Cleo Smith: Missing 4-year-old found alive in Australia as man arrested

·3-min read
Cleo Smith: Missing 4-year-old found alive in Australia as man arrested

The mother of Cleo Smith found alive 18 days after vanishing from a tent in a remote campsite has said her family is “whole again”.

A police team broke their way into a locked house in Carnarvon, Western Australia about 1am on Wednesday and found the four-year-old dubbed “Australia’s Maddie”.

In bodycam footage of the rescue, police can be seen carrying the girl into the garden before a police detective asks whether she is OK.

A police officer carries a tired-looking Cleo away from the house (Photo / WA Police)
A police officer carries a tired-looking Cleo away from the house (Photo / WA Police)

When Cleo smiles and nods, he tells her: “We’re going to take you to see your mummy and daddy, OK?”

A 36-year-old local man was arrested after a late-night raid at the house in the coastal town of Carnarvon, which followed a tip to police on Tuesday.

Police have said he has no connections to Cleo’s family adding he had only become a suspect in the case yesterday.

The suspect sustained head injuries while in his holding cell and has now been taken to hospital by police.

Neighbours said they became suspicious after the suspect described as a “loner” was spotted returning home with nappies.

One of them told Seven News she became suspicious after seeing the suspect buying Kimbies nappies from a supermarket.

“The other day, I think it was Monday, we saw him in Woolworths buying nappies but we didn’t click on who it was or what he was buying them for,’ she said. “Until now.”

Another neighbour described him as “a loner” who “kept to himself”, and was not the type to stop and talk to others who lived on the street.

He last saw the man just three days after Cleo disappeared.

Former friends say the man had not long been freed from jail. “His grandmother raised him... but after she died a year or so ago, nobody went over to [speak] to him,” the man said.

The girl was reunited with her mother Ellie Smith and stepfather Jake Gliddon soon after her rescue.

“Our family is whole again,” the mother said on social media.

Others woke to the news that Cleo had been rescued, as the streets of usually-quiet Carnarvon - population 4,500 - filled with pink balloons and ‘welcome back’ signs as people celebrated.

A vehicle was reported speeding away from the family’s campsite in the early hours of the morning.

A zip on a flap of the tent compartment where Cleo and her sister were sleeping was too high for the girl to have reached.

Cleo had been missing for 18 days (Western Australia PD)
Cleo had been missing for 18 days (Western Australia PD)

Western Australia police deputy commissioner Col Blanch described seeing seasoned detectives “openly crying with relief”.

“We were ... looking for a needle in a haystack and we found it,” he told Perth Radio 6PR.

“When she said: ‘My name is Cleo,’ I don’t think there was a dry eye in the house. To see Cleo rescued this morning, I’m speechless.”

Superintendent Wilde said Cleo was in good spirits and communicating well with officers after being found.

“Having seen her a couple times this morning, she is a little Energiser bunny. How she has that much energy, I wish I did, I am about ready to go to sleep,’ he said.

“Very sweet, energetic girl. Very trusting and very open with us. We all wanted to take turns holding her. It was a really good experience.”

Police interviewed more than 110 people who were at the Blowholes campsite on the night the little girl arrived with her family on October 16.

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