Outsiders coming to Ballarat and joining the search for missing mother Samantha Murphy risk their own safety by venturing into the rugged terrain around town, the local mayor says.
Ms Murphy, 51, was last seen on February 4 when she left her Ballarat East home for one of her regular jogs about 7am.
A wide-scale search of bushland in the area has been conducted over the past eight days, but authorities say they’ve uncovered no sign of her whereabouts.
More than a week on, the case has captured the attention of people across Australia – and the world – with Facebook page Find Samantha Murphy gaining more than 20,000 followers.
It has helped co-ordinate citizen searches of bushland, which police have described as being laced with hidden mine shafts and dense shrub.
Ballarat mayor Des Hudson told Sky News it was humbling to know people had travelled from places like Melbourne and Geelong to help search for Ms Murphy.
But he was concerned newcomers might be putting themselves at risk in unfamiliar territory.
“What we don’t want, and what emergency services don’t want, is to then need to mount another search for other people,” he said.
“Ideally people would be in twos, at least so they can work as a team, but people do need to be careful.
“Ballarat is a town that was built on gold, lots of gold mines are out there — and people have to be mindful of that when they are searching.”
Victoria Police announced on Saturday the search for Ms Murphy was scaled back over the weekend after a week of unsuccessful work.
“Despite extensive searches in the area over the past six days, no sign of Samantha has been located,” it said in a statement.
It was believed Ms Murphy left her Eureka St home to go running in the Candian State Forest, which has been a focus of the search effort.
Senior police have stressed that no evidence of foul play has been uncovered, however, investigators were keeping an open mind as they try to solve the mystery.
Missing Persons Squad detectives took control of the case last week and continue to work alongside local police and emergency services.
The lack of progress and vacuum of new information has fed ongoing speculation about Ms Murphy’s disappearance online.
An image of a black bra cut in half and hung on a stump was posted to the Find Samantha Murphy page before being deleted.
Members dismissed the item as being relevant as footage of Ms Murphy taken on the day she vanished showed her wearing a white brad under her exercise clothes.
There has also been comments about a man reportedly seen by walkers in the forest who allegedly frightened women.
Rebecca Agheli has told media outlets she saw a “dishevelled” man near Woowookarung Regional Park during a trip with her husband on February 1.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese was in Ballarat on Sunday and passed on his wishes to Ms Murphy’s family.
“It is, has been, I’m sure just such a difficult time,” he said.
“I thank all those people who are involved in the search and hope that it has a good outcome.”
Police have called for residents to provide any CCTV or dashcam footage covering the Ballarat East, Mount Helen and Buninyong areas last Sunday.