Police launch new tactic to find Samantha Murphy’s body

Search for Samantha Murphy's body shifts

Source: AAP

Highly-trained police dogs with the ability to sniff out mobile phone SIM cards are among the tactics being used in the renewed search for Samantha Murphy’s body. 

Victoria Police launched more targeted efforts near the Buninyong Bushland Reserve, 11 kilometres south of Ballarat, on Thursday, according to Chief Commissioner Shane Patton. 

It came after intelligence from multiple sources led authorities to carry out a wide-scale search at the reserve on Wednesday. The operation was called off by 2.30pm, with no trace of the missing 51-year-old’s body being found.

“We will be going to a different location, but we will also use assistance from the Australian Federal Police today and technical detection dogs,” Patton told ABC Radio. 

“We still haven’t recovered her phone and her watch. So we will use all those specialist skills and we will continue over the coming period to target specific areas and that’s based on analysis of telecommunications data, it’s information reports, it’s a whole range of investigative processes.

“We’re trying to get that capability to run a dog that can detect a sim from a mobile phone and that type of thing.”

Technology detector dogs from the Australian Federal Police were also used recently in Victoria in a search of the house of accused mushroom killer Erin Patterson.

Forensic psychologist Tim Watson-Munro said the dogs were being used to find electronic devices.

“These dogs are trained to sniff out SIM cards, USBs and the rest. It may be there is evidence on the items that will be of benefit to the prosecution,” he told the Seven Network at the time.

Murphy was known to be carrying her phone and wearing a smartwatch when she was last seen.

Wednesday’s search focused on Sandys Hill Road, which is about six kilometres from the Mount Clear site where Murphy went missing.

Mourners pay tribute to Murphy during a candlelit vigil in Ballarat. Photo: AAP

The operation involved specialist officers from the missing persons squad, search and rescue squad, the mounted branch and the dog squad, public order response team and local police.

Murphy’s husband Mick was seen briefly at the search site on Wednesday, according to multiple reports. He told Seven he was disappointed with the outcome and begged for his wife’s body to be found.

The 51-year-old 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 the mother-of-three at Mount Clear on the day she went missing. The tradesman was arrested at the beginning of March and is due to return to court in August.

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

Authorities have spent weeks searching for Murphy’s body, mostly within the Canadian State Forest.

Public volunteers have also combed the wider Ballarat area to try to find clues. They were asked to stay away from the official search on Wednesday.

Murphy’s disappearance and death sparked an outpouring of grief in the regional town, with hundreds of people attending an emotional vigil for the mother-of-three earlier this month.

-with AAP

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