Police have revealed how wanted father Tom Phillips is disguising himself in public - by wearing a beanie, glasses and a surgical mask.
Inspector Will Loughrin of the Waikato Police said there had been another confirmed sighting of Phillips at a second Bunnings on Kahikatea Drive in south Hamilton between 3pm and 4pm on Wednesday.
Missing father Tom Phillips disguised himself while shopping at Bunnings. Photo / NZ Police
Police have today released a photo of him at Bunnings Te Rapa and revealed he was trying to disguise himself by wearing a white beanie, glasses, a surgical mask and a blue zip-up jacket.
Loughrin said police believed he was wearing a number of layers of clothing below the jacket as part of the disguise.
“He is trying to hide his identity,” he said.
Phillips has been on the run with his three children Jayda, 10, Maverick, 8, and Ember, 7, since December 2021.
Loughrin would not say what Phillips was buying during his two Bunnings trips on different sides of Hamilton between 3pm and 4pm on Wednesday.
Loughrin also told the AM Show they had received further sightings of the stolen ute he was driving in the past few days.
The ute was stolen from Honikiwi near Otorohanga on the same day of the Bunnings trips, he said.
Police have revealed a 2003 bronze-coloured Toyota Hilux flat-deck ute, believed to be driven by Phillips, was seen in the Pokuru area near Te Awamutu around 12.30pm on Wednesday.
He then visited Bunnings South and moved on to Bunnings in Te Rapa abotu 4pm where he was seen by someone who knew him.
The same ute was then seen in Kawhia around 6.45pm that evening, where Phillips was believed to be involved an altercation with another vehicle.
Police were contacted, and responded immediately to the Kawhia area, but were unable to find the ute - even with the help of the police helicopter.
Loughrin said he believed people in the community were helping Phillips and appealed for them to come forward.
“This is the best piece of information we’ve had for some time and that’s why we immediately released this to the community, because we need their help to find Tom and the children.
“We need the community’s eyes and ears to help us bring this to a close.”
He said police were “regularly talking to people” who know Phillips, including associates and family members, he said.
Yesterday, police said they were the first confirmed sightings of him since February 2021.
Tom Phillips was spotted in a brown/bronze 2003 Toyota Hilux flat-deck ute (pictured) on State Highway 31 in the Kawhia area. The children were not with him. Photo / NZ Police
“This is incredibly encouraging, and we are imploring the public to please come forward with what you know,” Loughrin said.
“There are family who are desperately missing them, and police want to ensure their welfare.
“We’re asking anyone who may have seen the Toyota ute, anywhere in the Waikato area, over the last few days to please come forward to Police via 111 and let us know.”
Phillips and his children first went missing in September 2021, sparking a massive ground, sea and air search with family at home fearing the worst as the father’s grey Toyota Hilux was found on the beach, with waves crashing against it.
They returned home after 17 days.
In October, police charged Phillips with wasteful deployment of police resources.
But Phillips didn’t show up at the Te Kuiti District Court for his first appearance on January 12, 2022. A warrant was then issued for Phillips’ arrest.
He and his children haven’t been seen since December 9, 2021.
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