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‘If they attack again’: Victim’s fury over police investigation

Missing mum search

A woman who was attacked on Ballarat’s trails nearly a year before the disappearance of Samantha Murphy has slammed the police investigation.

Sissy Austin was running through Lal Lal State Forest when a shirtless man whacked her head with a rock tied to a stick, leaving her unconscious on the ground and with ongoing injuries.

The former Greens Senate candidate has been reliving her story since 51-year-old local mother Murphy vanished on her regular Sunday run through Ballarat’s forest trails.

On Tuesday night, Austin took to social media to slam detectives who had worked on her case and failed to apprehend a perpetrator.

“Just heard detectives on the morning news saying they’re revisiting my case with regards to missing person Samantha Murphy, yet I haven’t heard a single word from detectives or police in 12 months,” wrote Austin.

“Do you know, what makes me furious is one of the last things the cops said to me after my attack was?

“’The only way we will find the person that attacked you is if they hand themselves in or if they attack again.”

Austin said Victoria Police “never properly investigated my attack” or kept her updated.

“I have absolutely every right to continue speaking out both about my attack but also to the issue of violence against women and the inability of Victoria Police to investigate thoroughly and take this issue seriously.

“I am not making this about me, this is about women’s safety, women’s right to go for a run and return home safely and calling out racism and defamation. Silence is violence.

“This is not a question of why women go running alone, this is a question of why men are violent towards women.”

Retired homicide detective Charlie Bezzina told the ABC’s 7.30 that Austin’s attacker should be one line of inquiry.

“It remains unsolved. It was a vicious attack on another woman running in the vicinity,” he said on Tuesday night.

“I’d be looking very closely about the whole investigation, did they have suspects, whether you need to go back and talk to her.

“I’d be looking at the investigation file. Let’s start re-interviewing those suspects, let’s get them alibied.”

Dozens of volunteers have kept up the search for Murphy through forests riddled with mine shafts, despite police suspending their foot search.

Murphy, a keen runner, left home early on February 4 to go jogging. She has not been seen since.

Police have turned to CCTV footage to try to piece together her final documented movements, saying a full-scale search will resume only if fresh information emerges.

Investigators are keen to review footage from the three Ballarat suburbs in the area, even if it does not show Murphy.

Earlier police had said there were no sinister factors about Murphy’s disappearance, but there were significant concerns for her wellbeing.

Police said they remained in regular contact with the Murphy family about the investigation.

The Ballarat woman regularly jogged about 14-15 kilometres through nearby remote areas.

She left her home on Eureka Street in Ballarat East at 7am the day she disappeared. CCTV footage from the family home shows her about to depart.

Police have worked with telecommunications expects to try to identify Murphy’s route, given she carried a smart watch and phone.

The mother of three has been described as physically and mentally strong.

She and her husband Michael run a car repair business called Inland Motor Body Works at Delacombe, a few suburbs from their home.

Anyone with information about Murphy’s disappearance is urged to contact Crime Stoppers.

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