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'I want my son to have his daddy’: Family's anguish at Kiwi brothers' Thai arrest

David Fisher,
Publish Date
Sat, 30 Mar 2024, 9:01AM

'I want my son to have his daddy’: Family's anguish at Kiwi brothers' Thai arrest

David Fisher,
Publish Date
Sat, 30 Mar 2024, 9:01AM

- Heartbreaking moments when mums told children their dads were locked up in Thailand 

- Trip was a chance for brothers to holiday together and get treatment for old sporting injuries 

- Wife speaks of fear for brothers after not hearing from them for a day - then finding out they had been arrested 

Tears well up in Rebecca Day’s eyes when asked how she approaches a future with her husband Hamish locked up in a Thai jail alongside his brother Mattson after a roadside altercation with a police officer.  

“What the heck am I going to do? I just can’t think about things like that but in the moments I have, I really don’t know what I’m going to do.”  

There was the terrible moment she broke the news to their son Jake (9).  

“I explained they are not alone - he’s with Matt - and we are going to try everything we can to get them home.”  

She said to their son: “It could be weeks, it could be months.” Jake then asked: “Could it be years?”  

“And I said, ‘it might be’.  

“What is our son going to do? Boys need their dad. There will be some things where I will try my best but I can’t replace his dad, as much as I will give it everything.  

“I just want to get him home. And I just want Jake to have his daddy again.”  

Hamish and Mattson “Matt” Day, 36 and 38, are in prison in Thailand facing charges of robbery, obstruction of police duty, physical attack against a policeman, driving without a licence and bribery. 

The incident that landed them in jail took place during a trip the brothers had taken to Thailand - their first together since the men married more than a decade ago, had children and started businesses. 

It was a country both had previously visited with their families, having had such positive experiences they were excited about returning. 

Rebecca Day, 37, and Matt Day’s former wife but close friend Nikki Gray, 41, told the Herald the brothers were anticipating soaking up what Phuket had to offer, surfing and indulging Hamish Day’s passion for cable wake parks. While there, the men had also planned medical treatments at a Thai private hospital for old sporting injuries. 

Hamish and Matt Day on their brotherly-bonding trip to Thailand, before they were arrested.Hamish and Matt Day on their brotherly-bonding trip to Thailand, before they were arrested. 

And then, just over a week into their trip, they experienced the horror of discovering the men they know so well as dedicated fathers - Hamish to son Jake (9) and Matt to sons Lachlan (11) and Cooper (9) - and loving husbands had been arrested. 

It was all going so well - just an hour before the incident unfolded, both dads had video-called home and spoken with their children, walking with the phone to show where they were staying and how close it was to the beach. 

The call was just one of many made by both men in the week before events spun horribly out of control in central Phuket. 

On those calls, Hamish and his brother Matt - the name by which he is known rather than his first name Oscar - told their children and wider family of adventure sports, great food and wonderful weather. 

Nikki Gray recalled the last call to their sons: “They’d been down and had a surf at the beach and they’d had a nice lunch and were just telling the kids how happy they were to be there.” 

Arrest and serious allegations 

Then, about 4pm on Saturday a fortnight ago, they were arrested. Details of what unfolded are before the courts, limiting what can be reported. 

What is known has come from two sources - a video of an altercation between the men and a Thai police officer and a later press conference in which Phuket police chief Major General Sinlert Sukhum set out the events alleged by police. 

In the video, Matt Day can be seen restraining a Thai police officer at the roadside. At one stage, Hamish Day appeared to be proffering the officer’s firearm in an open outstretched hand. 

The video that shows the Days being arrested was shared widely on social media. The video that shows the Days being arrested was shared widely on social media. 

During the press conference, Sinlert said the men had been ordered to stop by the officer after riding motorcycles at speed past the Chalong police station in Phuket. 

He said the men did not stop, were pursued and - when they pulled up - were told they had broken traffic law. He said a request for their licences led to an offer of a bribe which was rejected and the pair then attempting to walk off. 

Sinlert said this was seen as an attempt to escape, leading to the officer using his mobile phone to take photographs of the men. He said the Day brothers became angry and one of the pair wrestled the officer to the ground, during which time the officer’s gun was taken. At some stage in the struggle the pistol discharged, but no one was hurt. 

It was Rebecca Day who first learned of their plight. “It was Sunday night around 10pm and I hadn’t heard from [Hamish] for over a day. I thought that was odd.” 

It was a thought that had come to mind during the day but she had sought to rationalise her worry, telling herself the brothers were in an area with no mobile phone reception. 

Then a message from Hamish Day dropped - just a few short sentences that sent life spiralling out of control. 

“We’re in a bit of a situation but can’t talk right now,” he told her. 

