Cleo Smith’s family was still reeling from a major tragedy when the four-year-old girl was allegedly abducted and held captive for 18 days.
Cleo Smith’s family was still coming to terms with a major tragedy when the four-year-old was allegedly abducted and held captive for 18 days.
Just over two months before Cleo went missing, her family received the heartbreaking news that her younger cousin Mason had died from a rare genetic disorder.
Mason, the son of Cleo’s aunty Shakira Otway and her husband Les, was born in July 2018.
By January 2019, Mason had begun to have uncontrollable seizures and was diagnosed with Lissencephaly, a rare condition that caused his brain to develop smoothly.
He was also diagnosed with cerebral palsy, epilepsy, vision impairment and global development delays.
Shortly after Mason’s diagnosis, his parents set up a Facebook page to document his journey
Being only slightly younger than Cleo and living in the same town of Carnarvon in Western Australia, the cousins appeared to be very close.
In November 2020, his parents uploaded a sweet photo of Cleo caressing Mason’s face while the families were on holiday together in Exmouth.
“Mason didn’t get to have a swim but he loved sitting by the pool and getting lots of cuddles from everyone,” the post read.
“The memories we make with Mason are becoming ever more precious as the horrible year of hospital stays continues.”
Another photo shows Cleo and Mason in the arms of their grandmother Sheryl Gliddon.
“Cousin love. Mason is blessed to have the most wonderful big cousin and a new little one on the way,” the photo was captioned.
Around the time of Mason’s third birthday in July this year, his parents announced he had passed away.
“It gives us the greatest pain to tell you all that our little warrior Mason Jay Otway lost his fight Sunday night in the arms of his Mum and Dad,” an update from his parents read.
“Rest easy little warrior, we will always love you. Mum and Dad.”
The family was undoubtedly still reeling from the loss of Mason when Cleo was allegedly abducted while camping with her family on October 16.
Cleo’s mum Ellie Smith and stepdad Jake Gliddon woke at 6am to find Cleo missing from the tent where they were staying at Quobba Blowholes, sparking a desperate 18 day search.
She was later found in the early hours of November 3 inside a locked house in Carnarvon, just minutes from her family home.
Carnarvon local Terence Darrell Kelly, 36, was arrested and charged with two offences, including one count of forcibly taking a child aged under 16. He is yet to enter a plea.
He will remain in a maximum-security prison in Perth until his next court appearance on December 6.
Detectives who rescued Cleo say final goodbye
Forensic officers and detectives working on the Cleo Smith case are wrapping up their investigation in Carnarvon and moving back to Perth for the next phase of the probe.
Detective Senior Sergeant Cameron Blaine and Detective Sergeant Jason Hutchinson, who helped rescue Cleo, reportedly visited the family home on Thursday, with photographs showing them carrying several presents for the young girl.
Forensic operations at Mr Kelly’s home began packing up on Thursday, as most of the Task Force Rodia team started returning to Perth.
Investigations will continue in the state’s capital city.
Earlier this week, forensic officers turned their attention to a Mazda SUV parked in Mr Kelly’s driveway.
On Monday, a white mobile phone was among the items seized.
A Bratz doll was seized earlier and a bed frame was examined by police too.
Police are still yet to find the grey and red sleeping bag that Cleo was curled up in when she was allegedly abducted.
Police revealed further charges could be laid over the alleged abduction, but ruled out recent claims that a “mystery woman” is being investigated.
Earlier, Detective Senior Sergeant Cameron Blaine said police were trying to “ascertain whether there was anyone else involved” in the four-year-old girl’s alleged kidnapping.
Deputy Police Commissioner Col Blanch was asked on Wednesday about reports that a woman was under investigation, as rumours continued to swirl that accused Mr Kelly was assisted by someone else.
“I can rule that one out,” Mr Blanch told reporters.
Asked if anyone else knew about Cleo’s alleged abduction, he said: “That’s all part of the investigation at the moment … my comment is I’m making no comment on the investigation.”
Pressed further about whether police had now ruled out a second person being involved, Mr Blanch said: “The investigation is ongoing — that’s all I’ll say at this time.”
Mr Blanch told 6PR radio that the justice system had to be allowed to run its course.
Asked whether further charges were expected, he said that that was part of the investigation process.
“That’s not something that I’ve been briefed on at the moment, but I would never say never because there is a long way to go about piecing together what had happened,” he said.
Mr Blanch warned people should not speculate about the case, rather they should allow the court process to run.
“We certainly had so much help from the community, certainly from the media,” he said.
“We all celebrated together as a community, as a state, but the police are back at work doing an investigation.”
He said he had to be very careful about what was being said in order to ensure a fair hearing took place.