Fears grow for woman as neighbours join search

Cassandra Morgan and Rachael Ward |

SES personnel are helping to search for missing Ballarat mum Samantha Murphy.
SES personnel are helping to search for missing Ballarat mum Samantha Murphy.

Fears are growing for missing Ballarat mother Samantha Murphy as neighbours aid a search effort and volunteers comb through property and paddocks.

The 51-year-old was last seen leaving her Eureka Street home at Ballarat East about 7am on Sunday to go for a run.

Crews have been searching for her in the Canadian Forest area since Monday and their focus on Wednesday shifted to the suburb of Mount Helen, east of Geelong Road.

CCTV of missing woman and formal photo
Samantha Murphy seen the day she disappeared and previously. (HANDOUT/VICTORIA POLICE)

The search area still extended far and wide, though, with State Emergency Service volunteers canvassing paddocks in nearby Warrenheip, lifting up tarps and dodging electric fences and alpacas to pick through scrub.

The Warrenheip search crew was one of many trying to cover as much ground around Ballarat as possible while it was still light on Wednesday, after State Emergency Service volunteers earlier crowded Woowookarung Regional Park.

Local Trudi Hooper visited Buninyong Police Station where officers had affixed highlighted maps to a whiteboard, showing where the public could aid the search effort.

SES volunteers in paddock
SES volunteers scour farm land in the search for Ms Murphy near Ballarat. (James Ross/AAP PHOTOS)

The local mother joined other neighbours poking through bushland in the hopes of finding a phone, watch, earphones, or any of Ms Murphy’s belongings.

“It’s horrible, It’s too close to home,” Ms Hooper told AAP.

“How can you just go for a run in the morning and not come home? It doesn’t make sense.

“I was hoping that I’d get out here and they’d tell me it has been called off and that she’d been found already.”

Sign with picture of missing woman
A sign for volunteers outlining search areas at the Buningyong Police station outside of Ballarat. (James Ross/AAP PHOTOS)

Search crews were expected to finish up at last light on Wednesday before resuming their hunt for Ms Murphy on Thursday morning.

Detectives earlier released CCTV footage they said showed Ms Murphy running at 7.16am on Sunday near her home heading towards Yankee Flat Road.

Residents in the area have been asked to review any CCTV they have between 7am to 11am in case she was caught on camera.

Officers found items belonging to Ms Murphy but they were not believed to be related to her whereabouts.

Police said her disappearance was out of character and they were concerned for her welfare due to the length of time she has been missing.

Ms Murphy is Caucasian, about 173cm tall with a slim build and shoulder-length blonde hair. She was last seen wearing black half-length leggings and a maroon or brown singlet.