Witness of Tom Phillips' bank robbery says female accomplice 'young', 'short'

A woman who came face to face with Tom Phillips after police alleged he held up Te Kūiti's ANZ bank at gunpoint, has described his female accomplice as small and short.

It comes after police issued a second warrant to arrest for the missing Marokopa father on Tuesday on charges in relation to the May robbery. 

His three children, Jayda, Maverick and Ember, who are the subject of a custody battle, have not been seen for 20 months.

Today, police revealed they hold real concerns for their wellbeing.  

The woman who saw a duo flee the Te Kūiti bank in May thought she was being a Good Samaritan when she helped pick up scores of notes they had dropped on the footpath.

"I was going to SuperValue to buy groceries, then I saw two people coming out of the bank but I did not realise who they were," she said.

"There were two of them, one looked like the figure of a lady and the other looked like a man," she said, "I saw that the money was dropping out of the man's pocket."

The woman said she stopped the lady and asked if the money on the ground belonged to her.

"I just picked up the money and started giving it to the lady," she said.

"As she bent to take the money, or snatched the money from my hand, then I saw a gun in her jacket," she said.

"I thought, 'Oh my God, they must be like robbers or something'," she added.

"I tried to look at her in the face, but I saw they were all covered in black, then I knew that they were robbers."

She said the dropped money was "spread all over the street".

Police at a media conference today wouldn't say why, after months, they believe the man behind the May heist is Phillips.

"As soon as we had sufficient evidence to identify him, charges were laid and that was yesterday," acting Detective Inspector Andrew Saunders said.

The charges include aggravated robbery, aggravated wounding and unlawful possession of a firearm.

As the pair allegedly fled the bank dropping $50, $20 and $5 notes. A SuperValue worker tried to intervene as the armed pair raced towards their waiting farm bike. 

While the worker wasn't injured, the woman said she witnessed two gunshots being fired.

"The man yelled to the girl, 'Use the gun or fire the gun'," she recalled.

"She took out the gun from her jacket [and] she fired two shots."

Phillips' daughter Jayda is now 10, Maverick eight and Ember seven.

They haven't been seen since December 2021 and the witness believes the female she saw was less than five foot tall.

The woman told Newshub she believed the female accomplice Phillip's was with, looked young.

"The girl was even shorter than me in height, the man was a bit taller but very skinny," she said.

Phillips is a wanted man, with a previous warrant out for failing to appear in court last year on charges of wasting police personnel and resources, following a major search for the family in 2021.

This latest warrant is a significant escalation.

"Obviously, it's concerning what we're alleging Mr Phillips has done and that's why we don't want the public approaching them, but any sightings of him or the children, we want them to contact us," Det Insp Saunders said.

Police haven't said whether the cash Phillips allegedly used last month, when he was spotted in a stolen ute buying camping gear at Bunnings, is linked to the bank holdup.

However, they have expressed their concerns about the fear they have for the missing children.

"How have they been educated, what's their health like, how are they being fed, what are they eating?" Det Insp Saunders added.

"People in the community that may think he's a good dad doing something for his children, we'd encourage them to think about this new information."

Te Kūiti locals shared their mixed views around Phillips' latest warrant for arrest. 

"I think it's ridiculous he'd come in for a bank robbery, it just doesn't make sense they are just trying to pin it on anyone," one lady said.

"I think leave him alone, he's not hurting anyone," she added.

"We need to find him, right, otherwise everyone is not safe," another person said.

"It's sad it's come to this, allegations of a bank robbery. You just have to think for Tom. It is time to come home because this isn't getting any better," Waitomo District Mayor John Robertson said.

This is a game of cat and mouse in a region that right now is under the wrong kind of spotlight.