Police have made an unsettling discovery in the search for missing four-year-old Cleo Smith, which may have helped her abductor to disappear.
Police have revealed how Cleo Smith’s potential abductor may have disappeared from the Western Australian campsite without being spotted, as the search for the missing four-year-old enters its 17th day.
Cleo was last seen in the early hours of Saturday, October 16, at the Quobba Blowholes campsite in Western Australia where she was staying with her family.
Her mum, Ellie Smith, said her daughter woke up at 1.30am asking for water before going back to bed.
Ms Smith then woke up at about 6am to find the tent unzipped and Cleo missing. Police believe the four-year-old may have been taken, after it was revealed the tent had been opened to a height Cleo couldn’t have reached.
As part of the investigation, police have been mapping the area through CCTV footage, with the process revealing her abductor could have left the campground without being caught on camera, The West Australian reports.
Police have discovered multiple escape routes that avoid CCTV cameras between the campsite and the town of Carnarvon, which is about 70km away.
The publication also revealed other campers at the site and those who volunteered to help with the search the morning she disappeared had their clothes, phones and other belongings forensically tested.
Anyone who was in the area at the time of her disappearance also had their palm and fingerprints taken and were swabbed for DNA after being interviewed by police.
“The data is collected through voluntary consent for identifying particulars,” a WA Police spokeswoman said.
Mystery driver still hasn’t been identified
A major focus of the police investigation now revolves around a report from two people who said they saw a car turn right off Blowholes Rd onto North West Coastal Highway, heading towards Carnarvon, between 3am and 3.30am on the day Cleo vanished.
The car was described as a “passenger vehicle”.
Police have appealed for the driver to come forward, repeatedly indicating the person may not be a suspect but may have relevant information.
Asked last week whether police were growing more concerned about the car given so much time has passed without the person coming forward, lead investigator Detective Superintendent Rod Wilde said: “It’s a priority for us to identify who was in that vehicle so we’d like that person to come forward … we haven’t identified that vehicle yet and we’d like to do so.”
Police confirmed on Monday that the driver still hadn’t come forward, despite the appeal being issued more than a week ago.
So far, CCTV footage as not provided anymore clues about the car or its whereabouts.
Police vow to ‘never give up hope’ as search continues
Investigators have vowed to “leave no stone unturned” in the search for Cleo, with police yesterday scouring through tonnes of rubbish in a bid to find any crucial evidence that could solve her mystery disappearance.
Officers collected more than 50 cubic metres of rubbish from roadside bins as far north as Minilya and as far south as Geraldton as part of their search.
“The rubbish was packed into two trucks and transported to Perth, where four forensics officers and 20 recruits spent two days sorting through hundreds of bags in an effort find any items that may assist in the investigation,” police said in a statement.
Earlier on Monday, Police Commissioner Chris Dawson said his officers would never give up hope of finding the four-year-old girl.
Asked whether time was becoming an enemy in the investigation, Mr Dawson said police had gathered thousands of pieces of “really important information” as well as seizing thousands of forensic items.
“It’s now been 16 days, and so clearly, every day that goes passed is most difficult for Cleo’s parents and loved ones,” Mr Dawson told reporters.
“Obviously, we share their concern. We’ll continue to walk with them.”
Mr Dawson issued another appeal to the community to come forward with any information that could help in their search.
“We never give up hope and it’s most important that we remain focused on the goal and the goal is clearly to find Cleo,” he said.
“Obviously we’re very, very concerned.”
Mum’s new heartbreaking plea
Cleo’s mum Ellie Smith recently shared another heartbreaking plea for information on her daughter’s whereabouts.
Ms Smith put another call out on social media over the weekend begging for help bringing her daughter home safely.
“Every day is getting harder without my shining bright light,” Ms Smith wrote on Instagram.
“Today she’s missed Halloween with her family -her cousins, aunties uncles nannas and pop but most of all her parents and baby sister.
“She needs us and we need her. She is loved, she is happy, she loves dressing up whether it be a princess or a doctor. I just want her to come home.”
Ms Smith urged anyone who has seen Cleo or knew of anyone acting suspiciously to please call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.
“I need my baby girl home, please I beg you!” she said.
It comes as Ms Smith and her partner Jake Gliddon endure relentless attacks from online trolls over Cleo’s disappearance.
The police have repeatedly said that the couple have been ruled out as suspects in the investigation, but that hasn’t stopped them from being the subject of horrific accusations and theories.
Mr Gliddon’s Facebook page in particular has come hotbed for trolls to voice their vile accusations against the couple.
Despite other users reporting the comments, many of them have remained on the page, with some now more than a week old.
One commenter said the couple should be subject to a polygraph test to “clear your names”, while others accused them of withholding information from the police.
Another person accused the couple of not looking sad enough during media appearances.
Some of the more sickening comments suggest Mr Gliddon and Ms Smith may have intentionally harmed Cleo.
On Saturday, Superintendent Wilde blasted the “disgusting” trolls that have been hounding the couple.
“They have been copping some very disgusting behaviour online and comments and everything else like that,” Perth Now reported him saying.
“We want to make it clear – they are not suspects in this investigation. They have been helping us.”