Samantha Murphy hunt: New blow for family as police call off latest search for mother-of-three’s body after finding phone clue in dam

Police will not return to the area where they found what is believed to be the phone of missing mum Samantha Murphy. 

On Wednesday, Victoria Police search crews were seen celebrating after finding a mobile phone beside a dam on farmland near where the mother-of-three’s mobile phone last connected to a mobile tower in the Buninyong region. 

The dam sits about 15km from Ballarat East where Ms Murphy took off on her last run on February 4. 

A police officer picks-up a phone believed to be that of missing mum Samantha Murphy 

The phone appeared to contain identification within a wallet

The phone appeared to contain identification within a wallet 

A police spokesperson confirmed the Missing Persons Squad had advised it will not be sending search crews back into the region on Thursday. 

‘There is no update on the forensic assessment of the items,’ the spokesperson said. 

The decision to halt the search will come as a further blow to the Murphy family, who are yet to address the dramatic discovery of the mobile phone. 

While police remain tight-lipped about confirming the ownership of the recovered phone, police crews at the scene showed their delight at the find as a television helicopter captured the moment from above. 

Aerial footage from the scene showed officers locating the mud-splattered mobile phone in a wallet at the water’s edge, prompting jubilant celebrations among detectives standing nearby.

Video captured by the helicopter showed police hugging, backslapping and shaking hands as they examined the phone, which was contained in a wallet which appeared to still have identification cards inserted. 

Samantha and Mick Murphy in happier times

Samantha and Mick Murphy in happier times 

Police divers scoured the dam under brutally cold conditions

Police divers scoured the dam under brutally cold conditions 

The dam sits next to a major road out of the region

The dam sits next to a major road out of the region 

It is understood the phone had been located by a police tech detector dog.

A team of police divers were then sent into the water to scour the small dam for any further possible evidence. 

Police were also seen using a metal detector to scan the edge of the water as an excavator was brought to clear a pathway through thick bush for investigators.

The owner of the property, who wished to remain anonymous, said police contacted him about three weeks ago asking for permission to access his land.

The man said officers returned on Wednesday where they told him they were going to perform a line search along the road.

‘A dog found something on the banks and they came up and asked me and my wife to make a statement,’ he said.

A police tech dog (pictured) is believed to have made the discovery at the dam 

An excavator was used to clear blackberry bushes beside the dam on Wednesday

An excavator was used to clear blackberry bushes beside the dam on Wednesday 

Patrick Orren Stephenson is charged with Samantha Murphy's murder

Patrick Orren Stephenson is charged with Samantha Murphy’s murder

The man said police were interested in the levels of his dam.

‘I hasn’t seen anything suspicious out there. We don’t have cameras. But yeah I believe one of those tech dogs found it,’ he said.

The man said detectives came and spoke to him about a month after Ms Murphy vanished, but only returned again in recent weeks.

‘They just asked me if I’d seen anything suspicious,’ he said.

Police allege Ms Murphy was killed on the day she went missing in the Canadian State Forest but no trace of her has been found since she vanished.

In early March, Ballarat man Patrick Orren Stephenson, 22, was charged with her  murder. 

Police have launched multiple searches in bushland as part of its investigation since February.

Last month, police brought in specialist cadaver dogs from New South Wales to scour the Victorian bush at multiple locations in dense scrub without success.

Teams of officers focused their search within Enfield State Park, 30km south of Ballarat – but another search team was also working 25km away in thick scrub in the Durham Lead Nature Conservation Reserve.

The Durham reserve is just a short distance from the dam where police recovered the phone on Wednesday. 

Stephenson is due to face court again on August 8 over the driving and murder charges.