Cop raises major flag in missing mum search

Supplied  Samantha Murphy: Homicide police set to be called in to investigate
Sam Murphy is still missing.

A former missing persons detective has revealed a major challenge for investigators in the search for missing mother Samantha Murphy.

The Victorian mother of three, 51, has been missing for more than a month after she did not return from a morning run on February 4.

Since the earliest days of the investigation, the case has attracted a massive community response with hundreds of locals volunteering their time to search the bushland where she typically runs.

Retired police officer of 30 years Narelle Fraser said while she understood the community “wants to help”, it could be creating more problems for investigators.

Supplied  Samantha Murphy: Homicide police set to be called in to investigate
Samantha Murphy has been missing since February 4.

“If they find something that they think is part of the investigation, they might take that to the police,” she told ABC’s 7.30 program on Monday night.

“Then the police have to take a report, they have to find out whether it’s part of the investigation or not.

“All this takes time and I think sometimes it can cause great difficulties.

“It’s a huge job, a huge job because there is so much information coming in and you have to go down every single rabbit burrow because you don’t want to miss something. If you’re the one that’s missed it, it would be terrible.”

Volunteers organised a large-scale search to look for any sign of missing woman Samantha Murphy in bushland near Ballarat. Picture: NCA NewsWire / David Crosling
So far no trace of the missing mum has been found. Picture: NCA NewsWire / David Crosling

Ms Fraser was involved in the high-profile missing persons cases of pregnant mother Anna Kemp, 41, and her toddler Gracie in the early 2000s.

Investigators spent 11 days searching through bin bags at a rubbish tip south of Melbourne before discovering their bodies.

Over the course of the last month, both police and volunteer search parties have scoured almost every inch of the Woowookarung Regional Park near Ms Murphy’s Ballarat East home.

Still no trace has been found of the missing mum.

A massive community effort has lead to a huge amount of potential leads for police to sort through. Picture: NCA NewsWire / David Crosling
Volunteers on motorbikes search bushland. Picture: NCA NewsWire / David Crosling

Investigation takes new direction

Ms Murphy’s disappearance has baffled police and the local Ballarat community, as not a single shred of evidence has been found despite a month of extensive searches in the bushland.

Detectives have revealed they will now use mobile data to piece together the movements of those who were in the vicinity of Ms Murphy on the morning she disappeared.

It is not the first time data linked to a mobile phone has guided the investigation, with officers initially using it to narrow down Ms Murphy’s last-known movements before she vanished.

Early reports indicated Ms Murphy’s phone pinged off the Buninyong tower, south of the Woowookarung Regional Park, at 5pm the day she went missing, though it has not been confirmed.

The 51-year-old left her Eureka St home in Ballarat about 7am on February 4 to go for a 14km run through the nearby Woowookarung Regional Park.

She is believed to have reached the Mount Clear area, adjacent to the park, about an hour after leaving home, but has not been seen or heard from since departing.

Police last month indicated it was unlikely Ms Murphy was still alive and that “more parties” may have been involved in moving her from the local area.