An ex-homicide detective has explained why police scaling back the search for missing mother-of-three Samantha Murphy may actually mean good news for the investigation.
The 51-year-old vanished on the morning of February 4 while going for a run in the Woowookarung Regional Park, northwest of Melbourne, at about 7am.
A major search was launched involving various police units but it was scaled back on Saturday with locals now taking it upon themselves to continue searching for Ms Murphy.
Charlie Bezzina, who worked in the Victorian Police on a number of high profile criminal cases, said he didn’t think the public should be disheartened by the update.
Samantha Murphy, 51, (pictured) vanished without a trace on February 4
‘It indicates the detectives are following a certain line of inquiry. The fact they’ve scaled it back should give people confidence that they’re following that,’ Mr Bezzina told Daily Mail Australia.
‘They appear to be comfortable enough to scale this search back. That tells you they’re confident to some degree that she’s not in that area.’
He added that police would not jeopardise any possible line of inquiry by publicising it to the media.
‘The only people they’ve got to be honest with are the family,’ he said.
Some residents have rallied together together to continue coordinating their own searches.
The former detective said it was still worthwhile for locals to do, even for their own peace of mind.
Mr Bezzina added it was important for Ms Murphy’s case to remain in the public eye to help with the investigation, given police have heavily relied on residents coming forward with any information.
‘Clearly the case has waned in the Greater Melbourne CBD area, with the most interest coming from within the country areas,’ he said.
‘It’s important to keep the investigation alive in the media.’
Charlie Bezzina, who worked within the Victorian Police force on a number of high profile criminal cases, said it was possible detectives may be further along in the investigation than it seems
Police and Country Fire Association and State Emergency Service volunteers and hundreds of locals spent six days scouring bushland for Ms Murphy, but the official search came to a halt on Saturday.
Small teams of locals scoured bushland for the missing mum on Sunday, while another group organised to meet at Buninyong Police Station the following morning, but with temperatures soaring to 36 degrees, no one showed up on Monday.
On Monday, the administrator of the Facebook group ‘Find Samantha Murphy’ – which garnered thousands of members since she disappeared – suddenly announced she would delete the group.
Cin Hobbs, who ran the group, said: ‘This group has served its purpose and we have been given the go ahead to delete.
‘This is a huge mission on its own as I have to remove every member… the best thing you can do for her is to help speed the process up by deleting yourself.’
There were other Facebook groups dedicated to the search, but none were as big as Ms Hobbs’ group.
Local volunteers are continuing their own searches for Samantha Murphy
Before it was removed, locals would post maps of the areas they covered during their independent searches and report their findings.
One person on Saturday found a black bra that had been chopped in half and hung on a fence and reported it to police.
Members were shocked and confused when they found out all their search maps and information about clues they found would be deleted, but no explanation beyond Ms Hobbs’ original post was provided.
The official police search for Ms Murphy has now been handed over to the Missing Persons Squad and a full scale search will only resume if fresh information emerges.