Samantha Murphy’s alleged killer Patrick Stephenson is unmasked as private schoolboy only son of retired AFL footballer Orren Stephenson as court overturns gag order

The man accused of murdering mother-of-three Samantha Murphy is Patrick Orren Stephenson, 22, the only son of a former AFL footballer.

Stephenson, 22, was arrested on Thursday in the Ballarat suburb of Mount Clear – about 5km from Ms Murphy’s home in Ballarat East in Victoria.

The identity of the alleged killer can only now be fully revealed after a court-imposed ban was finally lifted on Friday.

The tradie – who was himself a well-known local footballer – appeared in court on Thursday in a bright orange striking workman’s jacket to be charged with Ms Murphy’s murder on February 4.

A magistrate immediately banned the media from identifying him, but the blackout was lifted after an appeal from media outlets, including Daily Mail Australia, during a court hearing on Friday morning.

Stephenson’s father Orren made headlines when, aged 30, he made his elite debut as a ruckman for Richmond in 2012, before joining Geelong as a rookie in 2013.

His son followed in his footsteps and played for the same local Redan team his father had once played for.

Patrick Orren Stephenson (pictured center, with his father Orren and mother Whitney) has been charged with the murder of Samantha Murphy

Patrick Orren Stephenson (right) and his former AFL footballer father Orren in happier times

Patrick Orren Stephenson (right) and his former AFL footballer father Orren in happier times

In 2019, Stephenson appeared in the Ballarat Courier alongside teammates from the Redan Under 19s promoting the L.Watching the After Our Mates program.

It was an initiative that aimed at reducing the risk of players being affected by crashes caused by alcohol or other drugs.

The alleged killer attended Ballarat’s St Patrick’s College, a private Catholic boys’ school, which costs about $7,000 – $8,500 annually.

It is understood Stephenson was living between two houses when Mrs Murphy disappeared. He split his time between his parents’ home in Mount Clear and a share house in Scotsburn – about 10 miles from Mrs Murphy’s home.

He is one of three adult children of Orren Stephenson and his wife Whitney.

The retired 41-year-old player grew up in Wagga Wagga in New South Wales – the birthplace of bona fide AFL champion Wayne Carey.

The family moved to Ballarat in 2002 to be close to Ms Stephenson’s family, and set up an electronics company, Elite Voice and Data, which had to leave their home, according to company records.

It is understood the family have now left the area after a horde of media invaded their home on Thursday afternoon.

Orren started playing AFL for Ballarat’s Redan Football Club and after winning premierships in 2002 and 2003, he was named best and fairest player in 2004.

He then joined North Ballarat Football Club and played for Victoria’s VFL competition before being promoted to the AFL competition.

The veteran was cut at the end of the 2014 season.

The location of Samantha Murphy's body is unknown

The location of Samantha Murphy’s body is unknown

On Thursday the court heard that Stephenson, a trader, did not suffer from drug or mental health problems.

However, his lawyer David Tamanika warned that his client was at risk of harming himself while behind bars.

He was given a suppression order on the spot, despite the protests of a dozen journalists present at the hearing.

That gag order was lifted on Friday amid a storm of reaction to Magistrate Michelle Mykytowycz’s quick decision to impose the gag order.

Lawyers acting on behalf of a group of Australian news media stormed the court on Thursday afternoon, postponing the planned fight against the suppression order from April to Friday.

Ultimately, no fight was necessary and the suppression order was withdrawn by Stephenson’s own lawyer.

But Tamanika criticized the Australian media for advocating an open justice system.

“It is concerning that the application or granting of such orders could immediately become or be perceived as a form of underhanded action or manipulation by a suspect,” he said.

Mr Tamanika said his client’s request for a gag order was made for ‘bona fide’ reasons and was not an attack on the Murphy family.

“It had nothing to do with any disrespect or disregard for the position of Ms. Murphy or her family,” he said.

Tamanika said his client had hoped to keep his father’s name out of the press.

“The interim injunction appears to have had little effect in assisting what the intent of the application would be,” he said.

“The current media storm now includes the suspects’ families and the defense’s intention to help has only become that much more destructive.

“For these reasons, my client has asked me to withdraw the application.”

Samantha Murphy's husband hopes his wife's body will be found

Samantha Murphy’s husband hopes his wife’s body will be found

Dressed in a bright orange worker’s vest and sporting a bushy beard when he appeared in court Thursday, Stephenson’s identity had been circulated for hours on news websites and television broadcasts.

On Friday morning, hours before the 11 a.m. gag order was lifted, Stephenson’s name was widely linked to the alleged murder via the internet and social media.

In accepting the withdrawal of Stephenson’s request for a suppression order, Magistrate Mykytowycz suggested he had little hope of actually obtaining a full order.

The magistrate said she brought the matter to court after speaking with Victoria’s chief magistrate Lisa Hannn.

“In the absence of any evidence or sufficient credible information, I would not have issued an order suppressing the proceedings today even if some of that evidence had been in court… it was very, very, very unlikely,” she said.

At a news conference Thursday, Victoria Police Chief Shane Patton told reporters that Stephenson was unknown to the family of his alleged victim.

However, detectives issued no warnings to the general public about potential threats to their safety during the months-long investigation.

Stephenson will remain behind bars until his next court appearance in August.