Samantha Murphy: Ex-homicide detective’s theory on why the search was scaled back

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

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.

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

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.

Timeline of Samantha Murphy’s disappearance

Sunday 4th February, 07:00: Mother-of-three Samantha Murphy was last seen leaving her home on Eureka Street in Ballarat East for a jog.

7.16 am: She is caught on a neighbor’s CCTV wearing brown ankle pants and black half-length leggings.

11am: Ms. Murphy fails to show up to a planned brunch with family. She is reported missing to the police.

Monday February 5th: Victoria Police launch public appeal to find Ms Murphy. A search area is being established just outside the residential area of ​​Buninyong, about 14 km from where Ms Murphy was last seen, as well as close to her home. Police revealed Ms Murphy’s mobile pinged in Buninyong

Tuesday 6 February: Ms Murphy’s Mick husband tells the media that he is ‘not too bad under the circumstances. He was pictured speaking to police as the desperate search continued. The search expanded to include more than 100 specialist police officers, SES teams and teams from Forest Fire Management Australia and Parks Victoria.

Wednesday February 8, 12:30 p.m:A search party found possible evidence near a hiking trail in Woowookarung Regional Park

1.45pm: Mick Murphy arrives at the cordoned off scene in Woowookarung Regional Park and appeared visibly stunned as he was turned away by officers. Police said the items found in bushveld were not related to her whereabouts.

Police later released what they initially thought was CCTV footage of Ms Murphy leaving her property and heading in a north-easterly direction towards Yankee Flat Road near the intersection of Warrenheip Road.

Thursday afternoon, February 8: A runner has come forward to reveal they are the person seen in the CCTV footage, ruling out a key line of inquiry.

Friday 9 February: Victoria Police is ramping up its efforts with the arrival of officers from the Missing Persons Unit.

Saturday 10 February: Investigators are scaling back the search, saying a full-scale search will only be resumed if fresh information emerges.

Sunday 11 February: As the police downgrade the search, local residents continue their own search by scouring the area in small groups.

Monday 12 February: Cin Hobbs, administrator of ‘Find Samantha Murphy’ Facebook group – which attracted thousands of members within days, announced she was removing the group because it had ‘served its purpose’.