Cleo Smith: first pictures of missing girl, 4, after she was found in locked house in Australia

By Rhona Shennan
Wednesday, 3rd November 2021, 9:07 am
Updated Wednesday, 3rd November 2021, 10:12 am
The moment Cleo Smith was rescued by WA Police (Photo: WA Police)
The moment Cleo Smith was rescued by WA Police (Photo: WA Police)

Cleo Smith, a four-year-old little girl who went missing in mid-October, has been found by Western Australia police officers.

This is everything you need to know about what happened.

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What happened to Cleo Smith?

Four-year-old Cleo Smith went missing on Saturday 16 October after allegedly being abducted from her family’s tent whilst camping at the Quobba Blowholes.

When she first went missing, the initial search was under the assumption that she had let herself out of the and had wandered away.

However, it was then revealed that the zipper on the compartment that she and her sister were sleeping in was too high for her to have reached it.

A massive air, land and sea search was launched with a taskforce of 100 officers sent from Perth, the state capital.

A reward of $1 million Australian dollars was offered by authorities (£540,000) for information regarding Cleo’s whereabouts.

When was she found?

Cleo was found alone in a house in Carnarvon, a town situated in the north-west coast of Western Australia, roughly 46 miles from where she and her family had been camping when she disappeared.

She was found in the early hours of Wednesday morning (3 November), 19 days after she went missing.

Speaking to Network Seven, Deputy Commissioner Col Blanch said: “Late last night [the police] found that needle that led them to that address and rescued Cleo.”

Police have said that the information was about a car, but could not elaborate any further.

Cleo Smith was found in the early hours Wednesday 3 November after police raided a house in Carnarvon (Photo: WA Police Force via Getty Images )

Blanch said in a statement: “A Police team broke their way into a locked house in Carnarvon about 1am.

“They found little Cleo in one of the rooms.”

Detective Superintendent Rod Wilde said that police believe it was an “opportunistic” crime.

After she was found, Cleo was taken to hospital for medical examination. She appeared to be physically well.

Cleo has since been discharged into her parents’ care.

Has anyone been arrested?

On Wednesday afternoon, WA police said that a 36-year-old man had been taken into custody following the rescue of Cleo.

Blanch said: “I can confirm we have a man from Carnarvon in custody who is currently being questioned by detectives.

“We’ll have more to say on the rescue of Cleo as the day unfolds.

“For now - Welcome home Cleo.”

While charges have not yet been laid, police expect that to occur later today.

Speaking to ABC News, a neighbour of the man in police custody was quoted as saying they had been spotted buying nappies.

The neighbour said: “We didn’t click who... He was buying them for.”

What have the police said?

In a press conference held outside the Carnarvon police station, Commissioner Chris Dawson said: “It is a really special day for Western Australia.

“I’m just the proudest police commissioner I think in the world at the moment.”

Detective Sergeant Cameron Blaine, one of the officers involved in raiding the house Cleo was found in, said that it was the “best moment” of his career. He added that the moment Cleo was reunited with her family, the four-year-old shouted “mum”.

Blaine said there were “big hugs, kisses and lots of tears”.

On Twitter the official WA Police Force account shared footage of the moment that Cleo was rescued.

Paul Papalia, the WA police minister, said: “If you feel the need to thank God today, thank God for the West Australian police force.

“Cleo’s rescue wasn’t the result of an accidental sighting or a suspicious event, it was the result of hard police grind from the moment this incident began.”

Who are her parents - and what has her family said?

Cleo’s parents are separated, and she lives with her mother Ellie Smith and stepdad Jake Gliddon.

On Instagram, Cleo’s mother shared a picture of her daughter at around 6am local time with the caption: “Our family is whole again.”

Speaking to a local newspaper, Cleo’s father, Daniel Staines, said: “We are all absolutely overjoyed at the good news this morning and so happy that Cleo has been reunited with her mum and dad.

“Thank you to everyone who helped look for her and bring her home, particularly the WA Police, SES and the Carnarvon community.”

Detective Sergeant Hutchinson, the family liaison officer, said that when he told Cleo’s parents about the news, they “were ecstatic”.

He explained that the raid had developed very quickly and that police had not had time to warn Cleo’s parents.

Hutchinson said: “To be able to give them that news and say they can make their way to the hospital and we will meet them there, that was fantastic.

“It was an honour to be able to witness that reunion.”

What did the Australian Prime Minister say?

Scott Morrison, the Prime Minister of Australia, said: “The fact that that nightmare has come to an end, and our worst fears were not realised, is just a huge relief. And a moment for great joy.

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

“I want to thank, particularly, all of the police and all of those who were involved in making sure that Cleo is safe. And we are so thankful, thank you so much for what you have done.

“I know you do it every day. I know that you feel a great sense of satisfaction in the work you have done to bring her home.

“But we know each and every day, they are out there doing the same thing. And trying to keep our kids safe and keep our people safe. So thank you so much.

“And thank God that Cleo is home and that she is safe.”