Marokopa mystery: Man charged with wasting police time after 17 days in bush

Author
NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Tue, 12 Oct 2021, 2:03PM
Thomas Phillips and his children have returned home safety. (Photo / NZME)
Thomas Phillips and his children have returned home safety. (Photo / NZME)

Marokopa mystery: Man charged with wasting police time after 17 days in bush

Author
NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Tue, 12 Oct 2021, 2:03PM

A man has been charged with wasteful deployment of police resources after sparking a 17-day search and rescue operation at Marokopa.

The man, 34, will appear in the Te Kuiti District Court next month in relation to Operation Marokopa.

"The man will be appearing on the 5th of November on a charge of causing wasteful deployment of police personnel and resources," police said today.

The operation related to the search for Thomas Phillips, 34, and his three young children, Jayda Jin, 8; Maverick Callum-Phillips, 6; and Ember Phillips, 5.

The family went missing on September 11. The father's ute was found below the tideline at Kiritehere Beach.

Together with his children, they then walked through the front of his parents family home in Marokopa in September 28. Phillips has yet to speak publicly about their disappearance but his family say he had taken the children camping in dense bush.

Tom Phillips, 34, and his three children Jayda Jin, 8, Maverick Callum-Phillips, 6, and Ember Phillips, 5.

Tom Phillips, 34, and his three children Jayda Jin, 8, Maverick Callum-Phillips, 6, and Ember Phillips, 5.

He apologised to his sister for putting the family through a 17-day ordeal.

Inspector Will Loughrin, Waikato West Area Commander had said the disappearance of Phillips and his children had put his wider family through "17 days of hell".

Police said they would not comment further as the matter was before the courts.

Police said it was unclear how Phillips and his children survived so long in the bush in rough conditions.

"They were using a tent. They were in dense bush area."

They had set up in an area about 15kms south of where Phillips' ute was found, Loughrin said.

It was also unknown exactly how the four got around the remote, forested areas, and whether anybody else assisted Phillips, Loughrin said when announcing their return.

Police deployed a fixed-wing plane and drones in the search which also comprised help from the Coastguard and Raglan and Taranaki surf lifesaving teams.

All huts and bush areas were searched - but to no avail.

Mayor of the Waitomo District Council, which encompasses Marokopa, John Robertson agreed with Newstalk ZB's Heather du Plessis-Allan the result was "unreal" when interviewed at the time.

"After three weeks, all the sort of emotions you go through of all those initial days of hope. We knew he was a good bushman ... most thought he'd gone to the bush.

"And then, you know, the search changed over the days. And now - wow. Most of us thought we would never see (this)."

He said he knew the area where his ute was found. "It's pristine bush. It's dense bush."

It would be difficult to find someone there, he said.

"You really have to know it, but I guess he is a bushman and he would know the area well.

"I guess he could live with a tent, though I don't know the details of how long he was in the bush or where he was.

"That's another mystery on this. Three weeks is a lot of time for kids to be with him and survive all that."