people pay tribute to Samantha Murphy during a candlelit vigil
Samantha Murphy has not been seen since the morning of February 4. Image by Jeremy Bannister/AAP PHOTOS
  • homicide

Heartache as search for Ballarat mum’s body continues

March 9, 2024

Hundreds of mobile phone torches were raised as a mark of respect for murdered Ballarat mother Samantha Murphy as mourners stood in silent reflection to honour the mother of three at an emotional vigil.

Community members choked back tears at the gathering at Eureka Stockade Gardens in Ballarat on Friday evening and held a minute’s silence.

Many, including children, laid floral tributes and wrote condolences, acknowledging the profound effect the 51-year-old’s disappearance has had on the tight-knit community in western Victoria.

“There is a lot of emotion that still sits at the surface, and I can see that just by looking around,” Ballarat Mayor Des Hudson told the crowd.

“We ask, why did this happen to Samantha Murphy?” 

No trace of Ms Murphy has been found five weeks after her disappearance and Mr Hudson said he hoped her body would soon be found so mourners could pay their respects at a funeral.

People at the vigil
 People pay tribute to Samantha Murphy during the vigil. Image by Jeremy Bannister/AAP PHOTOS 

Ms Murphy was last seen leaving her home to go for a run on the morning of February 4.

Victoria Police allege she was murdered by 22-year-old Patrick Orren Stephenson, a tradie who was arrested this week on the outskirts of Ballarat.

Stephenson is the son of former AFL player Orren Stephenson, who played 15 games for Geelong and Richmond between 2012 and 2014.

Mr Hudson urged locals to let the investigation take its course, reminding the crowd that the accused and his family were also members of the Ballarat community.

“We need to be mindful that there are two families that are involved,” Mr Husdon said.

The vigil for Ms Murphy was held just hours after Stephenson’s identity was made public.

His lawyer David Tamanika had applied to temporarily suppress his client’s name when he faced Ballarat Magistrates Court on Thursday but that restriction was lifted on Friday.

Mr Tamanika withdrew the application on advice from Stephenson.

The lawyer said he made the initial application because he needed time to gather evidence to argue why his client’s details should be suppressed.

“It is concerning that the application or granting of such orders can be, or is immediately seen, as being some form of underhanded move or manipulation tactic by an accused person,” Mr Tamanika said.

On Thursday, Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Shane Patton said detectives were doing everything they could to find Ms Murphy’s body as it was “absolutely vital” for the family.

Stephenson will return to court for a committal mention on August 8.