An ex-homicide detective has explained why police scaling back the search for missing mother-of-three Samantha Murphy could actually mean good news for the investigation.
The 51-year-old disappeared on the morning of February 4 while going for a run in Woowookarung Regional Park, north-west of Melbourne, around 7am.
A major search was launched involving several police units, but it was scaled down on Saturday with local residents now taking it upon themselves to continue searching for Ms Murphy.
Charlie Bezzina, who has worked on a number of high-profile criminal cases in Victorian Police, said he did not think the public should be disheartened by the update.
Samantha Murphy (51) (pictured) disappeared without a trace on February 4
‘This suggests that the detectives are following a certain line of inquiry. The fact that they have scaled it down should give people confidence that they are following it,’ Mr Bezzina told USA Online Post Australia.
“They seem comfortable enough to scale back this search. That tells you that they are somewhat confident that she is not in that area.’
He added that the police would not jeopardize any possible line of inquiry by releasing it to the media.
“The only people they have to be honest with is the family,” he said.
Some residents rallied to continue coordinating their own searches.
The former detective said it was still worth doing for locals, even for their own peace of mind.
Mr Bezzina added it was important Ms Murphy’s case remained in the public eye to help with the investigation as police relied heavily on residents coming forward with any information.
“It’s clear that business has declined in the Greater Melbourne CBD area, with most interest coming from within the country areas,” he said.
‘It is important to keep the investigation alive in the media.’
Charlie Bezzina, who has worked on a number of high-profile criminal cases in the Victorian police force, said it was possible detectives were further into the investigation than meets the eye.
Volunteers from the police and wildfire association and the state emergency service and hundreds of local residents spent six days combing bushland for Ms Murphy, but the official search ground to a halt on Saturday.
Small teams of locals searched bushland for the missing mum on Sunday, while another group arranged to meet at the Buninyong police station the next morning, but with temperatures soaring to 36 degrees, no one turned up on Monday.
On Monday, the administrator of the Facebook group ‘Find Samantha Murphy’ – which has attracted thousands of members since she disappeared – suddenly announced she was going to delete the group.
Cin Hobbs, who managed the group, said: ‘This group served its purpose and we were given the chance to scrap.
“This is a big mission in itself because I have to remove every member… the best thing you can do for her is to help speed up the process by deleting yourself.”
There were other Facebook groups dedicated to the search, but none as large as Ms Hobbs’ group.
Local volunteers continue their own searches for Samantha Murphy
Before it was removed, local residents would post maps of the areas they covered during their independent searches and report their findings.
One person found a black bra cut in half and hanging on a fence on Saturday and reported it to the police.
Members were shocked and confused to learn that all their search cards and information about clues they had found would be deleted, but no explanation beyond Ms Hobbs’ original post was provided.
The official police search for Ms Murphy is now up to the Missing Persons Squad and a full-scale search will only be resumed if fresh information emerges.