18 Sep 2021

Search continues for missing father and children

6:09 pm on 18 September 2021

Family and friends scoured the rugged King Country coastline today at Marokopa and Kiritehere beaches today, but still had no luck finding Thomas Phillips and his children, or any items of interest.

A bird’s eye view of Marokopa beach.

A bird’s eye view of Marokopa beach. Photo: RNZ / Tom Kitchin

The ground-based coastal search resumed on Saturday morning in the remote Marokopa area, west of Te Kuiti.

Thomas Phillips and his three young children, Jayda Jin, 8, Maverick Callum-Phillips, 6, and Ember Phillips, 5, were last seen on Saturday 11 September at Marokopa, west of Te Kuiti.

Phillips' vehicle was found at Kiritehere Beach on Sunday, but searches along the coastline and in dense bush failed to find any sign of them.

Police and LandSAR teams searched over land near the coast.

Search teams were overwhelmed by the amount of food arriving at the search base in Marokopa.

Tracey Mitchell, whose family has a holiday home in Marokopa, stopped off with some homebaked cookies.

Note on the door at search HQ.

Note on the door at search HQ. Photo: RNZ / Tom Kitchin

"We bought stuff, but there's too much food that's been given from the community and so we needed cream, so the policeman gave us cream."

Police said they were aware people from the community wanted to undertake their own searches, to help, but had concerns.

West Waikato area commander Will Loughrin said the area has difficult terrain.

Clockwise from top left, Thomas Phillips, Jayda Jin, Ember Phillips and  Maverick Callum-Phillips.

Clockwise from top left; Thomas Phillips, Jayda Jin, Ember Phillips and Maverick Callum-Phillips. Photo: Supplied / NZ Police

"We understand people want to help, however the search area is extremely challenging and we don't want a situation where people become injured or trapped, causing another search or rescue incident.

"We ask anyone wanting to search to stay safe in the sandy beach areas only at Marokopa and Kiritehere."

A bird’s eye view of Marokopa beach.

A bird’s eye view of Marokopa beach. Photo: RNZ/Tom Kitchin

Loughrin also called on those in the area to take care of any evidence they might find. He said if anything of interest was found it should first be photographed if possible, and then police should immediately be called on 105.

"Police would rather have the opportunity to review all items located and then discount them if they are not of significance," he said.

Waikato West Area Commander Inspector Will Loughrin.

West Waikato police area commander inspector Will Loughrin. Photo: RNZ / Andrew McRae

Inquiries continue surrounding motorbike and ute

Of the motorbikes thought to be recently owned by Phillips which police were searching for, they have ruled out any 2004 Honda XR400s as being linked to the disappearance.

However, police still want to find the location of a 2019 Honda CRF50.

And they continue to seek information about the time that Phillips ute was at the beach at Marokopa.

"This continues to be an important line of enquiry... and we strongly encourage anyone who may have had any direct interaction with the vehicle and has not yet been spoken to by police to get in touch as soon as possible," Loughrin said.

Anyone who saw the ute is asked to call police on 105.

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