Brisbane mother Philippa Yelland has flown out of Tasmania bound for Sydney with her two daughters and son, along with a cult-busting journalist, after her husband surrendered the children to police.
Ms Yelland, her children and the Reverend David Milliken, a Uniting Church minister instrumental in exposing the Children of God sect, flew out of Launceston this morning.
She was reunited last night with her children Bokkie, 10, Matilda, 9, and seven-year-old Barney after their father Murray Robertson surrendered them to federal police six weeks after he disappeared with them.
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Father’s sect link
Ms Yelland this morning refused to talk to reporters at the airport as she and her children boarded the plane, assisted by Mr Milliken.
The children were barefoot and dressed in light clothing when they arrived at the airport, on a cool Launceston day. They were wearing sandals when they boarded the plane.
They looked relaxed and a bit bemused.
Mr Milliken said last night that he was working for Channel 7 current affairs program Today Tonight.
This morning he declined to comment.
Their disappearance sparked nationwide media coverage, which followed a Family Court decision to publicly name the children as missing and release photographs of them.
Mr Thompson failed to return the children to Brisbane from a weekend access visit to his home in the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney.
In an interview with the Herald after he voluntarily handed the children to the federal police yesterday, Mr Robertson admitted he had close ties to The Family, a sect known as the Children of God before it was broken up by police a decade ago.
“They are wonderful Christian people, and I am very close to them,” he said.
Mr Robertson defended The Family and said he and his children had regularly been in touch with members of the group.
Children were happy: dad
He said he realised their six-week trip around Tasmania — camping and staying with different families — was over when he read on the internet reports of their disappearance. He said the children had been happy. He called Channel Nine news, which contacted federal police.
Mr Robertson said he was glad the court had allowed the publication of their identities. “It set me free to talk to you. Prior to yesterday they would never have found us, not that we were in hiding. But for six weeks the Tasmanian police had our descriptions.”
After the publicity, he had asked the children what they wanted to do. “The children begged me and said, ‘Can’t we just be where nobody knows where we are forever?’.” But they decided they had to return to their mother.
He said parting from the children was awful.
No charge laid
No charge has been laid against Mr Robertson. “The order instructed me to hand the children on to the federal police, which I indicated my willingness to comply with,” he said.
A Tasmania Police spokesman today said the children were reunited with their mother at Launceston police station just after 10pm yesterday.
Last night, Ms Yelland told the Nine Network: “There’s not going to be big hassles about this, we’ll just sort it out and let the children come home safely.”
Police said the children were found at a house in suburban Trevallyn yesterday afternoon after Mr Robertson contacted the Nine Network.
Australian Federal Police went to the house about 2.30pm and collected the children, who were then taken to Launceston police station.
With Les Kennedy and AAP