How the news of the arrest in Thailand broke 

Rebecca Day: “I think I went into shock and I started shaking. My mind was just reeling with the possibilities.” 

She immediately called Laurence and Katrina Day (69 and 67) to let them know but the details were bare. Even a short phone call with Hamish - the few words she has heard from her husband since his arrest - did little to ease a growing sense of panic. 

In those few minutes, he was able to tell her they were in police custody and to ask that she rally support for the legal process to come. 

Laurence and Katrina Day called Nikki Gray early the next morning - she and Matt Day separated in 2021, remaining close friends - to ask her to come to their home. 

“Instantly I knew something was wrong.” She saw her children off to school “with a knot in the pit of my stomach” and headed for the Days’ home. Anxiety rising, she said she deliberately avoided turning on the news. “I thought maybe one of them had an accident, had come off their scooter or something.” 

On arriving, she was met by Rebecca Day and their parents-in-law. Media reports were starting to filter in from Thailand, including the startling video, which she watched. 

Family of Hamish and Matt Day who are locked up in Thailand: mother Katrina Day (left), Nikki Gray, who has two children with Matt Day, Hamish Day's wife Rebecca and the brothers' father Laurence. Photo / Mike ScottFamily of Hamish and Matt Day who are locked up in Thailand: mother Katrina Day (left), Nikki Gray, who has two children with Matt Day, Hamish Day's wife Rebecca and the brothers' father Laurence. Photo / Mike Scott 

Nikki Gray: “I just couldn’t believe it. The kids had literally just been talking to him on a FaceTime an hour before it all happened and (they were) just having the greatest time. 

“I was just devastated … just thinking about the consequences of it for the kids and for us as a family, and just not knowing how long this is going to go on for. 

“Just thinking about how the kids are at such a vital age where they need their dads - they need that male presence around and thinking that he might not be back for a long time … it was just devastating.” 

Rebecca Day still cannot bring herself to watch the video. The only media report she had read was one in the Herald and she had since avoided news coverage. “I just can’t. For my own mental clarity. I just needed mental clarity.” 

Both mothers decided to tell their children - a difficult but necessary step for fear they might learn of their fathers’ dilemma at school. 

Nikki Gray told their boys what she knew and showed them the video in case someone else - perhaps at school - did so. One of their boys asked if Dad would be back as planned for his son’s birthday, quietly accepting that would not be the case. 

Nikki Gray: "You don’t know if they’re going to be back in three months or 10 years.” Photo / Mike ScottNikki Gray: "You don’t know if they’re going to be back in three months or 10 years.” Photo / Mike Scott 

That was after school on Monday. Rebecca Day sat down with Jake the following morning before he went to school, again trying to get ahead of schoolyard gossip. 

That was when the prospect of years of absence was raised - Rebecca Day saying she wanted to give her boy hope while also “gently planting the seed” that optimism could be misplaced. 

She told Jake: “Daddy and Uncle Matt are together. They’re not alone. And we’re doing, and we’re going to do, everything we can to try and get them home.” 

And in the days since, the absence of Hamish Day has sat like a physical presence, with Jake telling his mum every couple of days: “I miss Dad”, to which she replies: “I miss him too. 

‘I have to be strong for our son’ 

Rebecca Day: “I just know I have to be strong and I have to be strong for Jake because he will take his lead from me.” 

Asked if that is hard, she says: “You just don’t have a choice. Not when it comes to your kids and your loved ones. Falling apart and being a mess and crying is not going to help the situation. 

“I guess I have never pictured going through any big life events without him. And I don’t really know what I’m going to do. I haven’t quite let those thoughts and those questions sink in. 

“The amount of sleep in the past week is the bare minimum. I think I’m just running on adrenaline. It’s horrible, you just feel helpless. Something like this has never happened before.” 

Consumed by that anxious and hopeless feeling, Rebecca Day said she knew she had to “suck it up” to protect their son Jake. 

“I cry in my quiet times and when I get a spare moment - after dropping Jake at school or in the shower.” 

Nikki Gray, too, has fought to wrestle her mind from the absence of Matt in their lives. While no longer married, she said they remained close, with his presence a constant in their lives as a father to their children. 

This week she returned to work, although she was unable to shake questions to which she had no answer. “Are they okay? Are they ever going to come back? Are they getting enough food?” 

The reality and its consequences approach when not expected and “it pops into your head again”. 

Nikki Gray with then-husband Matt Day and sons Lachlan and Cooper.Nikki Gray with then-husband Matt Day and sons Lachlan and Cooper. 

“I’ll think of him sitting in a jail cell over there and suddenly feel guilty about eating this nice lunch and just think about how awful it must be for them. It all comes flooding back. 

“And not being able to plan for the future. You don’t know if they’re going to be back in three months or 10 years.” 

