Samantha Murphy




Samantha Murphy: tech detector dogs deployed in continuing search for body of allegedly murdered Ballarat woman

Adeshola Ore The Guardian

 21 March 2024



Victoria’s police commissioner said the dogs would be deployed at Buninyong as they had not yet found missing woman’s phone or watch


Victoria police have deployed specialist technology detector dogs in their search for the missing Ballarat woman Samantha Murphy.

The renewed search for Murphy, 51, zeroed in on bushland at Buninyong, south of Ballarat, on Wednesday. The search focused on the last known position of Murphy’s mobile phone.

But later that day police said it had concluded without finding the alleged murder victim.

Victoria’s chief police commissioner, Shane Patton, said investigators were continuing the search on Thursday.

“We’re up around there again today,” he told ABC radio. “We’ll be going to a different location but we will also use assistance from the Australian federal police today in technical detection dogs. We still haven’t recovered her phone and her watch.”

Patton said the AFP’s dogs were able to sniff out technology such as mobile phones and sim cards.

“We don’t have the capacity – we’re trying to get that capability,” he said.

The AFP’s tech detector dogs were recently used to sniff out five iPads, a USB and a smartwatch at the home of Erin Patterson, the Victorian woman charged in connection to an alleged mushroom poisoning plot last year.

Murphy’s family reported the mother of three missing when she did not return home from a run on Sunday 4 February. She had told family and friends she planned to go for a 14km run in the Woowookarung regional park, near her home in Ballarat East.

Police said on Wednesday new intelligence from a number of sources had led them to return to comb through bushland in the Buninyong area. The “significant” search focused on the area where Murphy’s mobile phone was last detected on the day she went missing last month.

But police on Wednesday afternoon said they had concluded the search without locating the mother of three.

The renewed search effort came after police charged 22-year-old Patrick Stephenson, from the nearby farming town Scotsburn, with Murphy’s murder, earlier this month.

Wednesday’s search included officers from specialist units including the missing persons squad, search and rescue squad, dog squad and mounted branch.

Acting Det Supt Mark Hatt said on Wednesday investigators remained committed to finding Murphy so she could be returned to her family.


“We will also look at further searches in the Ballarat area as the investigation progresses,” he said.

Police allege Stephenson murdered Murphy, 51, in a deliberate attack on 4 February – the day she vanished last month.

After Stephenson was charged on 6 March, Patton said the accused had not disclosed the location of Murphy’s body.

Patton said on Thursday the renewed search was not based on information provided by Stephenson.

Murphy’s husband, Michael, issued an emotional plea after police charged Stephenson, saying he hoped the 22-year-old had information that would help police find the body.

Police have not disclosed how Murphy was allegedly murdered but Patton alleged it was an “intentional act”. He said Stephenson was not known to Murphy’s family and was believed to have acted alone.

Stephenson remains in custody and is scheduled to reappear in court for a committal mention hearing on 8 August.