Police at Marokopa checkpoints armed, as officers follow up tipoffs about missing Phillips family

Armed police from as far away as Hamilton are bolstering efforts to find fugitive Tom Phillips and his missing children after Tuesday's $80,000 reward offer.

The Police Eagle helicopter was deployed to the Marokopa area overnight after a "considerable number" of tip-offs about the missing family were received.

It comes after police on Tuesday offered a reward of up to $80,000 for information, marking a new phase in the hunt for missing fugitive Tom Phillips and his three children - who have all been missing for more than two years. 

A Wednesday morning police statement said investigators had since received information from community members and via email.

"All information received is now being assessed and follow-up enquiries being made," the statement added.

"Residents of Marokopa and the surrounding area can expect to see an increased police presence in the area over the next days and we continue to urge anyone that has credible, current information on the whereabouts of the Phillips children to make themselves known to our officers."

Every motorist in and out of Marokopa was being stopped by officers on Wednesday as they attempt to locate Phillips and his children.

Police at Marokopa checkpoints armed, as officers follow up tipoffs about missing Phillips family
Photo credit: Karen Rutherford/Newshub.

Ember, Mavrick and Jayda Phillips have not been seen since December 12, 2021, when they were taken by their father to an unknown location - but thought to be in western Waikato within Marokopa or the surrounding areas.  

Earlier on Wednesday, acting Det Insp Andrew Saunders said a "considerable number" of emails from people offering information had been received since offering the reward.

"So, we've got to analyse those and prioritise them - so I can't give you any more of an update at this time," he told AM host Lloyd Burr.  

The Police Commissioner will determine the amount of the reward and will apportion it if there is more than one claimant. Immunity against prosecution will also be considered for anyone who has committed an offence in assisting Phillips, if they provide information or evidence which leads to the location and safe return of the children.  

Saunders said it remained unclear whether any of the information received since offering the reward was promising.  

"We'll know later in the day," he added.  

It's long been feared members of the community could be shielding Tom Phillips and police hope the $80,000 reward will lead to information to bring the children home.  

"We've got staff on the ground [in Marokopa]; they're stopping vehicles, they're speaking to locals, so it doesn't take long for the word to get out amongst the local community," Saunders said of the reward.  

"We believe they're somewhere within Marokopa or the surrounding areas and that's where we've got our staff deployed... That's based on the investigation to date; locations of interest [and] sightings over time.  

"The reward is for the safe return of the children - it's not about the arrest of Tom," Saunders stressed.  

Anyone with information on the family's whereabouts was urged to contact 105, quoting the file number 211218/5611.