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Major update in search for missing mum

MEGA GROUND SEARCH SAMANTHA MURPHY
A volunteer search party prepares to look for Samantha Murphy on February 24, 2024. Picture: NCA NewsWire / David Crosling

A huge group of volunteers have joined the search for missing mum Samantha Murphy in dense bushland, as more disturbing details about her sudden disappearance begin to emerge.

The volunteers, marked out with hi-vis jackets and wearing long pants, backpacks and hats, gathered at Ballarat’s Eureka Stockade Memorial Park in the morning in preparation for the day’s search.

The police have concentrated the search to the areas around Mount Clear, south of the regional Victorian town, on intelligence gleaned from phone data.

In one photo, a man carries a metal detector with him.

In another, a black sniffer dog mingles with the searchers.

MEGA GROUND SEARCH SAMANTHA MURPHY
Volunteers are organising a large-scale search for missing mum Samantha Murphy. Picture: NCA NewsWire / David Crosling
MEGA GROUND SEARCH SAMANTHA MURPHY
Samantha Murphy went missing near Ballarat on February 4. Picture: NCA NewsWire / David Crosling

The mum-of-three, 51, went missing three weeks ago after she went out for a run in the Woowookarung Regional Park in East Ballarat at 7am on February 4.

Police now hold grave concerns for her welfare and suspect she may have been the victim of foul play.

“We do have severe concerns and are very doubtful she is still alive,” the police said on Friday.

“We do think another party has been involved (in her disappearance), whether it be one person or a number of people.”

It has also been revealed the police have spoken to a convicted sex offender with a “long rap sheet” as part of their investigations.

The man is understood to have provided an alibi for the day Ms Murphy went missing and there is nothing to suggest he had anything to do with her disappearance.

Ballarat East woman Samantha Murphy disappeared after going for a run in the bushland near her house. Picture: Supplied
Ballarat East woman Samantha Murphy disappeared after going for a run in the bushland near her house. Picture: Supplied
MEGA GROUND SEARCH SAMANTHA MURPHY
Volunteers have organised a large scale search with volunteers to look for any sign of missing woman Samantha Murphy in bushland near Ballarat where she has gone missing. Pictured are people searching the nearby bushland. Picture: NCA NewsWire / David Crosling

Detective Acting Superintendent Mark Hatt told reporters on Friday that Ms Murphy’s husband, Mick Murphy, and “everyone” in her personal life was now a “person of interest” – though he stressed Mr Murphy was not a suspect in her disappearance.

No arrests or charges have been laid.

“Everyone in relation to Samantha is a person of interest in our investigation. We are speaking to everyone that was in her life … So that would include family, friends and work colleagues,” Superintendent Hatt said.

SAMANTHA MURPHY PRESSER
Detective Acting Superintendent Mark Hatt speaks at a press conference at Mount Clear Scout Hall. Picture: Brendan Beckett

“We have a number of people that we are speaking to and I can say the family have been absolutely fantastic in co-operating with police.

“At this stage [Mr Murphy] is not [a suspect]. Everyone in relation to Samantha is a person of interest. In our investigation we are speaking to everyone that was in her life.”

The Mount Clear area police are searching is not new and has already been scoured extensively, but this time, will be looked at for smaller items that could reveal what happened to Ms Murphy.

The police have ruled out a medical episode and said they had not received any information to suggest “she left the area of her own accord.”

MEGA GROUND SEARCH SAMANTHA MURPHY
Others donned bikes during the community search. Picture: NCA NewsWire / David Crosling
MEGA GROUND SEARCH SAMANTHA MURPHY
People meet for a briefing in Ballarat. Picture: NCA NewsWire / David Crosling