Top cop’s extraordinary claim about Samantha Murphy’s disappearance as desperate search for missing Ballarat mum reaches a grim milestone

A former detective claims police probably have ‘nothing to work with’ in the hunt for missing mum Samantha Murphy, claiming their appeal for CCTV is essentially an admission they have no leads.

Mother-of-three Samantha Murphy, 51, was last seen leaving her home on Eureka Street in Ballarat East to go jogging in Woowookarung Regional Park, Victoria, about 7am on Sunday.

Her husband, Mick Murphy, 53, raised the alarm when she never returned in time for a pre-arranged family breakfast meeting at 11am.

A massive search for the mother was launched by police, SES and community volunteers before authorities revealed it would be ‘scaled down’ at the weekend.

The search for Ms Murphy was handed over to the Missing Persons Squad and reached a grim seventh day without a single trace of her anywhere to be found.

On Saturday, police appealed to the public to call for help with any CCTV or dashcam footage – even if Ms Murphy was not pictured in the video.

A former senior police investigator said the renewed plea ‘probably means they (authorities) have nothing to work with’.

Samantha Murphy (51) (pictured) disappeared without a trace on February 4

Samantha Murphy (51) (pictured) disappeared without a trace on February 4

The 51-year-old was last seen leaving her home on Eureka Street in Ballarat East to go for a run in the Canadian National Forest around 7am.

The 51-year-old was last seen leaving her home on Eureka Street in Ballarat East to go for a run in the Canadian National Forest around 7am.

“It just reads like a real mystery… it’s a lot of trouble, but they have to do it,” the ex-policeman told the Herald Sun.

The Missing Persons Squad is appealing for anyone with CCTV or dashcam footage in the Ballarat East, Mount Helen and Buninyong areas taken around the time of Ms Murphy’s disappearance to come forward.

The police believe that footage of vehicles, other runners and walkers can be decisive in finding witnesses or people who may have further information about her whereabouts.

“Even if the footage does not depict Samantha, detectives are keen to review all footage in the area between 07:00 and 19:00 on Sunday, February 4,” police said in a statement.

‘Police have previously urged everyone in the Ballarat East and Mount Helen areas, particularly around the Canadian Forest, to check their CCTV for any possible sightings over the past six days, but would now like to collect all footage.

“Despite extensive searches of the area over the past six days, no sign of Samantha has been found.”

The search for Ms Murphy has reached a grim milestone after authorities decided to scale back the search over the weekend.

Victoria Police said investigators would remain in contact with Ms Murphy’s family.

“The investigative phase of the investigation continues and as any new information comes to hand to identify areas of interest, the search will be escalated,” a Victoria Police spokesman said.

Community members volunteered in the search for the missing mother of three on Sunday, despite authorities scaling back the ground search

Community members volunteered in the search for the missing mother of three on Sunday, despite authorities scaling back the ground search

The search for Ms Murphy entered its seventh day on Sunday (pictured, members of the public volunteering in the search)

The search for Ms Murphy entered its seventh day on Sunday (pictured, members of the public volunteering in the search)

“The police are still in regular contact with Samantha’s family about the developments of the search and the status of the investigation.”

It comes after police sent specialist rescue teams to investigate abandoned local mine shafts in and around the Goldfields area.

It is feared that she may have strayed from the forest paths where she normally runs and fallen down one of the treacherous shafts that are often obscured by bushes.

But locals also said the mine shafts could be used to hide her body if she fell victim to foul play.

The police are also investigating the many local ponds on surrounding farmland to see if there is any trace of her there.

“There are a lot of disused mines in the area,” Crime Command Detective Acting Superintendent Mark Hatt admitted.

‘At the moment we have the police’s search and rescue team involved in the operation (for that). They have been involved in the search from day one.

‘This is a challenging area and terrain within the area of ​​search operation…it is also thick and rugged bush terrain.’

A massive search for the much-loved mum has been launched by local police, SES and hundreds of community volunteers (searchers looking for clues into Ms Murphy's disappearance)

A massive search for the much-loved mum has been launched by local police, SES and hundreds of community volunteers (searchers looking for clues into Ms Murphy’s disappearance)

Pictured, board information for 'spontaneous volunteers' who want to help in the search for Mrs Murphy

Pictured, board information for ‘spontaneous volunteers’ who want to help in the search for Mrs Murphy

Police have sent specialist rescue teams to investigate abandoned local mine shafts in and around the Goldfields area (pictured, location of mines and mine shafts in the Goldfields area)

Police have sent specialist rescue teams to investigate abandoned local mine shafts in and around the Goldfields area (pictured, location of mines and mine shafts in the Goldfields area)

Detectives from the Missing Persons Squad have also called in an army of telecommunications technology experts to try and piece together Ms Murphy’s movements from the phone data available to them.

Superintendent Hatt confirmed Ms Murphy was wearing an Apple Watch and had her mobile phone with her when she disappeared.

But he was reluctant to share any information about what the phone data has revealed so far.

“We are not commenting on that at this stage,” he said. ‘We are still working through our expert telecoms technicians to help us with that.’

A local cell tower is understood to have registered a ping from Ms Murphy’s phone on Sunday after she disappeared, but police declined to say more about the timing or location of the phone.

“We can’t answer that at this stage,” Superintendent Hatt said. “It’s obviously going forward for our telecom technicians.”

Superintendent Hatt added there was no information to suggest any foul play was involved and urged the public to avoid unnecessary and futile speculation.

He confirmed that the murder squad was not involved in the investigation as of Friday morning.

Superintendent Hatt said the homicide squad was not involved in the investigation as of Friday morning.

Ms Murphy's daughter Jessica (centre) broke down in tears at a press conference on Thursday.  Jessica, along with her father Mick (left), made a desperate plea for her to return home

Ms Murphy’s daughter Jessica (centre) broke down in tears at a press conference on Thursday. Jessica, along with her father Mick (left), made a desperate plea for her to return home

Mrs Murphy’s husband Mick and eldest daughter Jessica made a desperate plea for her to return home on Thursday.

Through tears, Jessica urged the public to keep searching for her mother.

“Mom, we love you so much and we miss you and we need you home with us, please come home soon, I can’t wait to see you,” Jessica told reporters.

“Mom is a very strong woman, and she is far too determined to give up this fight.”

Jessica’s father thanked the community for their support in recent days as he appealed for answers.

“People just don’t disappear into thin air,” Mr Murphy said.

‘Someone has to know something… whether it’s any little thing that you might think is relevant, just call the police, let them know.

“It will give us some peace of mind if we get some hope.”