The search for missing mother Samantha Murphy who vanished after heading out for a run has suffered a major setback after police ruled out CCTV footage thought to show her last movements.
“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.”
Ms Murphy, a mother of three, has not been seen since Sunday when she left her East Ballarat home and headed out for a run near the Canadian State Forest and never returned.
On Wednesday, police released CCTV footage captured at a home 3km east just 16 minutes after she is believed to have left for her run.
The video shows a person investigators believed was the 51-year-old running past a house on Eureka St towards Yankee Flat Road, in the opposite direction of the forest.
Police still want any members of the community with CCTV or dashcam footage from Sunday February 4 between 7am and 11am to view that footage and notify CrimeStoppers of anything they believe maybe relevant.
It is understood Ms Murphy was wearing an Apple watch on her run but it is not known if police have been able to use this to determine her location.
An extensive search effort is into a fifth day with police, volunteers and air crews combing the surrounding suburbs of Black Hill, Brown Hill, Buninyong, Scotchman’s Lead and Woowookharung Regional Park.
Family friend Cin Hobbs shared an update on Wednesday night to a community Facebook page, Find Samantha Murphy – set up to coordinate the search effort.
“We would like to thank everyone for the overwhelming support of this amazing community. It brings tears of hope and joy into our hearts,” she said.
The message was shared on behalf of Ms Murphy’s family and urged members of the community to stop speculating about her disappearance in the comments.
“For those questioning Samantha’s husband, you need not worry. He is in more pain than anyone and would be the last person to suspect in any of this,” she said.
The family member added that it was “not usual” that Ms Murphy’s phone sent out a GPS location “so far away from home”.
“Yes she walked in different directions, but she kept to the paths, never went for more than 10k total roughly and would let family know if she was walking further,” they said.
Until now, Ms Murphy’s husband Michael Murphy has had very little to say on his wife’s disappearance, making only very brief remarks to local media.
However, he has now revealed the reasoning behind his silence.
“I’ve been speaking with the police and I’ve been advised not to say anything,” he told the Herald Sun on Wednesday.
He said he was aware of malicious comments being shared online but was more concerned with the urgency of finding his wife.
Ms Murphy’s daughter has since hit out on social media in regards to “malicious” remarks surrounding her mum’s disappearance.
“You have no idea what you are talking about,” Ms Murphy’s daughter wrote on Facebook.
“Be quiet and think before you post.”
About 12.30pm on Wednesday, a crew searching a walking trail in nearby bushland at 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.
Mr Murphy arrived at the dirt road entrance of the state forest after the discovery was made before speaking with police.
He did not appear to leave his vehicle and was only at the scene for a short time before he drove away.
On Tuesday, he spoke briefly with the Herald Sun to say his wife ran the 20km route through the forest daily but was concerned as the search effort wore on.
“It’s just up in the air, we don’t know,” he said.
“It’s just a whole time thing at the end of the day.”
On Thursday, eldest daughter Jess Murphy spoke to media with her father, Michael, to urge her community to not lose hope in the search for her mum.
“Mum’s a really strong woman and she’s far too determined to give up this fight,” she said.
Through tears, Jess bravely faced the media pack outside 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,” she said.
“Mum we love you so much and we miss you … please come home soon.”
Local resident Donne Crouch on Wednesday morning raised concerns about an unusual feature in the forest.
“That’s the biggest concern, that there are mineshafts out there that aren’t very noticeable in some areas,” he told Nine.
Ms Murphy’s husband told the Herald Sun that his wife ran in the area daily but said he was worried as time wore on.
A major search operation is entering its fifth day, involving local police, officers from the Dog Squad, the mounted branch, and Air Wing.