‘My name is Cleo’: Australia police tell of ‘elation’ when they discovered missing girl

·4-min read
‘My name is Cleo’: Australia police tell of ‘elation’ when they discovered missing girl

An Australian police officer involved in the hunt for missing four-year-old Cleo Smith has revealed his “elation” when he discovered her inside a locked house.

Detective Sergeant Cameron Blaine was one of four officers who smashed their way into a suburban house on Wednesday and rescued Cleo, whose disappearance from her family’s camping tent on the country’s remote west coast more than two weeks ago horrified and captivated the nation.

Video footage showed the moment the tired looking girl was carried into the garden of the house in the rural town of Carnarvon.

Det Sgt Blaine asked her “are you ok?” before telling her: “We’re going to take you to see your mummy and daddy.”

Speaking about the moment Cleo was found, the officer said: “It was a shock to start with, quickly followed by elation. That could have been any one of the team, but it turned out I was one of four guys that were fortunate enough to go through that door and make that rescue.

“We had always hoped for that outcome, but were not prepared for it. It was absolutely fantastic to see her sitting there in the way that she was. It was incredible.

“I wanted to be sure it was her. I said, ‘What is your name?’ She didn’t answer, I asked three times, and then she looked at me and said, ‘My name is Cleo’.”

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

Det Sgt Blaine told how detectives were “openly crying with relief” once they realised who the girl was, before calling Cleo’s parents.

“We’ve got someone here that wants to speak to you,” Officer Blaine recalled telling mother Ellie Smith as he put Cleo on the phone, before adding: “Please start making your way to the hospital, we’ll meet you there.”

The little girl shouted “mummy” as she and Ellie were reunited at the hospital, with the pair sharing a hug and kisses.

“It was really an honour to be able to witness that reunion,” the detective said. He said the moment was “without a doubt” the highlight of his career.

Western Australia state Police Commissioner Chris Dawson would not detail what the girl had gone through. She is “as well as you can expect,” he said. “This has been an ordeal. I won’t go into any more details, other than to say we’re so thankful she’s alive.”

Commissioner Dawson said “dogged, methodical police work” led to her being found.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison reacted from the United Arab Emirates on his way home from Scotland, thanking police for finding Cleo and supporting her family.

Cleo Smith waves as she sits on a bed in hospital following her rescue (AP)
Cleo Smith waves as she sits on a bed in hospital following her rescue (AP)

“It’s every parent’s worst nightmare. The fact that that nightmare has come to an end and our worst fears were not realised is just a huge relief, a moment for great joy,” Mr Morrison told reporters.

“This particular case, obviously, has captured the hearts of Australians as we felt such terrible sorrow for the family,” he added.

New South Wales Police Commissioner Mick Fuller said Mr Dawson told him he had broken down in tears when she was found.

Commissioner Fuller had called across the country from Sydney on the east coast, to Perth in the west, to congratulate him on the outcome.

“He broke down and cried, which for a veteran in policing, you rarely see that,” Commissioner Fuller told Sydney Radio 2GB. “It speaks volumes in terms of the amount of effort they put into finding her.”

“Whilst we were all hoping and praying as the days went on, I think the chances of finding her alive were so slim,” he added.

Commissioner Dawson said body camera video of four police officers breaking into the house with a search warrant and finding the girl made him emotional.

“It’s a really joyous occasion. We don’t always get these sort of outcomes, and while we were very, very concerned, we didn’t lose hope,” Commissioner Dawson said.

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,” Mr Blanch said.

“To see Cleo rescued this morning, I’m speechless,” Mr Blanch added.

Read More

Five arrests as hundreds march during Cop26 protests

Walthamstow robbery: Police hunt gang armed with machetes

In Pictures: Protesters channel Nessie and the Queen for Cop26 stunts

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting