Samantha Murphy: Family’s smash repairs business in Ballarat is a major focus in police investigation

A top repair shop in regional Victoria with a ‘strong reputation’ is now a key focus in Australia’s most baffling missing persons investigation.

The Inland Motor Body Works store, owned by missing mother-of-three Samantha Murphy and her husband Mick, is the largest in the Ballarat region, northwest of Melbourne.

Ms Murphy has not been seen since she left her Ballarat East home at 7am on February 4 to go for a run in a national forest on the outskirts of the regional city.

While searches of the woods have yet to shed any light on what happened to Mrs. Murphy, attention has now turned to their major repair shop.

CCTV captured Samantha Murphy’s last known movements on the morning of February 4

Speculation about outlaw motorcycle gangs frequenting the store’s customers has been swirling among the Ballarat community since the 51-year-old disappeared.

The Ballarat community is no stranger to motorcycle violence, with a senior Bandidos member shot in the clubhouse several months ago during the club’s national run.

Mark Hatt, chief inspector of Victoria Police’s Missing Persons Unit, declined to answer questions on Friday about possible links to motorcycles and Ms Murphy’s disappearance.

However, he did confirm that the panel beater’s books were being closely examined by detectives.

The Murphy family business, Inland Motor Body Works, (pictured) is being investigated by police as part of their hunt for Samantha Murphy

The Murphy family business, Inland Motor Body Works, (pictured) is being investigated by police as part of their hunt for Samantha Murphy

Police also reportedly took a number of “important items” from the repair shop.

“We are doing absolutely everything we can to find out what happened to Samantha,” said Chief Inspector Hatt.

The results of that study would not be discussed.

He also would not say which vehicles were searched or where they were taken from.

When asked if police had executed search warrants in connection with the search, Chief Inspector Hatt declined to say.

The motorcycle shop’s website describes itself as Ballarat’s ‘preferred choice for broken down repairs’ and has built a ‘strong reputation’ over 60 years.

Ms. Murphy is credited as head of administration and the “backbone” of the office, including “keeping Mick in check.”

Chief Inspector Hatt also said police believe Ms Murphy’s body has been removed from the area they are searching.

Mrs Murphy's husband speaks to police as they investigate his wife's disappearance

Mrs Murphy’s husband speaks to police as they investigate his wife’s disappearance

“That is certainly a scenario we are looking at. Based on our elimination process, we believe there is another party involved – whether it is one person or a number of people,” he said.

Her family and close relatives are all considered ‘persons of interest’, but no suspects have been identified.

Ms Murphy was wearing an Apple Watch during her flight, but police have not yet revealed whether they obtained any information from the device.

Police have now ruled out any idea that Ms Murphy disappeared due to a medical episode or because she simply wanted to disappear.

Chief Inspector Hatt claimed the 7km run to where her phone went out took the experienced runner more than an hour – about half an hour longer than necessary.

Although it was not directly stated, Chief Inspector Hatt suggested that police believed whoever helped Ms Murphy disappear had specifically targeted her.

“We have no information or evidence to suggest there is any risk to anyone else,” he said.

Police continue to sift through 12,000 hours of CCTV footage and 500 separate intelligence reports from community members.

Anyone with information about the case can contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.