Missing Samantha Murphy: Criminal psychologist Tim Watson-Munro shares theories on Ballarat mum’s disappearance

Tim Watson-Munro has described Samantha Murphy's disappearance as a 'very strange case' and said nothing can be ruled out

Tim Watson-Munro has described Samantha Murphy’s disappearance as a ‘very strange case’ and said nothing can be ruled out

A respected criminal psychologist has raised the possibility that missing mother Samantha Murphy may have had a stalker if her disappearance is found to be the result of foul play.

The 51-year-old has not been seen or heard from since Sunday morning, when she disappeared while out jogging in Woowookarung Regional Park, in Ballarat, north-west of Melbourne, just after 7am.

While police said they were not currently treating her disappearance as suspicious, detectives from the missing persons unit were called in to take over the search on Friday.

Now worried residents hoping to join the rescue efforts to find Ms Murphy have been left shocked after learning the search has all but been abandoned.

On Saturday, local residents who had arrived in anticipation of helping rescue teams in the search for Ms Murphy were told there would be no coordinated effort and that they could carry out their own searches alone.

Tim Watson-Munro has m. described Murphy’s disappearance as a ‘very strange case’ and said nothing could be ruled out.

‘Who is responsible, I don’t think we can say. As I understand it, it was a happy home life,’ he told USA Online Post Australia.

Ms Murphy (pictured) has not been seen or heard from since Sunday morning

Ms Murphy (pictured) has not been seen or heard from since Sunday morning

“It could be that she was being stalked, if you have a regular pattern stalkers love that and she had a regular pattern of running through that area.”

Mr Watson-Munro also said disaster could be a possibility and noted that local residents in the area had raised concerns about inconspicuous mine shafts in the state forest.

He also said that if any crime had occurred, it was also possible that it could be opportunistic, in that someone saw Ms Murphy and decided to act on it.

The theory comes as camper Rebecca Agheli told USA Online Post Australia of a chilling encounter she had with a ‘disturbed man’ in bushland near Ms Murphy’s home just days before she disappeared.

“It would appear that[MsMurphy}isnotsomeonewhoranawayfromhome”MrWatson-Munrosaid

“Bringing in the murder squad is not that unusual, but the mention of murder always pushes people’s buttons.”

Attention has also turned to Ms Murphy’s husband, Michael, with online trolls posting negative comments about the father.

Ms Watson-Munro said any criticism of Mr Murphy was ‘completely unfair’.

“I think it’s a big mistake with those out there who want to be armchair detectives to read too much into people’s body language,” he said.

“You don’t know how you’re going to react to something.”

Ms Murphy's husband Michael is seen speaking to police on Friday

Ms Murphy’s husband Michael is seen speaking to police on Friday

The expert said it was a good thing that so many people were interested in what happened to Ms Murphy, as a lot of information came from the public.

“It’s good that people are talking about this case, it keeps it alive,” he said.

CCTV footage showing Ms Murphy outside her home on Sunday was the last confirmed sighting of her alive.

Family remembers reporting her missing after she didn’t show up for a brunch scheduled for that morning.

On Friday, Detective Acting Superintendent Mark Hatt told reporters that detectives would now look at Ms Murphy’s movements and interactions with others in the days before she disappeared, including her friends and family.

SIX teams are seen on the sixth day of the search for the 51-year-old

SIX teams are seen on the sixth day of the search for the 51-year-old

Part of the investigation – now called Operation Primus – will see detectives sift through Ms Murphy’s computers and devices in the hope of finding clues.

Superintendent Hatt said the police are still working to determine who may have been in the area where Ms. Murphy’s phone lost communication with cell towers.

Her cell phone pinged in the nearby suburb of Buninyong before dark.

Detectives are still working with phone companies to obtain data that could be vital to shed light on the investigation.

‘We cannot share any information in that regard at this stage. We are still working with our telecommunications technicians to determine phone movements and who was in the area at the time,’ Superintendent Hatt said.

‘I can also confirm that we have not identified any suspicious or sinister circumstances, but we have significant concerns for Samantha’s welfare at this stage and they are growing as the days go by.’

Rebecca Agheli said she had m.  24 hours before she disappeared, Murphy was seen running past her after a terrifying encounter she had with a 'disturbed man' in the woods just days before

Rebecca Agheli said she had m. 24 hours before she disappeared, Murphy was seen running past her after a terrifying encounter she had with a ‘disturbed man’ in the woods just days before

The investigation continues as a camper told USA Online Post Australia she saw Ms Murphy run past her 24 hours before she disappeared after a terrifying encounter she had with a ‘disturbed man’ in the bush just days before .

Rebecca Agheli and her partner Michael have hired a caravan for a long weekend trip to Ballarat on a gold panning trip near Woowookarung Regional Park, arriving on February 1.

Ms Agheli said she only found out that Ms Murphy had disappeared last Thursday, and added that she had seen her running past their campsite on the Saturday morning before she disappeared.

When they arrived on February 1, about 15 minutes from the state forest, Ms Agheli prepared for their gold hunt while her partner scouted the area.

He quickly returned to their car after seeing a strange man.

“He’s a big guy, he’s not usually afraid of anything, but he told me he saw a strange, confused man jump out of the woods and talk to himself with the cross on his pants torn,” she told USA Online Post Australia.

The couple decided to pack up and go to another area, which Ms Agheli guessed was about a seven-minute drive away.

Before Rebecca Agheli and her partner Michael left the state forest, they saw Ms Murphy (pictured) running past, with the mother-of-three wishing them a good morning

Before Rebecca Agheli and her partner Michael left the state forest, they saw Ms Murphy (pictured) running past, with the mother-of-three wishing them a good morning

She said her partner warned her of mine shafts in the area and suggested they go elsewhere, but Ms Agheli wanted to have a quick look and wandered some distance away from the car.

“Then I saw the same guy again, even after we’d only been driving for about seven minutes,” she said.

His whole face lit up when he saw a woman on his own.

“I thought, “how did this man get here so fast, he must know a shortcut”. He had both his hands behind his back and started walking towards me very quickly.’

Before the couple left the state forest, they saw Ms Murphy running past, with the mother of three wishing them a good morning.

Ms Agheli spoke to detectives looking into Ms Murphy’s case about what she saw.

Michael also lost his Apple Watch and Ms Agheli said she was told by police that it last pinged in a similar area to where Ms Murphy’s phone also pinged in the nearby suburb of Buninyong.

Ms Agheli hopes what she saw can help in the investigation into Ms Murphy’s whereabouts.

“I’m worried that something similar could happen to someone else,” she said.

“It was my first camping trip and I will never go there again.”

On Saturday, local residents who had arrived in anticipation of helping rescue teams in the search for Ms Murphy were told there would be no coordinated effort and that they could carry out their own searches alone.

One resident told USA Online Post Australia he had hoped to join the effort after working all week.

“This is the first chance I’ve had and I just wanted to help,” he said.

Police are advising local residents not to go into the woods alone and to team up with a friend in the rugged terrain.

‘It’s a bit disappointing that it’s already winding down,’ said one man. “I mean, she could still be alive out there. It’s not that long.’

Ms Murphy’s husband was also seen returning to the police station on Saturday morning and spent around half an hour inside before leaving.

He declined to comment on leaving the building.