Search for Samantha Murphy
Police are using sniffer dogs in the search for the remains of Samantha Murphy near Ballarat. Image by Joe Armao/AAP PHOTOS
  • crime

Police launch new tactic to find Samantha Murphy’s body


March 21, 2024

Highly-trained police dogs with the ability to sniff out mobile phone SIM cards are among the tactics being used in the renewed search for Samantha Murphy’s body. 

Victoria Police have launched more targeted efforts near the Buninyong Bushland Reserve, 11km south of Ballarat, on Thursday, according to Chief Commissioner Shane Patton. 

It comes after intelligence from multiple sources led authorities to carry out a wide scale search  at the reserve on Wednesday but the operation was called off by 2.30pm.

Police search for Samantha Murphy
 Police from multiple units are involved in the latest operation to find Samantha Murphy’s body. Image by Diego Fedele/AAP PHOTOS 

“We will be going to a different location, but we will also use assistance from the Australian Federal Police today and technical detection dogs,” Mr Patton told ABC Radio. 

“We still haven’t recovered her phone and her watch so we will use all those specialist skills and we will continue over the coming period to target specific areas and that’s based on analysis of telecommunications data, it’s information reports, it’s a whole range of investigative processes.

“We’re trying to get that capability to run a dog that can detect a sim from a mobile phone and that type of thing.”

Wednesday’s efforts focused on Sandys Hill Road, which is about 6km from the Mount Clear site where Ms Murphy went missing.

The operation involved specialist officers from the Missing Persons Squad, Search and Rescue Squad, the Mounted Branch and the Dog Squad, Public Order Response Team and local police.

The 51-year-old was last seen leaving her home on Eureka Street to go for a run in the Canadian State Forest on the morning of February 4.

Police search for Samantha Murphy
 Police focused their search for Samantha Murphy on the Buninyong Bushland Reserve near Ballarat. Image by Joe Armao/AAP PHOTOS 

Police allege 22-year-old Patrick Orren Stephenson murdered Ms Murphy at Mount Clear on the day she went missing.

The tradesman was arrested at the beginning of March and is due to return to court in August.

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

Authorities have spent weeks searching for the body of Ms Murphy, mostly within the Canadian State Forest.

Members of the public have also combed the wider Ballarat area in a bid to find any clues but were asked to stay away from the official search on Wednesday.

Ms Murphy’s disappearance and death sparked an outpouring of grief in the regional town, with hundreds of people attending an emotional vigil for the mother-of-three earlier this month.