the disappearance of Mother-of-three Samantha Murphy has been officially declared a “suspect” by Victoria Police.
Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Shane Patton told Radio 3AW on Wednesday the investigation had reached a new stage.
“It is certainly unusual that we have not been able to locate any trace of her or any other evidence during that period of time,” he said during a news conference.
Samantha Murphy disappeared without a trace on February 4
“It’s suspicious, whether that means there’s foul play involved or not I don’t know, but obviously detectives are investigating a matter where a woman has been missing for a significant period of time.”
His comments came as Victoria Police detectives Missing Persons Unit He attended Murphy’s property on Wednesday morning.
The detectives, who arrived in a red van, spent more than an hour inside before leaving.
The East Ballarat property is essential to the investigation as it is where she was last seen on February 4, before going for her morning jog.
Ms Murphy’s husband Mick Murphy, who continues to be supported by family members, is understood to be co-operating with the specialist unit, attached to Victoria Police’s Homicide Squad.
Daily Mail Australia does not suggest Murphy had anything to do with his wife’s disappearance.
Last week, Acting Detective Superintendent Mark Hatt made no attempt to sugarcoat how the investigation into his wife’s disappearance would proceed in the future.
A smiling Mick Murphy leaving Buninyong Police on February 9. Police returned to his home on Wednesday.
Addressing reporters on Friday, the experienced police officer said detectives would now investigate Ms Murphy’s movements and interactions with other people in the days before her disappearance.
‘Of course, that will be a big part of our investigation. Going deeper into the background, investigating Samantha’s movements in the days leading up to her disappearance and also investigating the people who know her,” she said.
Part of the investigation, now called Operation Primus, will see detectives trawl through Ms Murphy’s computers and devices in the hope of finding clues.
The physical search for Ms Murphy has virtually been abandoned by police, who are now only expected to re-enter the rugged terrain thanks to specific intelligence.
On Wednesday, community members continued the search for Ms. Murphy in hopes of finding her alive.
Samantha Murphy was captured on CCTV the morning she disappeared
Murphy, 51, left her home on Eureka Street in East Ballarat, northwest of Melbourne, to go jogging at Woowookarung Regional Park shortly after 7am on February 4 and has not been seen since.
While police have released a CCTV image of Ms Murphy captured outside her home on the morning she disappeared, they have not publicly released another image of her from neighboring CCTV cameras.
Last week, a grainy video that police claimed was her running in the opposite direction of where they were searching at the time was later discovered to be another runner.
Superintendent Hatt told reporters that cameras on the Murphys’ farm had captured her walking down the driveway.
But he could not say which direction Ms Murphy took after leaving the property even though video captured her doing so.
“He caught her leaving the address,” he said.
It is still unknown who was home at the time Ms Murphy went out for a run.
What is known is that he was expected to return before 1am to attend a planned lunch date.
Murphy’s childhood friend Virginia O’Loughlan told Daily Mail Australia last week that she did not believe her friend had ventured into the rugged area where her phone was last pinged.
‘There’s no way she would have run that far. Absolutely no way. I’m sure of that,’ she said.
State Emergency Services crews had searched the area where Ms Murphy’s phone last “pinged”.
On Thursday, State Emergency Services volunteers and police entered the bush in an area between Canadian Plantation and Yankee Flat Road, about 15 kilometers from Ms Murphy’s home.
“I think she was going out to lunch that morning, so I think she would have gotten home around 9 or 10 in the morning,” he said.
The commissioner’s call for the inquiry will deal another devastating blow to Mrs Murphy’s three children.
Just hours earlier, Daily Mail Australia revealed that her mother’s beloved dog, Ruby, had also died in the days after she went missing after being hit by a car.
Last week, Jessica Murphy urged the public to continue searching for her mother.
“Mom, we love you so much, we miss you and we need you home with us, please come home soon, I can’t wait to see you,” he told reporters.
“Mom is a very strong woman and she is too determined to give up this fight.”
Anyone with information regarding Ms Murphy’s whereabouts is asked to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.