Samantha Murphy: Police zero in on area of interest in search for missing Ballarat mum

Headshot of Remy Varga
Remy Varga
The Nightly
3 Min Read
Police use a cadaver dog during the search for the body of missing woman Samantha Murphy.
Police use a cadaver dog during the search for the body of missing woman Samantha Murphy. Credit: JOEL CARRETT/AAPIMAGE

Specialist detectives are zeroing in on an area of interest in the renewed search for missing mother Samantha Murphy in the vast bushland surrounding Ballarat, about 120km northwest of Melbourne.

The third large-scale search since Mrs Murphy vanished on February 4 comes as hundreds are expected to attend a rally decrying violence against women in Ballarat at 5.30pm on Friday after three women were killed in the area in about two-months.

A Victoria Police spokeswoman said detectives were undertaking a targeted search in an undisclosed location in the Ballarat region as part of the investigation into the missing 51-year-old mother-of-three.

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“Detectives from the missing persons squad as well as a range of specialist resources from across Victoria Police are involved in the search,” she said.

“Over the past two months, police have also regularly undertaken a range of enquiries and small-scale searches as part of the current investigation.

“We are not in a position to supply further specific details of today’s operational activity at this time.”

The missing persons unit is being assisted by specialist squads including cadaver dogs from interstate.

Mrs Murphy disappeared after leaving her house on Eureka Street in East Ballarat to go for a run at about 7am on February 4.

Michael and Samantha Murphy. Samantha vanished in Ballarat
Michael and Samantha Murphy. Samantha vanished in Ballarat Credit: Supplied

Patrick Stephenson, the son of former AFL player Orren Stephenson, has been charged over her murder.

Mrs Murphy’s husband Mick, with whom she ran a car repair business in Ballarat, has told reporters he still searches for his missing wife every day.

The mother-of-three was the first of three women to die in about two months in Ballarat, which has a population of about 115,000.

Less than two weeks after Mrs Murphy vanished, Rebecca Young was stabbed to death by her partner Ian Butler, who had links to bikie gangs, in Sebastopol in a suspected murder-suicide. Two of the mother-of-five’s children were present at the home.

Last Friday the body of 23-year-old Hannah McGuire was found in a burnt-out car in bushland in Scarsdale, about a 15-minute drive from where police believe she died in Sebastopol.

Police have charged her ex-boyfriend Lachlan Young, with whom she bought a home last year, with her murder.

Hundreds are expected to attend a rally against violence against women that will start at Ballarat Train Station at 5.30pm on Friday.

Rally organiser Sissy Austin, who herself has been violently attacked while going for a run, said women no longer felt safe on Ballarat’s streets, but added that violence against women was a national crisis.

“Women are living on eggshells, living on edge,” she wrote on the online event page.

“Putting on the runners and going for a run feels like risk-taking behaviour; it is not and we shouldn’t be feeling like this. It is not normal for our beautiful bushlands to become known as a place where men’s violence is perpetrated on our bodies.”

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