Criminologist reveals how the timeline of Samantha Murphy’s working phone will be crucial for police

Matt Shrivell
The Nightly
3 Min Read
Detectives believe they're a step closer to pinning down the last movements of missing Ballarat mother Samantha Murphy, after a major development in the investigation.

The phone confirmed to belong to murdered Victorian mother Samantha Murphy is working, but how long it was hidden at the dam where it was discovered has experts questioning what police may uncover.

7NEWS reported that the phone was in working order, meaning the data from the device will form a major part of the search for her body and investigation into her death.

Dr Xanthé Mallett from the University of Newcastle appeared on Channel 7’s Sunrise this morning and said the phone was a “major clue” for investigators and that she was “surprised” to hear it was still working.

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“The police were searching for it obviously for almost four months, something took them to that dam,” she told Sunrise.

“That hasn’t been disclosed what evidence or intelligence that was yet, but yes, this could absolutely offer new clues that will help find Samantha. As we know now, it is operational and downloadable.”

Dr Mallett stated that the idea the phone was still working and could be accessed by police was a very positive result for investigators.

“Four months later, I was concerned it would be beyond retrievable in terms of data,” Dr. Mallett said.

“I would have been very surprised if they could have got that phone operational, but it is.”

“So does that indicate that it hasn’t been there for the entire four months? That’s yet to be seen. But it’s that timeline that the police will be working on and it’s certainly going to be essential in helping to develop that.

“We’re looking at possibly better geolocation data, depending on how long the phone was on before the battery died, for example, or it switched off. It could actually help build that picture of geolocation to help map where that phone moved and potentially, therefore, where Samantha moved.

“It’s very hard to say because I would expect a phone that’s been underwater or in mud for four months to be beyond retrievable,” she said.

Samantha Murphy
Ballarat mother Samantha Murphy was last seen leaving her home to go for a run on February 4. (Jeremy Bannister/AAP PHOTOS) Credit: AAP

Dr Mallett said police would now be trying to get “as much information from that phone as possible”. “Building that picture,” she said.

“I think that there may be potentially more witnesses that may come forward, because we know now about that dam, we know the phone is there. So I’m hoping that now that information is public other people may come forward and offer information as to who may have dumped that phone and when.”

Police detectives, with the aid of a sniffer dog, located the phone near a dam in Buninyong last week, which is not far from the missing mother’s home.

Last week, Murphy’s husband Mick confirmed to 7NEWS that her credit cards, licence and iPhone were all recovered in mud at the dam.

“Since February, police have regularly undertaken a range of inquiries and small-scale searches as part of the current investigation,” police said last week.

“Samantha’s family has also been advised of the search.”

Murphy was last seen leaving her home on Eureka St, Ballarat, to go for a run in the Canadian State Forest on February 4.

Police allege Patrick Orren Stephenson murdered Murphy at nearby Mount Clear on the day she went missing.

The 22-year-old was arrested at the beginning of March and charged with murder and is due to return to court in August.

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

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