The clues to the missing family’s survival were still there

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They appeared to be red herrings at the time, but there were a handful of indications that the fate of Thomas Phillips and his children was not as bleak as many expected.

As the increasingly desperate search for the missing man and the three youngsters dragged on in and around the tiny King Country coastal settlement of Marokopa last month, most began to suspect that they had been swept away. at sea by a villainous wave – or that some form of even more sinister fate had befallen them.

In a dramatic turn of events on Thursday, it was revealed that had not been the case at all. Phillips and Jayda Jin, 8, Maverick Callum-Phillips, 6, and Ember Phillips, 5, had been camping for 17 days in the bush about 9 miles south of where they were last seen.

Kiritihere Beach was the last known location of the Phillips family before their demise and subsequent reappearance.  Inset, left to right: Thomas Phillips, 34;  Jayda Jin, 8 years old;  Ember Phillips, 5;  Maverick Callum-Phillips, 6.

Thing

Kiritihere Beach was the last known location of the Phillips family before their demise and subsequent reappearance. Inset, left to right: Thomas Phillips, 34; Jayda Jin, 8 years old; Ember Phillips, 5; Maverick Callum-Phillips, 6.

A major clue was revealed on the afternoon of September 17, about six days after their last visit, when police asked the public for information about a few bikes.

READ MORE:
* Three missing Waikato children reunited with their families after “17 days of hell”
* The Marokopa mystery: what we still do not know about the disappearance and survival of the Phillips family
* A mother of missing children in Marocopa thanks researchers and support teams

“Police, as part of the investigation phase of Op Marokopa, are seeking to account for all vehicles Tom Phillips has owned in recent times,” said Inspector Will Loughrin, West Area Commander. de Waikato, in a statement sent to the media.

While searching for Thomas Phillips and his three children, police asked for information on the whereabouts of two motorcycles believed to have belonged to missing man Thomas Phillips.  One is a 2019 Honda CRF50, similar to this one.

New Zealand POLICE

While searching for Thomas Phillips and his three children, police asked for information on the whereabouts of two motorcycles believed to have belonged to missing man Thomas Phillips. One is a 2019 Honda CRF50, similar to this one.

“We have information suggesting that he owned two motorcycles, a 2004 Honda XR400 and a 2019 Honda CRF50.

“The police would now like to explain where they are.”

Loughrin played down any suggestion that the bikes were an integral part of their investigation – and it appears they weren’t, at that point, being treated as such.

“We appreciate that this specific call for information can lead to speculation that motorcycles could be involved in one way or another,” he continued in the statement.

Inspector Will Loughrin, West Area Commander of Waikato Police, pictured during the search in Marokopa and Kiritehere for Thomas Phillips, 34, and his three young children: Jayda Jin, 8, Maverick Callum-Phillips , 6, and Ember Phillips, 5.

Christel Yardley / Tips

Inspector Will Loughrin, West Area Commander of Waikato Police, pictured during the search in Marokopa and Kiritehere for Thomas Phillips, 34, and his three young children: Jayda Jin, 8, Maverick Callum-Phillips , 6, and Ember Phillips, 5.

“They are not, but the police need to make sure that we explore this avenue of investigation and that we want to hear from anyone who may have seen them or know their whereabouts.”

A day later, a follow-up release said they had found the XR400, but the smaller CRF50 was still missing.

Bicycles – and not necessarily the ones the police were looking for – now appear, perhaps, to be extremely relevant factors.

A 2004 Honda XR400 also owned by Phillips was also wanted by police.  It was then counted and considered unrelated to their investigations.

New Zealand POLICE

A 2004 Honda XR400 also owned by Phillips was also wanted by police. It was then counted and considered unrelated to their investigations.

Police say Phillips and the children were apparently seen riding a “bicycle” around 5:30 a.m. Wednesday at Mangatoa Rd, about 3 miles from the family farm.

Police sent a plane to scan the area but saw nothing else until Phillips “walked through the door” of the family farm on Thursday.

The bicycle witnessed by the witness is extremely unlikely to be the tiny CRF50, unless Phillips is riding and the children are stacked on top of each other. A quad is the most obvious answer, but police have given few details of the sighting and the family – up to this point, at least – are not talking.

In addition to the sketchy details, the sighting also raises the question: if it was Phillips and the kids who were seen, what were they doing on the bike at this time of the morning?

Either way, 10 miles would be a grueling hike for young children, so the obvious solution would be for Phillips to use a bike to get them to the campsite.

Other information suggested that the family had disappeared inland rather than at sea. As those who knew him pointed out at the start of the research, Phillips was an experienced Bushman and avid hog hunter and launderer. Circumstances suggest that he was sufficiently qualified to set up the camp before transporting the children there.

None of this explains the mystery of why her ute was left below the tide line on Kiritehere beach – especially on a weekend of such wild weather and high seas. Was it intentional or the result of a distraction on Phillips’ part?

This aspect remains, for the moment, in the domain of speculation.

In interviews and subsequent press statements, Loughrin’s own language indicated that he and his colleagues were keeping a very open mind about what may have become the missing family – and, evidently, being lost in the seas. was by no means considered inevitable.

“We are looking at all the scenarios that could have happened over the weekend [they went missing]He said on September 24.

“In any investigation like this where we have missing persons, bank investigations are logically one of the objectives of the investigative team working in Te Awamutu at the moment.”


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