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Public help sought to trace missing Marokopa children


From Left to Right, Ember, Maverick and Jayda Phillips, missing since December 12, 2021 (Image Supplied by Waikato Police)

Praneeta Mahajan
Hamilton, June 11, 2024

In a significant development in the Marokopa missing persons investigation, Waikato Police have announced an $80,000 reward for information that leads to the location and safe return of missing children Ember Phillips (eight years old), Maverick Phillips (nine years old), and Jayda Phillips (ten years old).

Acting Detective Inspector Andrew Saunders made the announcement today, highlighting the urgency and gravity of the situation.

The children have been missing since December 12, 2021, when their father, Tom Phillips, took them to an undisclosed location believed to be within the Western Waikato area, possibly in or around Marokopa.

Concerns for Children’s Welfare

Police have serious concerns for the children’s welfare, given that they have been living in isolation for the past two-and-a-half years without formal education, health care, or connection to others.

Tom Phillips, who does not have legal custody of the children, is currently wanted by police, and a warrant for his arrest has been issued.

“We are deeply concerned for the well-being of Ember, Maverick, and Jayda. They have been missing for a considerable time, and we believe they are being assisted by others,” said Acting Detective Inspector Saunders.

“We urge anyone who has information on their whereabouts to come forward. It is crucial to prioritise the children’s safety and welfare.”

Community Involvement

As part of a new phase in the investigation, police have deployed a team to Marokopa and will be visible in the community over the coming days. They encourage anyone with credible information to approach the officers or contact the investigation team.

“We are committed to finding these children, and we believe the reward may encourage those with knowledge to step forward,” added Saunders. “The welfare of these children is our top priority.”

The $80,000 reward will be paid for material information or evidence leading to the safe return of Jayda, Maverick, and Ember Phillips. The Commissioner of Police will determine the reward amount and may apportion it if there are multiple claimants. Additionally, immunity against prosecution will be considered for those who have assisted Tom Phillips, provided they offer information that leads to the children’s safe return.

The reward offer is valid until June 25, 2024.

The Phillips family liaison has been informed of this development, and police remain in close contact with the family throughout the investigation.

Phillips Faces Separate Charges

In a related note, Tom Phillips faces charges of aggravated robbery, aggravated wounding, and unlawful possession of a firearm from a separate criminal investigation. He is considered armed and dangerous and should not be approached. Sightings of Phillips should be reported to police by calling 111 immediately.

The Waikato Police are urging the community to come forward with any information that could assist in the safe return of Ember, Maverick, and Jayda Phillips, emphasising the critical nature of this investigation and the significant reward now offered.

Information can be provided to the investigation team by contacting the 105 reporting line and quoting file number 211218/5611, or by emailing op.curly@police.govt.nz.

Anonymous tips can also be provided to CrimeStoppers at 0800 555 111.

Praneeta Mahajan is an Indian Newslink reporter based in Hamilton.

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