The boys also struggle. One of their sons had a poem to read out before the school - the theme was summer and included activities he had done with his dad. “He just completely froze up and ran off upset in front of the whole school.” 

Adding to the anxiety was the inability to speak with the men. After an initial period in police custody, the men appeared in court, where they were refused bail and sent to prison. At that point, they lost any access to phones and there had been no communication other than a short note handed on by a lawyer who visited the men. 

Hamish and Rebecca Day met when he moved to Australia over a decade ago after a period of working in the United States. “From that to married was six months - when you know, you know.” 

Jake came along in 2014 and the couple set off travelling through Canada, Mexico and the US. “Quite a lot of people thought we were crazy,” she said about travelling with a baby. The couple moved to Hamilton in 2016, working to build a life in New Zealand close to extended family. 

They visited Thailand as a family in 2017, having such a positive experience it laid a path for the brothers’ current trip. 

Hamish and Rebecca Day with their son Jake on an earlier trip to Thailand.Hamish and Rebecca Day with their son Jake on an earlier trip to Thailand. 

Nikki Gray and Matt Day - before their separation - had also travelled as a family to Thailand. In their 2019 trip, a serious infection led to Matt Day needing hospital care, during which the family was supported. She particularly remembers the generosity of the Thai people, spoiling their children while their dad recovered. 

The. life-changing incident itself was at odds with Rebecca Day and Nikki Gray’s experiences of Thailand. Nikki Gray: “It’s such a contrast. It’s such a friendly, easy-going country when you’re there. It’s actually my favourite country we’ve been to.” 

In Phuket, the arrest immediately became political. It followed incidents in which foreigners were seen to have behaved badly. The Phuket governor responded by blacklisting the brothers from Thailand on their eventual release, while local social media exploded with outrage. 

‘They were so excited about the trip’ 

Of the current trip, Nikki Gray said: “They were excited. He and Hamish have been really busy with their businesses. It was really nice for them to get away and spend some time with each other.” 

The whole family had been stunned with support from friends and even strangers since news broke of the arrest. When the Herald visited, the kitchen at Laurence and Katrina Day’s home had cakes and other baking delivered by well-wishers. 

Nikki Gray and Rebecca Day also found themselves overwhelmed by the help and support from those they knew. 

As the immediate shock receded, more mundane concerns have emerged in both households. Both men run their own businesses - Matt Day in a partnership building relocatable homes and Hamish Day helping lead an online education start-up - and their absence also means a financial hit. 

The help and support included friends doing a collection for Rebecca Day, buying groceries and gathering money to help with bills. Nikki Gray, also buoyed by support, told the Herald she had wondered if she would need a second job. 

Rebecca Day: “I just want to get him home. And I just want Jake to have his daddy again.” Photo / Mike ScottRebecca Day: “I just want to get him home. And I just want Jake to have his daddy again.” Photo / Mike Scott 

And while Laurence and Katrina Day retired well-off, they say they are not the “tycoons” that some foreign media described. Their sons, and their families, prized their independence which, Laurence Day said, was a reflection of being raised to build lives of their own through hard work. 

It’s that upbringing and the characters that emerged which seemed so at odds with the incident leading to their arrest, their parents say. 

Laurence Day: “You raise your kids the best you can. We want our kids to be good people - values and ethics is what it’s about. We wanted our kids to grow up as good citizens and contribute to the community.” 

It was an intent realised as their three sons grew from boys to men, said Katrina Day. Their other son, Brad, lives in Australia. 

Laurence Day said the family were approaching the brothers’ imprisonment as a tight unit. “We have a lawyer in Thailand helping us. We need to understand how to navigate both the justice system in Thailand and the local culture.” 

Katrina Day: “I’m very conservative and old-fashioned in my beliefs - for me, family is everything. We want them to be independent … to work hard and have good careers so they can provide for their families. And that they help other people - that’s number one.” 

Online commentary that described the men as “spoilt” brought Katrina Day to tears. As a child whose father died young, she was raised by her mother alongside seven siblings. “There’s no way I was going to raise anyone who was spoilt.” 

Katrina Day said she refused to “worry about things we can’t control”. “I’ve got to be clear-headed and help our sons. I’m choosing to be optimistic but if it goes beyond a year, I will start struggling. This is two-thirds of my family. I’m never going to stop loving them.” 

Laurence Day: “It’s very concerning because we don’t know where it’s heading. We’ve just got to tough it out. We have to be strong for the girls and our grandchildren.” 

David Fisher is based in Northland and has worked as a journalist for more than 30 years, winning multiple journalism awards including being twice named Reporter of the Year and being selected as one of a small number of Wolfson Press Fellows to Wolfson College, Cambridge. He joined the Herald in 2004. 

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