The mother of three missing children had a cult expert on hand as she reclaimed them last night from their fugitive father, who has admitted his ties to the fringe religious sect The Family.
Philippa Yelland, mother of Bokkie, 10, Matilda, 9, and Barney, 7, — missing since their father Murray Robertson failed to return them from a custody visit — flew to Launceston for the reunion last night. She was accompanied by the Reverend David Milliken, a Uniting Church minister instrumental in exposing the sect, known as the Children of God, before it was broken up by police a decade ago.
In an interview with The Age after he had voluntarily handed the children to the Federal Police late yesterday, Mr Robertson admitted he had close ties to The Family. "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.
The disappearance of the children became public on Tuesday when the Family Court made the unusual decision to allow the media to publish their names and images, as well as to identify their father, in a bid to locate them.
Mr Robertson, 59, who lives in the Blue Mountains, had the children on a regular custody visit that began on Friday, March 16. Their mother, who lives in Brisbane, expected them to be returned the following Monday, but they were not at school when she went to collect them.
Their father 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, who contacted the federal police. No charge has been laid against Mr Robertson.