Missing four-year-old Cleo Smith found ‘alive and well’ in Western Australia
Cleo Smith, a four-year-old girl allegedly abducted from her family’s tent at a campsite in Australia, has been found alive and well after 18 days of intense search efforts.
Cleo, who went missing on 16 October, was found in a locked house not far away in Carnarvon, after the police smashed their way in.
The police have arrested a 36-year-old man from Carnarvon and are questioning him, and the authorities say they have so far not found any connection between the man and the Smith family.
Meanwhile, Cleo has been reunited with her parents. “Our family is whole again,” Ellie Smith, Cleo’s mother, wrote on Instagram as she shared the news.
The Australian prime minister Scott Morrison described the breakthrough as “a huge relief”.
“The fact that that nightmare has come to an end and our worst fears were not realised, is just a huge relief,” Mr Morrison said.
Follow the latest live updates below.
Cleo ‘as well as you can expect’
Chris Dawson, Western Australia state police commissioner, said Cleo Smith is “as well as you can expect”.
“This has been an ordeal. I won’t go into any more details, other than to say we’re so thankful she’s alive,” he said.
Zoe Tidman3 November 2021 10:01
What we know about where Cleo was found
Cleo Smith was found in a house in Carnarvon, the same town where her family live in Western Australia, following a tip made to police.
The town sits on the coast and has a population of around 5,000 people.
The campsite Cleo was abducted is north of Carnarvon and around a 50 minute drive away.
The man arrested is not thought to be known to the family.
Here is the scene from outside the house:
Zoe Tidman3 November 2021 09:48
‘They found little Cleo in one of those rooms’
Police broke into a locked house at around 1am local time, an official told reporters.
“They found little Cleo in one of those rooms,” he said.
Watch the moment police announce Cleo had been found “alive and well”:
Zoe Tidman3 November 2021 09:38
‘I think we have someone who wants to talk to you’
A reporter in Australia has told BBC Breakfast about the moment Cleo’s parents heard her voice on the phone.
The police family liason called them shortly after midnight and said: “I think we have someone who wants to talk to you.”
Watch his report from outside the house where the four-year-old was found:
Zoe Tidman3 November 2021 09:19
‘We’ll take you back to see you mummy and daddy’: Body-worn camera reveal moments after Cleo was found
The footage from police body-worn cameras revealed the moments after four-year-old Cleo was rescued from a house in Carnarvon. The video shows senior sergeant Cameron Blaine introducing himself, while she is holding tightly onto another officer.
“My name’s Cameron, how are you? Are you okay? We’re going to take you to see your mummy and daddy, OK? Is that good?”
The girl nods her head to both questions.
Namita Singh3 November 2021 08:29
Criminology expert says Cleo Smith case ‘breaks all the rules’
A criminology expert says that the rescue of Cleo Smith this morning “breaks all the rules” of a child abduction case, as happy endings in such cases are extremely rare.
“Although we all hoped for the best, we were all fearing the worst,” Xanthe Mallett, an associate professor of criminology at the University of Newcastle in Australia, told ABC News.
“Nineteen days is an extraordinarily long time for a child to be missing and to be found safe,” she added. “This case really breaks all the rules.”
Namita Singh3 November 2021 08:19
“We’d always hoped for that outcome but still we just were not prepared for it, so it was absolutely fantastic,” said Sergeant Cameron Blaines, as he described the moment when the police found Cleo “alive and well”.
Namita Singh3 November 2021 08:12
‘My name is Cleo’: Detective recounts moment he found missing girl alive
Recounting the moment when he first saw the four-year-old sitting in a room alone, detective sergeant Cameron Blaine told reporters he was in shock at first but that feeling was “quickly followed by elation”.
“One of the guys jumped in front of me and picked her up and I just wanted to be absolutely sure that – it certainly looks like Cleo – I wanted to be sure it was her. I said, ‘what is your name?’ She didn’t answer, I asked again and she didn’t answer. I asked a third time and then she looked at me and said, ‘my name is Cleo’. And that was it. Then we turned around and walked out of the house.”
Namita Singh3 November 2021 08:00
Cleo ‘a little Energizer Bunny’
Detective sergeant Cameron Blaine, one of the four police officers involved in the rescue of Cleo, described her as “a little Energizer Bunny”.
“What can I say, having seen her a couple times this morning, she is a little Energizer Bunny. How she has that much energy – I wish I did, I am about ready to go to sleep. Very sweet, energetic girl,” he told the media.
The four-year-old was “very trusting and very open” with the police, he added. “We all wanted to take turns holding her. It was a really good experience.”
Namita Singh3 November 2021 07:41
What we know about Cleo Smith abduction suspect
The 36-year-old man arrested in the case of Cleo Smith was “known to police”, said homicide detective superintendent Rod Wilde on Wednesday. “He is known but I have to be very careful around that,” he revealed.
The police have said they suspect that the man taken into custody during the early hours of Wednesday was acting alone.
The investigators in the initial probe did not find any connection between the suspect and Cleo’s family, and believe it to be a case of “opportunistic” abduction. The police hope to lay charges against him today.
“There’s no other person that we suspect being involved,” said Mr Wilde. “It appears as though it was opportunistic.”
The suspect sustained head injuries in his holding cell and has been taken to the hospital by the police, reported 9 News.
Namita Singh3 November 2021 07:17