Concerned residents hoping to join rescue efforts to find missing mother Samantha Murphy have been left shocked after learning the search was all but abandoned six days after she went missing.
Samantha Murphy, 51, went missing on Sunday, February 4, after leaving her home in Eureka Street, East Ballarat, to go for a run in the nearby Canadian forest at 7.16am
On Saturday, locals who turned up hoping to help rescuers in the search for Murphy were told there would be no coordinated effort and they could carry out their own searches alone.
One resident told Daily Mail Australia he was hoping to join the effort after working all week.
“It’s the first opportunity I’ve had and I just wanted to help,” he said.
On Saturday, locals who turned up hoping to help rescue teams in the search for Ms Murphy were told there would be no coordinated effort and they could carry out their own searches alone.
Police are advising locals not to enter the bush alone and to team up with a friend on the rugged terrain.
“It’s a little disappointing that the process is already closing,” said one man. ‘I mean, she could still be alive out there. It hasn’t been that long.
Murphy’s husband was also seen returning to the police station Saturday morning and spent about half an hour inside before leaving.
He declined to comment on leaving the building.
The search, which included volunteers from the State Emergency Services, National Fire Authority and Victoria Police, has been “scaled down” but not completely abandoned.
“The current phase of the active search for missing woman Samantha Murphy was scaled back over the weekend,” a spokesperson said.
‘An extensive 6-day search has been carried out in which the local police have participated, along with personnel from the Search and Rescue Squad, the Mounted Branch and the Canine Squad, in addition to significant assistance from members of the SES and the CFA.
‘Police continue to be in regular contact with Samantha’s family regarding the development of the search and the status of the investigation.
“The investigation stage continues and, as new information arrives that identifies areas of interest, the search will be expanded.”
SES volunteers search for clues near Buninyong as part of a large-scale search for missing Ballarat East woman Samantha Murphy; the search has now been significantly reduced
The move comes just one day after the Missing Persons Unit took over the investigation.
On Friday, Acting Detective Superintendent Mark Hatt told reporters that 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.
Superintendent Hatt said police were still working to determine who may have been in the area where Ms Murphy’s phone lost communication with the mobile towers.
His mobile phone had rang in the nearby suburb of Buninyong before going off.
Superintendent Hatt said detectives were still working with telephone companies to obtain data that could prove vital in shedding some light on the investigation.
‘At this time we cannot share any information regarding this. “We are still working with our telecommunications technicians to establish telephone movements and who was in the area at the time,” he said.
Superintendent Mark Hatt (pictured) said police were still working to determine who may have been in the area where Ms Murphy’s phone lost communication with the mobile towers.
Victoria Police had said on Friday the “current phase of the active search” for Ms Murphy would be scaled back over the weekend.
Specialist teams will continue searching despite the number of volunteers reducing over the weekend.
After an extensive search of the surrounding area turned up no clues, missing persons squad detectives took control of the investigation on Friday.
“Although no sinister factors have been identified in her disappearance at this time, there are significant concerns given that six days have now passed without her being seen or any sign of her current whereabouts,” police said in a statement.