Samantha Murphy’s alleged killer named as former AFL player Orren Stephenson’s son Patrick Orren

Emily Woods and Cassandra Morgan
The Nightly
3 Min Read
Patrick Stephenson, the son of AFL player Orren Stephenson, has been charged with the murder of Samantha Murphy.
Patrick Stephenson, the son of AFL player Orren Stephenson, has been charged with the murder of Samantha Murphy. Credit: Supplied.

On Thursday, Magistrate Michelle Mykytowycz in Ballarat Magistrate’s Court issued the suppression order after lawyers for Stephenson argued there was a potential risk to his fair trial and concerns for his mental health and safety.

“He may have significant mental health challenges, which then arise from now being charged with murder in what everybody understands is a very highly-publicised case,” defence lawyer Michael Tamanika told the court.

The man accused of murdering missing Ballarat mother Samantha Murphy can now be named, after he withdrew an attempt to conceal his identity.

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Patrick Orren Stephenson faced Ballarat Magistrates Court on Thursday, where a magistrate approved his lawyer’s application to temporarily suppress his name from media reporting.

But the order was lifted on Friday morning, after his lawyer withdrew the application on advice from Stephenson.

He is the son of former AFL player Orren Stephenson, who played 15 games for Geelong and Richmond between 2012 and 2014.

Stephenson, a tradie from Scotsburn, is accused of killing Ms Murphy at Mount Clear in Ballarat, on February 4, the day that the mother of three went missing after going jogging.

Ballarat Magistrate Michelle Mykytowycz on Thursday granted defence lawyer David Tamanika’s application for a temporary suppression order on the 22-year-old’s name, date of birth and address.

That was despite several media outlets objecting.

Patrick Orren Stephenson (right) as a child, and his former AFL footballer dad Orren Stephenson.
Patrick Orren Stephenson (right) as a child, and his former AFL footballer dad Orren Stephenson. Credit: Unknown/Supplied

The magistrate cited Stephenson’s entitlement to a fair trial and noted the case had high media and community interest.

“It will continue to be a high-profile matter,” Ms Mykytowycz told the court on Thursday.

The suppression hearing was not due to return to court until April but Chief Magistrate Lisa Hannan intervened and it was brought forward to Friday.

Stephenson sat silently in the dock of the Ballarat court for the hearing, wearing a grey jumper.

Ms Mykytowycz said she was concerned about waiting to decide on the suppression until April 12.

Following a conversation with Ms Hannan after court on Thursday she decided to bring the hearing forward.

“The act does deem it as a matter of urgency, specifically because the principle of open justice applies, and obviously there is substantial media interest in this application,” she told the court.

Orren Stephenson passes the ball during the AFL exhibition match between the Richmond Tigers and the Indigenous All-Stars.
Orren Stephenson passes the ball during the AFL exhibition match between the Richmond Tigers and the Indigenous All-Stars. Credit: Scott Barbour/Getty Images

Mr Tamanika said he would withdraw the application to keep Stephenson’s details secret, after reading a statement to the court about media reporting on the suppression.

“As the current media storm has now become inclusive of the family of the accused, and the defence’s intention to assist has only become far more destructive, my client has instructed me to withdraw the application,” he said.

“The use of this matter, this particular matter as a yardstick for procedural impropriety is extreme.”

The lawyer said he applied to temporarily conceal Stephenson’s name because he needed time to gather evidence to argue why his client’s details should be suppressed.

“It is concerning that the application or granting of such orders can be, or is immediately seen, as being some form of underhanded move or manipulation tactic by an accused person,” Mr Tamanika said.

“The responsibility of all legal practitioners is to ensure that their client is represented to the absolute best of their abilities and that everything is done to ensure that they are properly represented.

“That is what this application was about, and it had nothing to do with any form of disrespect or disregard to the position of Ms Murphy or her family.”

Ms Mykytowycz struck out the suppression order.

Stephenson will next return to court for a committal mention on August 8.

Ms Murphy, described as a physically and mentally strong woman and a devoted mother, left her home at Ballarat East to go jogging and has not been seen since.

Her body is yet to be found.

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