Ballarat deaths: New search for missing mother Samantha Murphy’s body as community grieves three dead women

REMY VARGA
The Nightly
3 Min Read
Police have descended on an area of bushland south of Ballarat as they launch a ‘significant’ new search for the body of missing mum Samantha Murphy.
Police have descended on an area of bushland south of Ballarat as they launch a ‘significant’ new search for the body of missing mum Samantha Murphy. Credit: Supplied, AAP/ JOEL CARRETT

Victoria Police have renewed search efforts for the body of missing mother Samantha Murphy, who vanished after going for a run, with dozens of specialist officers combing areas of bushland south-west of Ballarat.

The third large-scale search comes amid mounting anger over violence against women following the deaths of three women in just over two months in the Victorian city, which has a population of almost 115,000.

On Thursday, Crime Command Detective Acting Supt Mark Hatt said returning Ms Murphy’s body to the family of the missing mother-of-three remained a priority.

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“Since Samantha’s disappearance over two months ago, a range of searches and other enquiries have been undertaken in the Ballarat area as part of this investigation,” he said.

“This includes extensive large-scale searches such as we have planned this week, but also smaller targeted searches focused in very specific areas.

“I want to assure those in the Ballarat community that police remain focused on doing everything we can to return Samantha to her family.”

About 50 officers from specialist units including the dog squad joined the missing persons unit as they scoured parts of Enfield State Park, focusing on areas identified by new intelligence.

Earlier large-scale searches for Ms Murphy’s body have covered extensive parts of the Canadian State Forest and the Buninyong area. Victoria Police have also conducted a number of smaller searches while community volunteers have independently looked for Ms Murphy’s body.

Samantha Murphy has been missing after going for a run.
Samantha Murphy has been missing after going for a run. Credit: TheWest

She disappeared on February 4 after leaving her home on Eureka Street at 7am. Patrick Stephenson, the son of former AFL player Orren Stephenson, has been charged over her death.

Two other women, Hannah McGuire and Rebecca Young, are also suspected to have been killed by men in the area in recent weeks.

Ms McGuire’s body was found on Friday in a burnt-out car at Scarsdale, about 25km south of Ballarat.

And it has now emerged that her ex-boyfriend Lachlan Young, who has been charged with the murder of the 23-year-old, was on bail for charges including common assault and aggravated burglary at the time of the alleged killing.

His father Anthony Young faces the same charges as well as one count of threat to kill and one count of resisting an emergency worker on duty.

Both are slated to face Melbourne County Court on May 6.

Victorian Premier Jacinta Allen said she was advised police did not oppose Lachlan Young’s bail application for the prior offending but said she would not comment further out of fear of prejudicing the ongoing investigation.

“What has happened here is a tragedy for Hannah McGuire’s family (and) her community who are grieving,” she said.

“There’s going to be kids going to school next week who will be looking forward to her being in the classroom with them and she’s not going to be there.

“This is a tragedy for the broader community, and it speaks to the tragedy that families and communities are experiencing across the country far too often.”

Ms McGuire worked as a teacher’s aide at Delacombe Primary School and her family own the Clunes National Hotel in the town of Clunes, about 30km north of Ballarat.

She is the third woman allegedly killed by a man in Ballarat in recent months, with the tragedies triggering an outpouring of grief and anger.

On February 16, Ms Young was stabbed to death by her partner Ian Butler, who had links to outlaw motorcycle gang the Bandidos, in the town of Sebastopol in a suspected murder-suicide.

Two of the mother-of-five’s children were present at the home during the gruesome tragedy.

A vigil decrying violence against women will take place at Ballarat Train Station at 5.30pm on Friday.

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