Phone twist in search for missing mum Samantha Murphy: Police to try a new tactic in search

Investigators are set to look at mobile phone tower data to identify the movements of people in the area where Victorian woman Samantha Murphy disappeared. 

The 51-year-old mother of three left her home at Eureka Street in Ballarat East on February 4 to go jogging and has not been seen since. 

Despite a massive search effort involving police, SES and countless volunteers, no trace of her has been found.   

Police will try a new tactic in the search for missing mother-of-three, Samantha Murphy.

Detectives are now set to trawl mobile data from the Ballarat area, with particular interest in phones that ‘pinged’ from towers covering the zone they believe Ms Murphy was in hours after her run. 

The phone data could provide potentially help detectives identify people of interest and provide fresh leads as the search for Ms Murphy enters 30 days. 

However, analysis of mobile phone tower data could prove challenging in the Murphy case due to the number of people that live in the area. 

Phone ‘pinging’ would pick up people travelling along roads in cars and even those cycling or walking on tracks. 

Phone metadata has been crucial to the investigation after it pinpointed a precise location in the Mount Clear area, some 7km from her home, about an hour into her 14km jog.

Initial reports claimed Ms Murphy’s phone pinged off the Buninyong tower at 5pm on the day she went missing. 

However, that information, which remains to be confirmed, came in 10 hours after she had left for her run.

Despite a massive search effort involving police, SES and countless volunteers, no trace of the 51-year-old has been found

Despite a massive search effort involving police, SES and countless volunteers, no trace of the 51-year-old has been found 

Police last month indicated it was unlikely Ms Murphy will be found alive, with detectives probing if her body was moved.

Detective Acting Superintendent Mark Hatt said police were keeping an open mind about Ms Murphy’s disappearance but said the most likely scenario was that it involved one or more parties. 

Police have ruled out any type of medical episode and there is nothing to indicate she had left the area on her own accord.

‘Unfortunately given the time and the fact we’ve found no trace of her, we do have severe concerns and are very doubtful that she is still alive,’ Det Supt Hatt said.

Police were also looking into the possibility that Ms Murphy’s body was moved from where she vanished, he said. 

A number of people have been questioned over her disappearance, including family, friends and colleagues but Det Supt Hatt wouldn’t be drawn on the number of suspects in the case.

He did clarify that Ms Murphy’s husband, Mick, is not a suspect ‘at this stage’.

‘Everyone in relation to Samantha is a person of interest in our investigation. We’re speaking to everyone that was in her life,’ he said.

Ms Murphy's husband, Mick, is not a suspect 'at this stage'

Ms Murphy’s husband, Mick, is not a suspect ‘at this stage’ 

The detective also wouldn’t comment on whether police had uncovered links to outlaw motorcycle gangs or the financial standing of the car repairs business owned by the Murphys.

Investigators are reviewing about 12,000 hours of CCTV footage and following up over 500 separate pieces of information. 

Det Supt Hatt moved to reassure Ballarat locals and Victorians on a broader scale that detectives were doing all they could to provide some answers to Ms Murphy’s family.

‘I encourage anyone who does have information that could be relevant to this investigation, whether that’s a person or vehicle seen in the area on that day, something unusual such as a damaged vehicle or property, to please come forward and speak to police or provide the information via Crime Stoppers,’ he said.

Police are continuing to ask everyone in the Ballarat East and Mount Helen areas to check their CCTV for any possible sightings over the past three weeks.

Detectives are also urging anyone travelling through the area, particularly between 7am and 7pm on Sunday, February 4, who may have dash-cam footage to also check this for possible sightings.

Ms Murphy is described as mentally and physically fit and was training for an upcoming race by doing 15km runs.