6 Sep 2023

Watch: Police talk to media about new Tom Phillips arrest warrant

12:45 pm on 6 September 2023

Police are pleading with anyone helping missing Marokopa man Tom Phillips to think of his children following his new arrest warrant after being linked to a bank robbery in May.

On Tuesday, police announced Phillips had been charged with aggravated robbery, aggravated wounding and unlawfully possessing a firearm in relation to the bank robbery.

Acting Detective Inspector Andrew Saunders said two people, both armed, had entered a bank on Rora Street, Te Kuiti and demanded cash.

Two people fled the scene on a black, farm-style motorbike.

Two people, one believed to be Tom Phillips, fled the scene of a bank robbery on a black, farm-style motorbike. Photo: Supplied / Police

They fled the scene on a black, farm-style motorbike.

The other person involved was yet to be identified by police.

Saunders said it was possible that Phillips was in possession of firearms "and we ask people not to take action themselves but to call police" if he is seen.

"We remain concerned about the welfare of the Phillips children who were officially reported as missing in December 2021."

Phillips and his three children Jayda, 10, Maverick, 8, and Ember, 7, were reported missing from Marokopa on 18 January 2022. It was not the first time Phillips had taken the children and disappeared.

Police earlier said Phillips' second disappearance breached a parenting order and there was a warrant out for his arrest after he failed to appear in court in relation to their first disappearance in September 2021.

His first disappearance with the children sparked an extensive search.

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

Tom Phillips, and his children Jayda, Maverick and Ember. Photo: Supplied / NZ Police

Saunders said police did not know who the second person involved in the robbery was - other than to say they were female.

No one was injured in the robbery, but the charge of aggravated robbery is in relation to the robbery, he said.

"As soon as we had sufficient evidence we charged him and that was yesterday."

Saunders confirmed shots were fired during the bank robbery, as had been reported in media.

"I'm not going to get into the nitty gritty of the bank robbery because that's before the court," he said.

"Our main focus is finding the children and ensuring their safety."

Saunders said there were a number of different search phases in the investigation.

In terms of caving, police have consulted with experts, but it was a "large area" around Kawhia, he said.

He believed there were people in the community helping Phillips.

"Every piece of information that we get we follow up on, in order to try and corrorborate it."

Saunders asked people who are supporting Phillips to think about the children in the light of the new information.

He said anyone assisting the fugitive could be charged.

"That's something we will be considering at the time depending on the evidence."

He said police were not trying to change the narrative on Phillips case by laying the new charges.

"The fact that a warrant is issued is because we can't find him to put him into court."

He said the safety of Phillips' children was paramount.

"These are children, how are they being educated, what's their health like, have they been fed, what are they eating?"

The mother of the children was very concerned and the information relating to the bank robbery came as a shock to her, he said.

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