Stolen ute driven by Tom Phillips seen on back of salvage truck

The stolen ute that was used by Tom Phillips, the father of three missing Marokopa children, has been transported out of Te Anga, where it was found earlier today.

A 1News cameraman spotted the brown/bronze 2003 Toyota Hilux flat-deck ute on top of a Williams Salvage truck in the Waitomo area just before 7pm.

Police were tipped off by a member of the public who saw the ute just off Marokopa Rd in Te Anga around 11am today. Police then jumped into action, also deploying the Eagle helicopter, and found the ute.

Neither Phillips or the children were located.

The vehicle has been at the centre of police inquiries after Phillips was seen driving it on multiple occasions on Wednesday. The first sighting of Phillips was near Te Awamutu at 12.30pm. There was also a sighting of him at the Bunnings Te Rapa car park in Hamilton about 4pm by a person known to him.

At 6.45pm on Wednesday, the same ute was seen again in Kawhia and Phillips was believed to be behind the wheel. Inspector Will Loughrin said there was an altercation between Phillips and another man.

He said the altercation was between Tom and a member of the community who recognised him, which led to the person calling police, which “allowed us to piece a number of things together”.

Today on Breakfast, Loughrin revealed there had been a fourth sighting yesterday at Bunnings South in Hamilton.

Police also released an image of who they believe to be Phillips shopping while disguised at Bunnings, around 3 or 4pm.

Image showing who is believed to be Tom Phillips at Bunnings

Jayda, 10, Maverick, 8, and Ember Phillips, 7, along with their father, have been missing since December 2021.

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