Regional | Waikato

Police offer large cash reward for info on missing Marokopa kids

Police are offering a cash reward of $80,000 for any information that leads them to find the missing Marokopa kids, Ember, Maverick and Jayda Phillips, who have been missing for more than two and a half years.

A warrant for the arrest of their father, Tom Phillips, was issued at the time after he disappeared with them on December 12, 2021.

Tom is believed to be located within Marokopa or the surrounding areas, with police warning he may still be armed and present a risk to the public.

Acting Detective Inspector Andrew Saunders said the large reward would be paid for material information or evidence that led police to the location and the safe return of the kids.

“If you look at it, the reward’s open for a two-week window, so we’re targeting people who know the whereabouts of Tom and the children.

“Over the past two-and-a-half-years, we’ve issued a number of appeals for information. Those appeals have been to the community, to people that may be assisting Tom, to people who may know the whereabouts of the children.

“We haven’t achieved the results we were looking for.”

Those who provide information or evidence leading to the safe return of the children may be granted immunity from prosecution for any offences committed in assisting Tom Phillips.

The money and the potential immunity offers are only available until June 25, 2024.

From right to left: Ember, Maverick and Jayda, now aged 8, 9 and 10, respectively. Photo: NZ Police

He confirmed they haven’t had any significant sightings over the past six months which is another reason for them moving to offering money.

Saunders said the arrest of Tom Phillips would not be rewarded with money; only information leading to the location of the three children would receive the current offers on the table.

Tom Phillips faces charges of aggravated robbery, aggravated wounding, and unlawful possession of a firearm as a result of a criminal investigation separate from the missing persons’ investigation.

Thomas Phillips. Photo: NZ Police

In an earlier statement today, Saunders said police were concerned for the children’s safety.

“[They] have been living in isolation for the past two-and-a-half years, with no connection to others and without formal education and health care. Tom Phillips does not have legal custody of the children.’

The investigation has entered a new phase by deploying a team out 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 and who is prepared to assist the investigation team to make themselves known to our officers.

“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.”

“We are committed to finding these children and we’re willing to take the step of offering a reward if it will prove the tipping point to help people put the children’s welfare first,” Saunders wrote.

Information can be provided to the investigation team by contacting the 105 reporting line (file number 211218/5611), emailing, or anonymously to CrimeStoppers at 0800 555 111; Phillips is considered armed and should not be approached, with sightings reported to Police by calling 111 immediately.

What we know so far

September 13, 2021 - Police are notified Thomas (34), Jayda (8), Maverick (6), and Ember (5) are missing for two days. Tom’s car was found at a beach in Kiritehere.

September 30, 2021 - Tom and the kids are found. According to Newshub, who spoke with Tom’s sister, they “just walked in the door.”

October 12, 2021 - Tom is charged with causing wasteful deployment of Police personnel and resources and was expected to appear in Te Kuiti District Court.

December 12, 2021 - He and the children were officially reported as missing by family members again.

January 10, 2022 - The family was spotted.

January 12, 2022 - Thomas had been due to appear in the Te Kūiti District Court but he didn’t attend court and a warrant was issued for his arrest.

Late January, 2022 - Police were made aware his vehicle, a ute, had been left parked on Mangatoa Road near the Mangatoa Track.

February 9, 2022 - Tom returned to a family member’s home in the middle of the night to take supplies.

Multiple reports of sightings were made since they went missing but a major update wouldn’t come until mid-2023.

May 2023 - Police start investigating an aggravated robbery at a Te Kuiti bank. Later they believe one of the two people involved was Tom.

August 2, 2023 - Tom is spotted without the children in a brown/bronze 2003 Toyota Hilux flat-deck ute on State Highway 31 in the Kawhia area. He also shopped at two different Bunnings stores across Waikato buying campsite items with a large stack of cash.

August 8, 2023 - Police ask the public to keep an eye out on a Honda 50cc motocross bike, a black Suzuki 200cc trojan, a Honda XR 200cc, a Honda 2008 Four Trax Quad and any historical sightings of a bronze-coloured Toyota Hilux ute or their tracks.

September 5, 2023 - Police obtain a warrant to arrest Thomas Phillips. He was to be charged with aggravated robbery, aggravated wounding, and unlawfully possessing a firearm, due to the May bank heist.

November 2, 2023 - Tom and one of his children stole a red farm-style quad bike. They would later be captured on CCTV footage in front of a Piopio store with the bike. They also tried breaking into a glass-front store but left once the alarm tripped.

Police continued to make enquires and investigate to try to find the three kids and their dad. There would be no major update until eight months later.

June 11, 2024 - An $80K reward is offered to anyone with information about Ember (8), Maverick (9) and Jayda (10) Phillips’ whereabouts.

June 25, 2024 - $80k reward expires.