Saturday, November 27

Marokopa’s father apologizes to his sister after 17 days of searching

Thomas Phillips, who miraculously emerged from the woods with his three children yesterday, apologized to his sister for putting the family through a 17-day ordeal.

Clockwise from top left, Thomas Phillips, Jayda Jin, Ember Phillips, and Maverick Callum-Phillips.

Clockwise from top left, Thomas Phillips, Jayda Jin, Ember Phillips, and Maverick Callum-Phillips.
Photo: Supplied / New Zealand Police

Thomas and his three young children Jayda (8), Maverick (6) and Ember (5) were last seen on Saturday, September 11. His ute was found below the tidal line at Kiritehere Beach.

A large team led by the police searched land, sea and air for 12 days.

Yesterday, with the family almost losing hope, the four of them walked through the front door of their parents’ home safe and sound.

Thomas Phillips ‘sister, Rozzi Pethybridge, spent 16 days at her parents’ home in Marokopa searching for Tom, his brother and their children, among the army of seekers. Nothing of importance was found.

“We had no idea what had happened to him and the kids,” Pethybridge said. “[It was] a very long ordeal for fear of the worst, with no sign that they were alive and well anywhere. The hope that we would see them again was dwindling. Very, very deeply sad, “he said.

Last Friday the daily searches were suspended. The police would only look for new information.

Assuming the worst and unable to help further, Rozzi returned home to his family on the East Coast.

And then, yesterday, a complete surprise: the family reunited, against all odds.

“I understand he walked through the door with the kids. All safe and sound. He hit Mom and Dad.”

Rozzi spoke briefly with Tom on the phone before quickly returning to Marokopa to see them.

“The voices weren’t working very well and there were quite a few tears. [He said] Sorry to worry. I love you.’ Either way, I just love you and so happy that you came back. “

Police said Tom and the children were in a dense bush about 15 kilometers south of Kiritehere beach, amid rough terrain.

Tom is a keen nature lover, but he had three children in tow, battling rain and cold night temperatures, and sleeping alone in a tent, police believe.

One of the people who participated in the search was Wikitoria Day.

“When you spoke to the people of Marokopa and Kiritehere, Maori and non-Maori, they all said that Tom knows the place like the back of his hand. And he was a hunter-gatherer, so he knew how to survive in the jungle for long periods of time. time, and she had passed that knowledge on to her children as well, “Day said.

During the search, he said, some hoped the family was alive.

“A couple of kaumatua even said they weren’t in the water. There was only the feeling that they were still alive … there was no haunting feeling, that’s for sure.”

And the family somehow managed to feed itself for two and a half weeks.

“Talking to the family that they are going to hunt in that same bush … they said that the food is abundant in that bush, whether it is animal or vegetable,” Day said.

The police were still talking to Tom yesterday and they didn’t have many details other than that he and the children are safe and sound.

Local Area Commander Will Loughrin said it’s an extraordinary result that everyone expected.

“This is a family that experienced 17 days of hell, really … This is a community that experienced 17 days of hell wondering what had happened to this family and these children. That the result is what we always wanted is fantastic.”

And Rozzi’s journey back to the family farm was much happier this time than before.

“See them all with my own eyes and hug them all. Be there to love and support the family, especially Tom and the children. I can’t wait to see them, hug them and hear their cute little voices,” Pethybridge said.

Oranga Tamariki said that the police sent them what is known as a “Report of Concern” regarding the children. The ministry said in a statement that they are working with the police to decide whether they should participate.

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