Advertisement

Why Sam’s alleged killer won’t be named

A man has been arrested in relation to missing mum Samantha Murphy.
A man has been arrested in relation to missing mum Samantha Murphy.

The identity of the 22-year-old man accused of killing missing Ballarat mum Samantha Murphy more than a month ago will remain secret after a court imposed a temporary gag order.

The man, from Mount Clear on Ballarat’s southern fringe, was taken into custody from a home in Scotsburn just after 6am on Wednesday.

He was charged with one count of murder on Thursday afternoon and appeared in the Ballarat Magistrates’ Court shortly after 3.30pm for a brief administrative hearing.

Ballarat mother of three Samantha Murphy has not been heard from since February 4.
Ballarat mother of three Samantha Murphy has not been heard from since February 4.

A hush fell over the packed court room at the Ballarat Magistrates Court shortly after 3.30pm as the 22-year-old entered the room.

He responded loudly with “yes, Your Honour”, when asked by Magistrate Michelle Mykytowycz if he could hear her.

The court was told prosecutors sought a longer than usual period to compile the brief of evidence against the accused man, saying there was a “significant” amount of material.

No members of Ms Murphy’s family were present.

Lawyer David Tamanika, acting for the accused man, asked the court to “urgently” impose a temporary suppression order on personal details, including his name, age and address, citing “mental health issues” that could arise and the risk of “prejudice” to his client.

“It’s his first time in custody,” he said.

“There is a sufficient seriousness to the allegation, he may be a risk of self-harm”.

Despite opposition from media outlets, Ms Mykytowycz granted the interim order until a full hearing can be held next month.

“I’m mindful this is a high media interest and high community interest case,” she said.

“For me it is a balancing exercise between open justice and the submissions made.

“I am of the view I will grant a interim order ... until the substantive application can be heard.”

BALLARAT, AUSTRALIA - NCA NewsWire Photos - 07 MARCH, 2024: A man has been arrested over the disappearance of Ballarat mum Samantha Murphy. Police confirmed a 22-year-old Ballarat man was taken into custody early on Wednesday morning. No charges have been laid and the man remains in police custody. Pictured is Ballarat Courthouse. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Ian Wilson
The man appeared in the Ballarat Magistrates’ Court on Thursday. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Ian Wilson

Police are yet to recover Ms Murphy’s body and the investigation remains ongoing.

Ms Murphy, 51, left her Eureka St home in Victoria’s Central Highlands 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.

According to court documents, the 22-year-old man allegedly murdered Ms Murphy within the Mount Clear area — where he resides — the day she vanished.

Ms Murphy’s family reported her missing to police later that day after she failed to attend a brunch.

Addressing the media on Thursday afternoon, Chief Commissioner Shane Patton said police would allege the accused man acted alone.

“He has been charged with murder so, by definition, we are saying this was a deliberate attack on Samantha,” he said.
“In the interview with the suspect, he has not disclosed to police where her body is.”

The mother-of-three’s disappearance shocked the community and quickly became one of the most high-profile missing persons investigations in the state.

Police earlier indicated there was no evidence Ms Murphy had left on her own accord and were doubtful that she was still alive.

They were also probing the prospect that Ms Murphy's body – which has not been located – may have been moved from the area after she went missing.

SEARCH for MISSING WOMAN
Ms Murphy’s daughter Jess Murphy (left) and husband Mick share their pain after her disappearance. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Nicki Connolly

As part of their investigation, detectives combed through about 20,000 of hours of CCTV footage and 770 information reports.

Earlier this week, it was revealed police were reportedly probing mobile telephone tower data to find out who was in the area at the time.

It’s understood the data would then be used by police to probe the backgrounds of those people for potential new leads.

In a statement, police said on Thursday they were unable to provide any further updates and that investigators spoke with a number of people as part of their investigation.

MEGA GROUND SEARCH SAMANTHA MURPHY
A large-scale search was undertaken in bushland near Ballarat. Picture: NCA NewsWire / David Crosling

Chief Commissionr Patton said while he can’t speak further on the allegagations as the matter is now before the courts, he did confirm Samantha’s family had been updated of the “tragic news”.

“This is tragic outcome knowing she has been murdered,” he said.

“Our thoughts and support are with the family.

“Since the outset in these cases often the family come under scrutiny.

“And they were under intense scrutiny at the outset and police said we should take an open mind and let us go about our business.

“They have cooperated and had no involvement in the matter.”

BALLARAT, AUSTRALIA - NCA NewsWire Photos - 07 MARCH, 2024: A man has been arrested over the disappearance of Ballarat mum Samantha Murphy. Police confirmed a 22-year-old Ballarat man was taken into custody early on Wednesday morning. No charges have been laid and the man remains in police custody. Pictured is Ballarat Courthouse. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Ian Wilson
The man will return to Ballarat Court next month. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Ian Wilson

Chief Commissioner Patton also thanked members of the public and Ballarat communities.

Detectives are continuing to appeal for anyone with CCTV or dashcam footage and are yet to speak to police to come forward.

“We are calling on members of the public to help us because our primary role now is trying to get Samantha back for her family,” Chief Patton said.

Anyone with any other information regarding Ms Murphy’s disappearance is urged to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.