for two and a half years.


Despite the promise of $80,000 for information leading to the safe return of Jayda, 10, Maverick, 9 and Ember, 8, the case has remains unresolved.

On Tuesday, police release a video featuring the children’s mother, identified only as Cat – who pleaded for help in finding them.

“They are just innocent children. They do not deserve to be treated this way. They do not deserve the life that is being provided to them right now,” she said.

Referring to her daughter’s birthday, Cat said: “She will be a young woman now and she needs her mother.”

Her other daughter, Ember, was asthmatic and needed medical care “that cannot be provided from the land”, Cat said.

“And I can only imagine how Maverick is coping with the hand that life has dealt to him.

“Many of you say that the children are fine, that they’re being well looked after.

“How do you know? Have you seen them? Or is it just bush talk?”

Phillips missed a scheduled court appearance in January 2022, and last year a warrant was issued to arrest him following alleged involvement in the armed holdup of Te Kūiti’s ANZ bank and an attack on a Piopio superette.

But despite allegations of criminal behaviour, support for Phillips seems to have remained significant among locals, some of whom police suspect are helping him to remain hidden.

The News took an anonymous poll of 12 people in Te Kūiti yesterday morning, asking each person whether Phillips should give himself up, or be left to raise his children as he saw fit.

Two spoken to, a man and a woman, said he should be left alone.

Nine felt he should give himself up, and one man had no view.

One man said he had gone to school with Phillips but still felt he should give himself up, “because it has gone on long enough”.

Another man who thought Phillips should now come forward said it was clear that a lot of people were looking after him.

The others mentioned what they saw as negative effects on the children as they missed out on family contact and education.

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