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‘Difficult’: Update on search for missing mum

Police are appealing for public assistance to help locate missing Ballarat East woman Samantha.
Police are appealing for public assistance to help locate missing Ballarat East woman Samantha.

The search for missing mother Samantha Murphy has been scaled back in a heart-breaking update for her family.

Ms Murphy, 51, has been missing since Sunday morning when she went for a run near the Canadian Forest in East Ballarat but never returned.

Late on Friday, Victoria Police confirmed the “current phase of the active search” would be scaled back over the weekend.

Police are appealing for public assistance to help locate missing Ballarat East woman Samantha.
Police are appealing for public assistance to help locate missing Ballarat East woman Samantha.

“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,” a statement read.

“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.”

During an update earlier on Friday, Inspector Bob Heaney said it was Ms Murphy’s absence at a family commitment that encouraged them to alert police so soon after she disappeared.

“She had an appointment ... a family commitment that she was expected to be at,” he said.

“And it was unusual for her not to be back in time for that, that was reported to us pretty much straight away.”

BALLARAT, AUSTRALIA - NCA NewsWire Photos FEBRUARY 09, 2024: The search for Samantha Murphy continues South West of Ballarat. Husband Michael Murphy gets some encouragement from a friend  at Buninyong Police Station. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Ian Wilson
Husband Mike Murphy gets encouragement from a friend at Buninyong Police Station. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Ian Wilson

After an extensive search of the surrounding area produced no leads, detectives from the missing persons squad were handed control of the investigation on Friday.

“While no sinister factors have been identified in her disappearance at this time, there are significant concerns given it has now been six days without her being sighted or any signs of her current whereabouts,” police said in a statement.

The squad will have the ability to expand resourcing from specialist investigative units across the crime command.

“It is especially concerning that we have now gone six days without any contact from her or any potential sightings,” Detective Acting Superintendent Mark Hatt said in a statement.

It comes less than 24 hours after Acting Inspector Lisa McDougall told media the disappearance was not being treated as suspicious.

“There are no suspicious circumstances that we’ve identified at this stage,” she said.

On Thursday, her eldest daughter Jess Murphy spoke to media beside her father Mick Murphy, pleading with the community no to lose hope in the search for her mum.

SEARCH for MISSING WOMAN
Ms Murphy’s daughter Jess and husband Mick speak to media outside Ballarat West Police Station, with Inspector Lisa Macdougall. Picture: NCA Newswire / Nicki Connolly

“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,” she said.

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

Her father comforted her by stroking her back as she struggled to get the message out through her tears.

Moments before Jess’ heartbreaking message, Ms Murphy’s husband urged the local community for information.

SEARCH for MISSING WOMAN
SES crews exercise a large-scale search bushland on Thursday. Picture: NCA Newswire / Nicki Connolly

“People just don’t vanish into thin air. Someone’s got to know something,” Mr Murphy told media.

“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.”

CCTV footage released by police earlier in the week which was believed to show Ms Murphy’s last known movements has since been found to show another local woman.