An expert bush tracker believes missing mother Samantha Murphy could “definitely” still be alive after nine days in the bush, and has accused Victoria Police of being too hasty in narrowing the search.
The mother-of-three left her home on Eureka Street in Ballarat, west of Melbourne, to go for a run in Woowookarung Regional Park about 7am on February 4 and has not been seen since.
The scale of the search operation was reduced after a week of fruitless efforts, with fears growing that she may not be alive.
Howeverprofessional tracker Jake Cassar He told Daily Mail Australia Ms Murphy could survive in the bush for weeks if she had access to water.
Samantha Murphy, 51, (pictured) disappeared without a trace on February 4.
Jake Cassar (pictured) is a bush tracker who believes Samantha Murphy could still be alive.
“She could be absolutely alive if she found her way to the water,” he said.
“You can go three days without water and about a month without food, but in the past people have survived for months.”
He said police typically suspend ground searches for five to nine days due to lack of funding and resources.
Cassar urged authorities to ask bush trackers for help and said he would be willing to conduct his own search.
“Being at the mercy of the elements is not a good way to go,” he said.
“The SES does a great job, as do the police, but the volunteers need to get back to their families and their jobs.”
Cassar said drones with heat sensors, sniffer dogs, military trackers and indigenous trackers should be brought in regularly to help find missing people.
“People can survive incredible situations, so it’s a shame they stopped the search. She is a mother and a beloved family member and it would be great to see more funding allocated to search and rescue,” he said.
“If there was funding, I would love to come and help find it.”
Police, the Country Fire Association and State Emergency Service volunteers and hundreds of locals spent six days scouring the bush in search of Ms Murphy, but the official search stopped on Saturday.
Small teams of locals scoured the bushes in search of the missing mother on Sunday, while another group organized to meet at Buninyong police station the following morning, but with temperatures reaching 36 degrees, no one turned up on Monday.
On Monday, the administrator of the ‘Find Samantha Murphy’ Facebook group, which has gained thousands of members since its disappearance, announced that she was deleting the group.
A Facebook group dedicated to helping find Ms Murphy was also dramatically shut down on Monday and group messaging chats were dramatically deleted.
Cin Hobbs, who ran the group, said: “This group has served its purpose and we have been given the green light to remove it.”
Samantha Murphy was last seen leaving her home on Eureka Street in Ballarat East to go for a run in the Canadian State Forest around 7am (CCTV pictured)
Samantha Murphy left her Ballarat home at 7am on Sunday to go for a run in the nearby state forest and did not return home, nor has she been seen since.
“This is a huge mission in itself, since I have to eliminate all the members… the best thing you can do for her is to help speed up the process by eliminating yourself.”
There were other Facebook groups dedicated to the search, but none were as large as Hobbs’ group.
Before it was removed, locals would post maps of the areas they covered during their independent searches and report their findings.
On Saturday, a person found a black bra cut in half and hanging on a fence and reported it to police.
Members were shocked and confused when they discovered that all of their quest maps and information about the clues they found would be deleted, but no explanation was provided beyond Ms. Hobbs’ original post.
Mrs Murphy’s husband Mick was not at his repair business on Monday and his colleagues declined to comment on the situation.
The official police search for Ms Murphy has been handed over to the Missing Persons Team and A large-scale search will only be resumed if new information emerges.
Crime Command Acting Superintendent Mark Hatt confirmed last week that Ms Murphy was carrying an Apple Watch and her mobile phone with her when she disappeared.
SES assisted with the search for Samantha Murphy last week, but efforts were halted on Saturday.
It is understood that a local mobile tower recorded 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 respond to that at this time,” Superintendent Hatt said.
“We tell this to our telecommunications technicians.”
During an independent search at the weekend, concerned locals found a defaced council sign about a water quality issue at Dean Reservoir, north-east of where it disappeared.
The sign read: “Please note that the water quality issue is currently impacting water clarity at Dean Reservoir.”
Below the paragraph, the vandal wrote: “Thanks Sam.”
The resident reported the vandalism to police and posted a photo of the shocking act on a social media group dedicated to the search.
One group member wrote: ‘The implication is that the reservoir is closed because of Sam.
‘I’ll let you find out why. If it’s a bad joke, it’s not funny.