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Samantha Murphy search: Ex-cop Charlie Bezzina slams investigators over major issue in the search for the missing mum

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Former homicide detective Charlie Bezzina has lashed out at Victoria Police over its handling of the search for Samantha Murphy, blasting a widely publicised search as a PR stunt.

Wednesday marks 52 days since the 51-year-old vanished after she left her East Ballarat home to go for a run in Woowookrung Regional Park at 7am on February 4 in a cold case that has shocked the nation.

No trace of the mother-of-three has been found, despite Patrick Orren Stephenson, 22, being charged with her murder.

One week ago, search crews returned to the Buninyong bush, south of Ballarat, in what was the force’s first publicly advertised search since February 22. Images from the search captured cadaver dogs, cops on motorbikes and dozens of officers on foot preparing to scour the terrain.

Despite the vast resources the search was short-lived, with police abandoning efforts at 2.30pm after just eight hours.

Mr Bezzina told Daily Mail Australia he had expected more from investigators and described it as a ‘show pony’ search.

‘There were no line searches and they didn’t even get the SES involved. From the outside looking in, you might think it was just a PR stunt,’ he said.

‘The search looked uncoordinated – it didn’t make sense.’

Former homicide detective Charlie Bezzina (pictured) has lashed Victoria Police for launching a ‘show pony’ search for missing mother-of-three Samantha Murphy

The former detective was surprised that the police decided to halt the search at the new site so soon. 

He claimed that their decision to stop the search hours later had ‘backfired on them’ – with pressure now mounting for officers to bring closure to the Murphy family. 

A Victoria Police spokesperson told Daily Mail Australia last week’s effort was ‘a real search conducted as part of a significant investigation’. 

On Thursday – a day after the publicised search – Victoria Police Commissioner Shane Patton revealed on Melbourne radio investigators were searching again elsewhere.

While the location of that search was not disclosed, it was revealed Australian Federal Police technology detection dogs had been brought into the scrub.

The commissioner’s comment led police to admit it had been carrying out ‘small scale searches’ as part of its investigation for weeks.

‘The whole investigation has been bizarre,’ Mr Bezzina said. ‘To have the chief police commissioner getting involved and contradicting investigators is highly unusual.’

Police on Tuesday admitted there were no new developments on locating Ms Murphy’s body, but the investigation was ongoing.

Ms Murphy, 51, was last seen leaving her East Ballarat home to go for a jog on February 4

Ms Murphy, 51, was last seen leaving her East Ballarat home to go for a jog on February 4 

Victoria Police have been criticised for only spending eight hours at a new search area

Victoria Police have been criticised for only spending eight hours at a new search area

Stephenson will remain behind bars until his next court appearance in August and Mr Bezzina said the murder proceedings would continue to court even if investigators never find Ms Murphy’s body.

‘It might diminish the case a bit and there’ll be no cause of death,’ he said. 

‘But we’ve had convictions without bodies before. It will be based on circumstances, that she went running, never returned and this is out of character.’

Mr Bezzina said if no body was found, it eliminated the possibility of finding evidence, such as DNA, that could link the alleged killer to her body. 

‘The priority for police is locating the body – first so it can be returned to her family, then for causation, then for evidence,’ he explained. 

Investigators launched a fresh search at the Buningyong Bushland Reserve last Wednesday

Investigators launched a fresh search at the Buningyong Bushland Reserve last Wednesday

Police on motorbikes (pictured) were part of fresh - and shortlived - search efforts last week

Police on motorbikes (pictured) were part of fresh – and shortlived – search efforts last week

The latest police searches were not even disclosed to Ms Murphy’s immediate family.

Daily Mail Australia revealed last week how both Ms Murphy’s husband Mick and her father John Robson were oblivious to the searches in their own neighbourhood.

Mr Murphy was spotted on a desperately lonely drive through bushland as he tried to find the site police were searching for his wife’s body last Wednesday.

Mr Robson later said both he and his son-in-law were being excluded from any developments in the investigation.

‘We are in the dark mate. We haven’t a clue what is going on. Mick is in the same boat as us,’ he said.

Mr Robson said he and his wife were no closer to achieving the closure they so desperately needed.

‘They have told us nothing,’ he said.



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