New information sets off fresh search for missing mum

Holly Hales |

Samantha Murphy was last seen leaving her home to go for a run on the morning of February 4.
Samantha Murphy was last seen leaving her home to go for a run on the morning of February 4.

A wide scale search for the body of missing mother-of-three Samantha Murphy is unfolding in bushland near Ballarat.

Victoria Police shifted focus to Buninyong Bushland Reserve, 11km from the regional city, on Wednesday.

Several police vehicles have been parked at nearby Royal Park with the main probe near Sandys Hill Road.

Fresh intelligence from multiple sources sparked the search’s re-launch, according to police.

Specialist police units are searching the reserve, which is about 6km from the Mount Clear site where the 51-year-old went missing.

Ms Murphy was last seen leaving her home on Eureka Street to go for a run in the Canadian State Forest on the morning of February 4.

Police allege 22-year-old Patrick Orren Stephenson murdered her at Mount Clear on the day she went missing.

Extensive searches have largely focused on the Canadian State Forest area during the past six weeks.

Crime Command Detective Acting Superintendent Mark Hatt said multiple resources had been directed at the search.

Police search at Buninyong
Police have shifted the focus of their search for Samantha Murphy to the Buninyong Bushland Reserve. (Diego Fedele/AAP PHOTOS)

“Since Samantha’s disappearance, extensive searches have been conducted in the Ballarat area and today we will focus on an area of bushland in Buninyong,” he said.

“We will have a range of specialist resources involved, however, as we are searching for Samantha’s body, we ask that members of the public do not try and join today’s search.”

Ballarat mayor Des Hudson said he hoped a successful search could bring some closure to the Murphy family.

“Our thoughts are with the Murphy family because every time this issue is back in the media, they would no doubt ride the roller coaster of emotion, waiting and hoping that Sam can be found,” he told AAP.

Stephenson, a tradesman, was arrested earlier in March on the outskirts of Ballarat.

Search for Samantha Murphy
SES personnel and police searched extensively around Ballarat after Samantha Murphy’s disappearance. (James Ross/AAP PHOTOS)

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

The family home is in Mount Clear, where he often stayed, while he lives in Scotsburn, about 16km from Ballarat.

After Ms Murphy disappeared, a search began around Ballarat involving trained emergency services workers and hundreds of concerned locals.

They combed dense bush, private land and walking tracks and police set up a base at Buninyong Police Station.