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Phone among ‘items of interest’ found in Samantha Murphy search

An earlier search near Buninyong (fiile)

Source: AAP

Police have found a mobile phone in their renewed search for missing Ballarat woman Samantha Murphy.

The phone was recovered on Wednesday as detectives from Victoria Police’s missing persons squad and a range of specialist resources, launched a “targeted” search near the central Victorian city.

An excavator, police dogs and multiple vehicles and officers were involved. Victoria Police later confirmed “items of interest” had been found.

“The area has been cordoned off and those items will now be forensically tested,” a police spokesperson said.

“At this stage we are not providing further information about the items until that testing has been completed.”

The ABC reports that footage from the search area – which was initially kept secret but later revealed to be near Buninyong, south of Ballarat – showed police officers crowding together at what appears to be the edge of a farm dam. Later, officers were seen scanning near the water’s edge with what looked like a metal detector.

It follows Victoria Police confirming the launch of a fresh search for the 51-year-old mother of three on Wednesday.

“Police are undertaking a targeted search in the Ballarat area today as part of the investigation into the disappearance of Samantha Murphy,” a spokeswoman said.

“We are not in a position to supply further specific details of today’s operational activity at this time.

“Since February, police have regularly undertaken a range of inquiries and small-scale searches as part of the current investigation.”

Murphy vanished early on the morning of February 4 after leaving her Ballarat home for a run in Canadian State Forest. She was known to be carrying her mobile phone but no trace of it, nor any trace of her, has been found.

Murphy’s family was advised of Wednesday’s search. It followed earlier hunts for any sign of her body in Canadian State Forest and Enfield State Park.

The public – who have previously helped in looking for the missing woman – was asked to stay away on Wednesday.

Last month, Murphy’s husband, Michael, spoke of the family’s heartbreak at her death.

“[She] is an incredibly smart and wonderful woman … was kind, caring, loyal and would always offer to help anyone at any time,” he told the Nine Network.

“It’s hard for someone so good to be gone [from] the community.”

He also revealed how he knew something was wrong when his wife, who functioned like “clockwork”, failed to return from her Sunday run.

After calling her mobile, and getting no answer, he called police and began to look for her.

“On that particular day, I was outside and thought ‘She’ll be coming up the road pretty soon’,” he said.

“Then she didn’t.’’

In March, police charged 22-year-old tradesman Patrick Orren Stephenson with murdering 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.

-with AAP

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