Shayla Phillips, 4, found ‘safe and well’ after two days lost in southern Tasmania

March 31, 2022
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Four-year-old Shayla Phillips has been found “safe and well” in southern Tasmania more than two days after she was reported missing.

Shayla disappeared on Wednesday afternoon from the backyard of her family home on Stormlea Road, Stormlea — a rural community on the Tasman Peninsula.

She has spent two nights in the open and was found on Friday afternoon.

More than 100 personnel, sniffer dogs, horses, helicopters and drones were involved in the intensive search.

An ABC reporter at the scene said word started filtering through the community just before 4pm that she had been found.

Police confirmed a short time later that she was safe and well.

They said she was found in bushland near Halls Road, about 1 kilometre from her home.

She was located by an SES ground party “in a heavily wooded and very slopey” terrain.

Police said Shayla was dehydrated and disorientated and was taken to Hobart by ambulance for assessment after being “reacquainted with her mother”.

Inspector Gavin Hallett said it was a “very emotional” reunion.

“When I passed the news on to mum, she was very grateful and very keen [to see her],” he said.

“I said, ‘take a few minutes to have a shower,’ she didn’t care, she just wanted to get in the car to see her daughter.”

He said it was an incredible relief for everyone.

“We knew if we just kept pressing away we would find her,” he said.

“It was an effort of perseverance and the community also helped us.

“We were dealing with a four-year-old girl, we knew we had to find her, we had to do that crawling on hands and knees to locate her,” he said.

“And that’s what SES did to locate her.”

Police said the family did not want to speak about their ordeal.

One of the girl’s aunties, Melinda Abel, described the family’s relief in a Facebook post, saying:

Right place, at right time

The area had been searched previously and police believe Shayla may have been “secreted” under logs.

“She was walking that area but I would gather, as we predicted, was still disorientated and didn’t know where she was,” Inspector Hallett said.

“But I’ve got no information about that first contact.

“It seems like perhaps she had been lying down and just stuck her head up and she was seen.

“It was just at the right place at the right time, had the SES volunteer been looking to the left and not the right we could still be doing this search.”

Shayla’s mother, Bianca Page, reported her daughter missing from the backyard on Wednesday at about 2:30pm. One of the two dogs she was playing with was also missing.

That dog was located about 700 metres away about five hours later but there was no sign of Shayla.

Locals rejoice ‘yelling and screaming’

Earlier on Friday, Tasman Council Mayor Kelly Spaulding said residents and search crews were “hoping for a miracle”.

On Friday afternoon, he described it as the best outcome they could have imagined.

“It’s just absolutely amazing, everybody and all the volunteers on the ground and the police and emergency services … what an outcome,” he said.

Carey Sharman from the local Country Women’s Association, which fed search crews for two days, said locals erupted at the news.

“It’s been very stressful … thinking we’ve been through this sort of stuff before, we don’t want similar outcomes that have happened before so we’re just so relieved that it’s been positive.”

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