Search for missing mum: Locals speak out

A desperate community banded together to find Samantha.

Locals in the regional city of Ballarat, Victoria, have told Woman’s Day of their shock and heartache following the mysterious disappearance of Samantha Murphy last week.

The mother-of-three was last seen leaving her property on Eureka Street for a run in the Canadian State Forest just after 7am on February 4.

At the time of going to press, Samantha, 51, had not been found.

Samantha was last seen on 4 February 2024. (Supplied)


In what has been dubbed the largest community response ever in the Ballarat region, hundreds of residents joined emergency crews to help look for Samantha.

Local Priscilla Grech spent last week searching with friends around a lookout. “I’m a mother-of-three too, and I just want to find her safe and sound and for her to be able to return to her family,” Priscilla tells Woman’s Day.

“I had a few other ladies with me. We split into groups of two and searched different tracks. It was very rough terrain – full of mine shafts – and the tracks led off everywhere.”

She explained how Samantha’s disappearance had affected everyone.

“It’s shaken our community, but it is great to see so many people who are out searching. I still have hope.”

Some residents initially voiced fears that Samantha may have fallen into one of the many hidden mine shafts in the area.

However, local cyclist Danny Brizzi disputes this. “If you’re a local, you always stick to the trails,” he told Woman’s Day. “The chances Sam accidentally fell down a shaft are extremely remote.

“Many of the dangerous ones that are near the walking paths have been professionally covered up. Most of the others are
mostly filled with dirt and aren’t dangerous.”

Danny, who covered more than 65 kilometres of trails, roads and paths last week while searching for the missing mum, explained he got on his bike as soon as Samantha was reported missing.

“[Samantha] is a part of our school community. I was focused on finding her,” he says.

On the afternoon of February 7, police established a crime scene just 500 metres from the avid runner’s home after discovering “items of interest” in nearby bushland.

Locals were asked to look for a phone, watch and earphones. (Supplied)


Detectives were spotted looking closely at a plastic tree guard in the shrub before cordoning off the area.

Samantha’s husband Michael Murphy reportedly looked shell-shocked while speaking to police at the scene, before he was
turned away.

The panel beater, who co-owns a smash repair business with his wife, previously told the media that he was “not too bad under the circumstances” and remained hopeful that she’d be found safely.

“It’s just up in the air, we don’t know,” he said. “It’s just a whole time thing at the end of the day,” referring to the
ongoing search.

Police later said they’d ruled out the items being in relation to Samantha’s disappearance.

The search continued late into last week, with more than 100 officers from various units, including the dog squad, mounted branch and air wing, alongside SES, CFA and Parks Victoria personnel involved.

Samantha’s daughter hit out against “malicious” speculation on social media about her mother’s disappearance. “You have no idea what you are talking about,” she wrote on Facebook. “Be quiet and think before you post.”

Police have found that Samantha’s phone pinged from a telecommunications tower, and said they were still working to discover if it remained on.

“Phones can run out of battery but that forms part of the investigation,” Acting Inspector Lisa MacDougall said. “We’re going to look into all the possibilities.”

Detectives cordoned off an area during the search. (Channel Nine)


A much-loved member of her community, Samantha is believed to have been involved with the Ballarat Centre of Music & the Arts for more than 20 years. Two of her children were also enrolled in the school.

Samantha’s family are “upset and concerned” while the police described her disappearance as being very out of character.

Anyone needing support can call Lifeline on 13 11 14. Anyone with more information can contact Ballarat East police on (03) 5336 6000.

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