Police launch fresh search for Samantha Murphy’s body

Victoria Police on arrest in Samantha Murphy case

Source: AAP

A renewed search for the body of Samantha Murphy has begun in a specific area near Ballarat, with police swiftly moving on Wednesday morning after they received new information.

Police launched the fresh search through bushland at Buninyong, 11 kilometres from the Victorian regional city. Previous searches based on police phone data had been carried out elsewhere in the Ballarat area, such as Canadian Forest, some 10 kilometres away.

After eight hours of searching on Wednesday, the search was called off for the day just before 3pm local time. Murphy’s body was not found. It is unclear if the search will continue on Thursday.

Murphy, a 51-year-old mother of three, has not been seen since leaving her home to go for an early-morning run on February 4.

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

Mount Clear, a semi-rural suburb, is six kilometres from where police have focused their search.

Police search for the remains of slain mother Samantha Murphy on Wednesday. Photo: Getty

Victoria Police Crime Command Detective Acting Superintendent Mark Hatt said all available resources were being poured into the search.

“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.

Specialist units including the missing persons squad, search and rescue, mounted branch, dog squad, public order response team and motorcyclists from road policing command and local police are all involved in Wednesday’s renewed search. The public has been asked not to join the search effort.

The search has targeted an “area highlighted by intelligence derived from a number of sources”.

“While someone has been charged in relation to Samantha’s disappearance, we remain committed to doing everything we can to locate her and return her to her family,” Hatt said.

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 said.

While many locals have spent months helping find Murphy’s body in lieu of and alongside police operations, police have asked they do not join the current search.

Stephenson, a tradie, was arrested earlier this month at his home on the outskirts of Ballarat.

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. Stephenson often stayed there, although he lives at Scotsburn, about 16 kilometres from Ballarat.

He will next face court in August.

– with AAP

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