Search for Samantha Murphy
Cadaver dogs are being used in the operation to try and find the body of Samantha Murphy. Image by Joel Carrett/AAP PHOTOS
  • crime, law and justice

New search fails to find missing mum as efforts persist

April 11, 2024

The search for missing Ballarat mother Samantha Murphy will continue into a second day after crews failed to locate her body following fresh intelligence.

A significant search at Enfield State Park started on Thursday morning in a bid to find her body, Victoria Police said.

The 51-year-old was last seen leaving her home on Eureka Street to go for a run in Canadian State Forest on the morning of February 4.

A sign for missing woman Samantha Murphy
 Samantha Murphy has not been seen since leaving her home for a run on February 4. Image by James Ross/AAP PHOTOS 

Officers focused on “an area highlighted by intelligence derived from a number of sources”, with crews investigating a site 10km south of the previous unsuccessful search at Buninyong Bushland Reserve in March.

The public has been asked not to join the search, about 20km south of the Murphy family home.

Crews scouring the area include those who specialise in missing persons, search and rescue, the public order response team, the mounted branch and cadaver dogs.

About 50 searchers combed the state park for signs of Ms Murphy’s body with one dog dashing around and inspecting small pits in the ground believed to be mine shafts.

The off-the-track area is covered by dense forest with foliage casting shade over the ground filled with damp leaves, smaller trees and fallen tree trunks.

It can be difficult terrain, with the area that once housed tents and diggers now dotted with abandoned mine shafts reclaimed by wildlife.

Bush search for Samantha Murphy
 The search area includes dense bush and a number of old pits and mine shafts. Image by Joel Carrett/AAP PHOTOS 

Crews continued their search into the afternoon with a handful of officers in hi-vis scouring a dense ravine and wading through thick shrubbery.

The operation on Thursday was wound down at 4pm.

A smaller contingent of officers will resume the search in the state park area on Friday.

Police in March charged 22-year-old tradesman Patrick Orren Stephenson with the murder of Ms Murphy at Mount Clear on the day she went missing. 

He will return to court in August.

Stephenson is the son of Orren Stephenson, who played 15 AFL games for Geelong and Richmond between 2012 and 2014.

Police search
 Cadaver dogs are being used in the operation to try and find the body of Samantha Murphy. Image by Joel Carrett/AAP PHOTOS 

Detective Acting Superintendent Mark Hatt described Thursday’s effort as an extensive, large-scale search that built on targeted operations in other areas.

“I want to assure those in the Ballarat community that police remain focused on doing everything we can to return Samantha to her family,” he said.

The regional western Victorian city has been rocked by a series of tragedies this year including Ms Murphy’s disappearance, a mine collapse that claimed the life of worker Kurt Hourigan, the death of mother-of-five Rebecca Young and bushfires in surrounding areas.

On April 5, 23-year-old Hannah McGuire was found dead in a burnt-out car at Scarsdale.

Ballarat locals will stage a rally in the centre of the city on Friday evening as an act of solidarity in the fight to end violence against women.

A description of the event on social media said women did not feel safe in Ballarat.

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