A team of private investigators hired by a television network has joined the search for Samantha Murphy, a missing mother of three.
Daily Mail Australia can reveal Channel Nine’s Under Investigation hired at least five private detectives to put together tonight’s show into Ms Murphy’s disappearance, titled ‘The Runner’.
It comes as more information continues to emerge about Ms Murphy’s private life, including details about her campaign to free a former prison employee.
Samantha Murphy has not been seen since February 4
Mick Murphy, left, with Jack Aston, center, and Aston’s wife Wendy
Ms Murphy and her husband Mick publicly backed Ballarat bus driver Jack Aston in 2019, telling the Ballarat Courier his old job at his panel shop, Inland Motor Body Works, was waiting for him when he got out of prison.
‘He told me the last time he spoke to me that he is afraid of becoming lazy, that he will become lazy because there is not enough to do. He’s someone who’s always doing something,” Ms. Murphy told the newspaper.
Last week, Victoria Police Missing Persons Unit Detective Acting Superintendent Mark Hatt said the businesses were now a major focus of their investigation into Ms Murphy’s disappearance.
Both Aston and his son had worked in the Murphy family business, of which Ms Murphy was co-owner.
Murphy had even gone so far as to provide a character reference for Aston in court after his partner was found guilty of six counts of causing serious injury by negligence.
Aston had crashed a bus into Melbourne’s notoriously low Montague Street Bridge.
His five-year sentence in 2019 angered much of Ballarat and the wider community, who believed it was nothing more than an unfortunate accident.
He was released on appeal after spending a year behind bars.
Daily Mail Australia does not suggest that Murphy’s defense of Aston had anything to do with his disappearance, only that the defense occurred.
Samantha and Mick Murphy publicly defended Ballarat bus driver Jack Aston (centre) after he was jailed over a 2016 bus crash in Melbourne that injured six passengers.
Jack Aston was jailed for five years after crashing into Melbourne’s notoriously low Montague Street Bridge in 2016. Even his victims claimed he had been treated harshly.
The community had rallied around the release of Aston, who had been a beloved employee of Mick and Samantha Murphy.
Ms. Murphy was revered by those who knew her for her compassion and strong community spirit.
New photos obtained by Daily Mail Australia show her helping out at the local primary school her children attended.
The Ballarat community has more than returned the favor since she went missing while jogging on February 4.
Large teams have continued to venture into the bush in search of Ms Murphy long after police and emergency services volunteers gave up all hope.
On Wednesday, veteran crime reporter and Underbelly author John Silvester claimed police suspected Murphy’s likely killer was among them.
‘We know that the local population, the volunteers, have selflessly gone out to search again and again. “The police will also consider one of the searchers to be the killer,” he told Melbourne radio. 3AW.
Samantha Murphy during a Mother’s Day event at her son’s elementary school. She had been an active member of the school community.
A planned search by Ballarat locals was called off on Wednesday due to Victoria’s extreme weather conditions, which have sparked bushfires in the Ballarat region.
The program Under Investigation, which airs nationwide at 9 pm, is promoted as using “cutting-edge technology” as part of its research.
“Technology specialist Nigel Phair will follow Samantha’s digital footsteps and vital data collected from the phone she was carrying and the watch she was wearing – extraordinary digital clues to her latest movements,” a promo for the show read.
Superintendent Hatt has only provided the public with limited details about Ms Murphy’s phone and watch.
Last week, the detective declined to say what information, if anything, had or had not been obtained from the Apple watch Ms. Murphy was wearing when she went for a run.
He also did not say whether Murphy had turned on Google location tracking on his phone.
Superintendent Hatt said detectives know Ms Murphy was on foot when she entered the bush because of data obtained from that phone’s communication with a nearby telecommunications tower.
The Under Investigation program will also include contributions from missing persons specialist Valentine Smith, former Victorian detective Damian Marrett and mine explorer Raymond Shaw.
Anyone with information about Ms Murphy’s disappearance is asked to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.