A man who vanished with his three children almost two years ago has been charged over a bank robbery in New Zealand which allegedly saw a supermarket worker shot and injured.
Tom Phillips, 36, and his three young children Jayda, 10, Maverick, 8, and Ember, 7, were first reported missing from the coastal town of Marokopa in late 2021 prompting an extensive 12-day search. He returned home five days later with his children before disappearing again in December.
In recent months, there has been a flurry of sightings including at a Bunnings store in Hamilton last month. The CCTV footage captured the dad of three inside the store appearing to "disguise his appearance", prompting police to issue a desperate public appeal for help.
Now, it's been revealed he was involved in the bank robbery in May, however could not be charged until police "had sufficient evidence", Acting Detective Inspector Andrew Saunders said on Wednesday.
Warrant issued for dad's arrest
On Tuesday, Phillips was charged with aggravated robbery, aggravated wounding and unlawfully possessing a firearm over the armed heist of the ANZ bank in Te Kūiti, with police issuing a warrant for his arrest, New Zealand Herald reported. Police continue to hold grave concerns for the 36-year-old's three young children.
“We’ve always had a high level of concern for [the children’s] welfare. People in the community who just think he’s a good dad... we would encourage them to look at this new information," Inspector Saunders said.
He urged members of the community supporting Phillips to "think about his children". We don’t want the public approaching him, but again, any sighting of him or the children we want people to contact us," the inspector added.
Man, believed to be Phillips, seen fleeing the scene
Insp Saunders did not reveal how they came to believe the person responsible for the robbery was in fact Phillips. A photo released by police shows two people fleeing the scene on the back of a motorbike. The person at the back of the bike is believed to be female, but has not been identified.
Witnesses told the Herald two men, wearing all black and motorcycle helmets, entered the bank and were asked by ANZ staff to remove their helmets, which is when the robbery began. A witness reportedly said the accused fled the bank "with $50 notes flying everywhere" before fleeing on a motorbike.
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