Sissy Austin's assault case revisited amid Samantha Murphy search

Investigators revisit Sissy Austin’s assault case amid search for Samantha Murphy


Investigators searching for Samantha Murphy have told media they’re revisiting the case of another woman who was attacked nearly a year ago, close to where the mother-of-three went missing.

Djab Wurrung woman and former Greens Senate candidate Sissy Austin was brutally attacked on 11 February 2023 while out trail running in Lal Lal– roughly 20 km away from where Murphy reportedly disappeared in Ballarat on 4 February 2024 while out for a regular run. 

Last year, Austin was allegedly attacked by a man with a homemade weapon (a rock tied to a stick) and knocked unconscious. Police at the time said they believed the attacker to be a Caucasian male wearing black jeans, a cap and no shoes or shirt.

Despite the brutal nature of the assault, her alleged attacker has yet to be found. Now, Austin says the police are revisiting her case with regards to Murphy’s disappearance but have failed to contact her regarding the investigation. 

In a scathing social media post on Wednesday, Austin laid bare the hypocrisy surrounding the police’s investigations into a missing white woman compared to her own case as a proud Aboriginal woman. 

“When a First Nations woman is attacked running, there’s little to no investigation. Then a year on a white woman goes missing running in the same town and now highly regarded detectives want to revisit my case, not because my life matters, but because the missing white woman’s does,” writes Austin.

“This is one of those clear examples where if police fail one of us, they fail all of us.”

Police scaling back the ground search for Murphy

Murphy, 51, went missing over a week ago after leaving her Ballarat East home to go for one of her regular runs at around 7am. She was captured by her home’s security camera dressed in an exercise shirt and with her hair pulled back. 

The alarm was sounded after Murphy failed to attend a brunch she had planned later that day.

Emergency services and locals from the area launched a full-scale search of bushland, with no trace of her found. On Saturday, however, police announced they were scaling back the ground search. 

Retired homicide detective Charlie Bezzina told the ABC, that it’s likely the police have a specific line of inquiry to justify scaling back this land search. He believes investigators could be looking at the same suspects who attacked Austin last year. 

Having spent three-and-a-half decades investigating some of the nation’s worst crimes with Victoria police, Bezzina said that if he were on the case, he’d “be looking very closely about the whole investigation, did they have suspects, whether you need to go back and talk to her.”

“I’d be looking at the investigation file. Let’s start re-interviewing those suspects, let’s get them alibied.”

As community members join the search and social media groups post theories on Murphy’s disappearance, Victoria Police have discouraged people from speculating on the case while investigators continue to look for evidence. 


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