Kiwi rich lister's son Topher Richwhite and wife Bridget Thackwray leave Iran 'safe and well' after being detained for months

A New Zealand couple who were detained in Iran for around 14 weeks has now left the country. 

Topher Richwhite - the son of one of New Zealand's richest individuals, David Richwhite - and his wife Bridget Thackwray were detained by authorities after entering Iran as part of a tour around the world.

A Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade spokesperson told Newhsub on Wednesday the couple is now "safe and well". 

"The New Zealanders we have been supporting with consular assistance in Iran have now left the country. They are safe and well." 

New Zealand media - including Newshub - agreed not to report their detention because of fears from diplomats negotiating their release that any publicity would anger Iran's dangerous ruling regime and put their safety at risk.

Kiwi couple Richwhite and Thackwray were going around the world in their Jeep nicknamed Gunther.

It was a journey to end all journeys and was called Expedition Earth.

Their journey aimed to cross all seven continents and go through 90 different countries.

It came to a dramatic stop in July in Iran where they were detained for up to 14 weeks at a time the country was tearing itself apart in revolutionary protests against its oppressive regime. 

This regime recently killed a woman for not wearing her hijab properly

The two travel influencers were recently married and were crossing the border from Turkey through an amazing mountain range.

A last, light-hearted, Instagram story in July shows Bridget putting on the mandatory hijab and having some difficulties with Iran's authorities.

Bridget puts on a hijab as she enters Iran.
Bridget puts on a hijab as she enters Iran. Photo credit: Instagram

"They are opening the gate to the border. And we are driving.  We are crossing the border," Thackwray said in the Instagram story. 

"We have just come out of a 45-minute meeting with the Chief of Customs at the nearby town. It was a very strange experience, it was very formal. 

"We were told in advance that we weren't allowed to smile or cross our legs or fidget too much, which was pretty hard given how nervous we were. And the meeting was about who we were and why we were coming to Iran," Richwhite said. 

The story goes on: 

Thackwray: "We are in Iran. Kiss?" 

Richwhite: You are not allowed to kiss in Iran. 

Thackwray: "Some Honeymoon." 

Richwhite: (leans over and kisses her)

Thackwray: "Breaking the rules."

Bridget and Topher kiss as they enter Iran.
Bridget and Topher kiss as they enter Iran. Photo credit: Instagram

Later Thackwray explains Richwhite has gone to the police station saying she "got sent away because my t-shirt is not long enough. So, have to go shopping again. It's not long enough at the back. It needs to go down more to my knees than to my hips. Which is good to know."

Those were the last words to their 300,000 followers who started asking questions like "Are you guys alive?"

Their tracker GPS went dark too but at one point we were able to extract their last movements. They came to a stop in a small town south of Tehran.

The stakes were already incredibly high for Topher and Bridget with Iran's government known to hold foreign citizens in prison for years on end.

Then the protests started up. 

And Evin prison, where the government holds protesters, political prisoners and international visitors like them, was set alight, with fears the Government did it.

But Newshub understands the couple were held somewhere else, and diplomats from New Zealand's embassy were able to see them and report back to their parents.

Topher's father is David Richwhite, last estimated by the NBR to be worth $970 million. It is a name synonymous with wealth and half of "Fay-Richwhite" with Sir Michael Fay. 

They famously backed a New Zealand challenge for the America's Cup in the 1980s.

And their firm was the prime focus of the Winebox inquiry in the 1990s.

Topher found fame of a different kind with British rock band Lonsdale Boys Club. 

He met Thackwray, who comes from Northland, and has a background in digital ventures.

Together they set up Expedition Earth  and had already covered a large chunk of the planet. .

After they were believed to have been held by Iranian authorities the Ministry of Foreign Affairs requested media not report their detention with negotiations at a critical stage. 

It was feared publicity would lead to international criticism of Iran, which would anger the ruling regime and endanger the couple.

The pressure increased on September 16 when Iran's police killed 22-year-old Mahsa Amini for not wearing her hijab properly.

That set off the protests and a violent response from the regime - killing over 200 people and leading to global condemnation of Iran's rulers.

But Newshub understands Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern deliberately toned down her criticism to avoid upsetting the regime and jeopardising the release of the two Kiwis.

Making the Prime Minister look awkwardly out of step.

Iran is known to use international prisoners as  "bargaining chips" with other countries. 

In light of the situation, the New Zealand Government has updated its travel warnings for Iran and is urging Kiwis currently in the country to depart.

"The new advice for Iran reiterates the existing 'Do Not Travel' warning, and adds that due to the potential for violent civil unrest, the risk of arrest or detention and the volatile security situation in the region, the risk to safety in Iran is significant," said Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta.

"The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade has warned against travel to Iran since early 2020. New Zealanders currently in Iran are advised to leave. Protests are continuing throughout the country, and there has been an increased number of foreign nationals arrested."