Forensic police are scouring a lane in Brunswick this afternoon for any clues that could lead to the whereabouts of missing ABC employee Jill Meagher, whose disappearance after a night out with colleagues has now turned into a homicide investigation.
A person walking along a lane off Hope Street in Brunswick about 8am today spotted a discarded handbag lying beside a car and alerted police, who have since confirmed the handbag belonged to the 29-year-old Irish national.
The bag held Mrs Meagher's personal identification, but police were unable to say whether it contained her mobile phone, which is switched off.
Police said this afternoon that they had also found a pair of shoes near Victoria Street and Ovens Street in Brunswick, about 200 metres south of where Mrs Meagher's handbag was found. But police later said they were not linked to the missing woman.
Detective Inspector John Potter, from the homicide squad, said he feared Mrs Meagher, who works as a unit co-ordinator at ABC Radio in Melbourne, had met with foul play.
About 1.30am she declined an offer from a male colleague to walk her home, insisting she would be fine alone.
Police believe Mrs Meagher walked north along Sydney Road, and may have turned left onto Hope Street towards her home, but from there all trace of her vanishes.
Her husband Tom today told The Age that when his wife did not return home, he repeatedly called her mobile phone, which rang before diverting to message bank.
"I rang her mobile pretty much non-stop from two to six in the morning. I also went out looking for her at about five in the morning," Mr Meagher said.
But Mr Meagher, who described his wife of four years as his "best friend", said her phone rang unanswered until about 8am, when it diverted straight to message bank. He believes her phone has run out of battery.
Mr Meagher said he was going through "hell".
"It’s just devastating, but [I'm] just trying to push on as much as possible," he said.
Asked what was keeping him going, he replied: "Just hope. Just hope somebody saw something or she just walks through the door."
He said his wife’s father had been sick recently, however he did not believe this was a factor in her disappearance."Other than that she's really happy here. She's really happy in Melbourne," he said.
"I spoke to her before I left work [on Friday] and she was in great spirits. Everyone there said she was in good spirits."
Police said Mrs Meagher had consumed some alcohol, but by all accounts she was still well and able to walk home. Inspector Potter said the streets in that area were well lit and people would usually feel safe in that environment at night.
"Having said that we don’t know what's happened to Jillian and we don’t know the circumstances of her disappearance. But normally people do walk around there. It's a relatively busy time and a busy place, I'm told, in the early hours of Saturday morning," he said.
Early investigations suggest her bank accounts have not been touched since Friday. Police have also viewed some CCTV footage of Mrs Meagher that night, however it did not shed any light on her disappearance.
Police hope to comb through more CCTV footage today, and also to trace her bank accounts and mobile phone records.
A large number of police and State Emergency Service workers are conducting line searches in Brunswick this afternoon, and police will re-trace Mrs Meagher’s movements from when she left work on Friday to when she left Bar Etiquette.
A massive social media campaign is in full swing, with a Facebook page created to raise awareness attracting nearly 24,000 followers by 12.30pm today, up from 8000 followers last night.
On Twitter, dozens of people have posted or retweeted links to news stories, including ABC managing director Mark Scott, presenters Wil Anderson, John Safran, Leigh Sales, Francis Leach, Rafael Epstein, Libbi Gorr and Tamara Oudyn, and the Twitter feeds for the broadcaster’s respective programs.
Mrs Meagher is fair, 165 centimetres tall with a slim build, and has long, curly brown hair and brown eyes.
She was last seen wearing a blue dress, black jacket and black patterned stockings.
ABC Local Radio has released a statement saying Ms Meagher’s friends and colleagues were saddened and concerned by her disappearance.
"Jill is the unit co-ordinator of local radio Victoria. She is a highly valued and much-loved member of the local radio team," the statement read.
"Our thoughts are with Jill’s family and friends during this very difficult time."
Anyone who saw Mrs Meagher on Friday night or early on Saturday morning has been urged to call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.