Mystery of 'Bushman' dad-of-three who went missing with children - before robbing bank at gunpoint

18 June 2024, 02:05

Phillips headshot
Phillips went missing with his children in January 2022 - and hasn't been seen since (Credit: NZ Police/Newshub. Picture: NZ Police

By Alex Croft

Police are hunting down a dad-of-three who went off-grid with his children before emerging to rob a bank at gunpoint.

Listen to this article

Loading audio...

Tom Phillips, 37, has evaded police for over two years despite also being caught on CCTV attempting to break into a store with a child.

Alongside his children Jayda, 10, Maverick, nine, and Ember, seven, Phillips went missing from the New Zealand village of Marokopa on January 18, 2022, when he left his wife.

The dad-of-three has now been on the run for 30 months, with police unable to locate the man who they believe is hiding in remote bushland.

Authorities believe Phillips may have a number of refuges around the family’s former Marokopa home, after he was spotted several times on a crime spree.

Headshot of Jayda, 10
Jayda, 10, is the oldest of the three missing children (Credit: NZ Police). Picture: NZ Police
Headshot of Maverick, nine
Police believe Maverick, nine, was spotted on CCTV with his dad (Credit: NZ Police). Picture: NZ Police

Cops in New Zealand put out a £38,500 (NZ$80,000) reward for any information about Phillips’ or his three children’s whereabouts, as a major search operation continues.

“There’s obviously not the gold nugget… of this is where he is. We haven’t got that yet,” said Detective Inspector Andrew Saunders.

“We have concerns for the welfare of the children who have been living in isolation for the past two and a half years, with no connection to others and without formal education and healthcare.”

He added that Phillips was armed and a risk to the community - who should not approach him.

Ember headshot
Missing Ember is just seven years old (Credit: NZ Police). Picture: NZ Police

The dad first vanished in September 2021 with his children and his truck was found abandoned at the beach. He later returned and said they had gone on a camping trip.

They disappeared for a second time in January 2022, and haven’t resurfaced since.

But he has been spotted a handful of times, including when he robbed a bank at gunpoint in the farming town of Te Kuit last year before fleeing on a stolen motorbike with a child.

Phillips was spotted again one month later, speeding in a stolen Toyota Hilux in August.

In November, Phillips was seen on CCTV trying to break into a store in Piopio, before he was reportedly seen earlier this month in Okoroire Hot Springs Hotel, Otorohanga - from where he successfully fled before police arrived.

Police suspect that someone has been helping the fugitives to stay hidden, and anyone with further information is urged to come forward.

More Latest News

See more More Latest News

A series of Israeli strikes have been launched against the Houthi-controlled port city of Hodeidah in Yemen

Israel launches series of air strikes on Houthi-controlled city in Yemen day after group claim deadly attack on Tel Aviv

Jay Slater and his mum, Debbie Duncan

Jay Slater's GoFundMe page hits £70k after teen's mum appeals for funeral donations

Holidaymakers have been left stranded during global IT outage

'We're not being given any information': Furious holidaymaker stranded in Rhodes tells of travel hell after IT outage

A burnt out car in the Leeds suburb of Harehills, after vehicles were set on fire and a police car was overturned as residents were warned to stay home following an outbreak of disorder on Thursday evening. Picture date: Friday July 19, 2024.

Further unrest in Leeds as hundreds take to streets to 'demand return of children' allegedly removed from local family

NHS England has warned of "continued disruption" to GP services into next week.

NHS warns of GP disruption after global IT outage as trains, planes and roads remain in chaos leaving Brits stranded

Planes, trains and roads have been hit by travel chaos following Friday's IT outage.

Holiday hell: Trains, planes and roads in chaos after global IT outage - with thousands of Brits stranded abroad

Graham Gomm

Prisoner who escaped custody at HMP Wormwood Scrubs during hospital trip is arrested following manhunt

Charles and Camilla attend the King's Parade outside Pomme d'Or Hotel, Liberation Square in St Helier, Jersey

Charles and Camilla 'rushed to safety by security' after suspect 'spotted on roof' just days after Trump rally shooting

A highway bridge collapsed in northwest China.

At least 12 people dead and more than 30 missing after China bridge collapses due to flooding

Ray Reardon has died

Snooker legend Ray Reardon dies aged 91 after cancer battle

Steve Baker and Tom Tugendhat

Top Tory reveals why he is backing Tom Tugendhat to 'put the party back together' as leader

The National Lottery site and app is down

National Lottery down as users unable to access site and app day after global IT outage

Thousands of flights were cancelled across the globe on Friday.

Travel misery continues as global IT outage 'could take weeks to clear' - with over 5,000 flights cancelled worldwide

Nadiya Bychkova allegedly made a complaint to Strictly bosses

Strictly pro Nadiya Bychkova breaks silence over 'complaint' amid misconduct scandal

An independent review has recommended teachers and nurses get 5.5% pay rises

Teachers and nurses among millions of public sector workers that should get 5.5% pay rise, ministers told

Tom Tugendhat

Two top Tories back Tom Tugendhat to be next Conservative leader