Community rallies in missing mum hunt

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SES crews search for Samantha Murphy. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Ian Wilson

Volunteers from across the state have stepped in to continue searching for a beloved Ballarat mother after police announced the search would be “scaled back”.

Samantha Murphy vanished six days ago after telling her husband she was going on a 20km run.

In a statement released on Saturday morning, police confirmed the “active search” for Ms Murphy would be “scaled back” over the weekend.

“An extensive six-day search has been conducted involving local police, along with personnel from the Search and Rescue Squad, Mounted Branch and Dog Squad, plus significant assistance from members of the SES and CFA,” the police said.

Samantha Murphy has been missing since February 4. Picture: Victoria Police.
Samantha Murphy has been missing since February 4. Picture: Victoria Police.

“Police continue to be in regular contact with Samantha’s family regarding the developments of the search and the status of the investigation.

“The investigative stage of the investigation continues and as any new information comes to hand identifying areas of interest, the search will be scaled up.”

But in touching scenes on Saturday, volunteers continued to hit the trails in Woowookarung Regional Park— where Ms Murphy often went running.

Some of those searching were local to the area, while others given up their weekend and travelled from Melbourne hoping to help the search effort.

Ms Murphy, a mother to three children, went missing on February 4.

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Mt Helen resident Mike Hovey was searching the trails on his mountain bike. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Ian Wilson
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Brian Woodruff had travelled from Bacchus Marsh to search in his 4WD. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Ian Wilson

The 51-year-old left her home on Eureka St in Ballarat East about 7am last Sunday but failed to return, raising concerns for her welfare as temperatures soared to 36C across the area.

She had told her husband, Michael Murphy she was heading out on her regular 20km run through the Canadian State Forest.

A three-second clip released by the police on Wednesday appeared to depict Ms Murphy 16 minutes after she left home running in the opposite direction.

A day later, the search had to change tact after a resident came forward and said the footage was them.

“A member of the community has come forward and identified themselves as the person depicted running,” Victoria Police said in a statement on Thursday afternoon.

“For that reason, the footage will no longer be relevant to the search for Samantha.”

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An aerial shot shows the large scale of the search area. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Ian Wilson. . Picture: NCA NewsWire / Ian Wilson
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Mia Manton, Tex Young Jai Ogg, from Ballarat help with the search. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Ian Wilson

Emergency services have conducted an extensive search of the bushland near her house.

About 12.30pm on Wednesday, a crew searching a walking trail in Woowookarung Regional Park found an “item of interest”, but police have since ruled it out.

“Items located today during the search for Samantha have been assessed and at this time are not believed to be related to her whereabouts,” police said in a statement.

Detective Acting Superintendent Mark Hatt from Victoria Police’s Crime Command said investigators held serious concerns for Ms Murphy but said on Friday there was “nothing immediate to indicate there is anything sinister behind Samantha’s disappearance”.

Ms Murphy’s daughter Jess delivered an impassioned plea for her mum to “come home soon” on Thursday.

Samantha’s husband Mick Murphy and daughter Jess Murphy, speak to media outside Ballarat West Police Station. PICTURE : NCA Newswire / Nicki Connolly

Jess Murphy has delivered an emotional plea for help to find her mother Samantha Murphy who has been missing since Sunday.

“Mum’s a really strong woman and she’s far too determined to give up this fight,” she said through tears outside the Ballarat West Police Station.

“I know she’s out there somewhere, so if you could please continue to search for her and give us something to work with we’d really appreciate it.

“Mum we love you so much and we miss you … please come home soon.”

Mr Murphy also spoke and implored anyone with information about his wife to come forward to the police.

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“People just don’t vanish into thin air. Someone’s got to know something,” he said.

“Whether it be any little thing that you might think is relevant, just call the police and let them know.

“It’ll give us a bit of peace of mind, some hope.”