The search for Cleo Smith has come to an end after the four-year-old was found alive inside a “locked house” in the early hours of the morning.
Four-year-old Cleo Smith has been found “alive and well” in Western Australia, with the search for the missing girl finally coming to an end after 18 days.
Detectives found Cleo in the early hours of this morning after breaking their way into a house in Carnarvon, about 70km from the campsite where the four-year-old disappeared.
“It’s my privilege to announce that in the early hours of this morning, the Western Australia Police Force rescued Cleo Smith,” Deputy Commissioner Col Blanch said in a statement.
“Cleo is alive and well.
“A Police team broke their way into a locked house in Carnarvon about 1am. They found little Cleo in one of the rooms.
“One of the officers picked her up into his arms and asked her ‘what’s your name?’ She said – ‘My name is Cleo’.”
Cleo was reunited with her parents a short time later.
Cleo’s mum, Ellie Smith shared a short message to Instagram this morning, writing: “Our family is whole again”.
Deputy Commissioner Blanch said a man from Carnarvon is now is custody and is being questioned by police.
He thanked investigators, Cleo’s parents, the Western Australian community and the many volunteers who helped in the search for the missing girl.
“This is the outcome we all hoped and prayed for. It’s the outcome we’ve achieved because of some incredible police work,” he said.
Deputy Commissioner Blanch said investigators would have more to say on Cleo’s rescue as the day unfolds.
“For now – Welcome home, Cleo,” he said.
Cleo disappeared from the family tent at the Quobba Blowholes campground, in Macleod near Carnarvon in Western Australia’s north, on October 16.
Investigators believed the girl was abducted in the early hours of the morning, after ruling out that she would have been able to wander our of the tent on her own.
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. The Police were called just before 6.30am.
For weeks officers have been questioning people who were at the campsite, mapping CCTV cameras, using drones to help with the search and even shifting through tonnes of rubbish for any clues to her whereabouts.
Details of incredible police efforts revealed
A 7News reporter provided more details to Sunrise this morning about the incredible effort that went into this investigation, saying a detective was assigned to each individual person and cataloguing every single car, including noting what time and direction they were driving.
“Matching with the other detective that was on the other camera, creating an enormous map of Carnarvon seeing which cars were going where and have a list of around 100 names. They were going through each individual name, trying to check them off, it is person sufficient? Can we draw them out?” the reporter told the program.
One of the major focuses of the investigation had revolved 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 haven’t revealed whether the man in custody is the driver of the vehicle that officers have been searching for.
Yesterday it was revealed police had discovered multiple escape routes that avoid CCTV cameras between the campsite and the town of Carnarvon, which is about 70km away.
This means Cleo’s abductor could have left the campground without being spotted by any cameras.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison praised the officers involved in finding Cleo, following the “wonderful, relieving” news of her discovery.
“Cleo Smith has been found and is home safe and sound. Our prayers answered,” Mr Morrison said in a tweet.
“Thank you to the many police officers involved in finding Cleo and supporting her family.”
Finding Cleo after 18 days ‘a miracle’, expert says
Criminologist Dr Xanthe Mallett told Sunrise on Wednesday morning that she had been “expecting the worst” due to the length of time Cleo had been missing.
The four-year-old disappeared 18 days ago, with Dr Mallett telling the program it is highly unusual to find an abducted child alive and well after so long.
“This is a miracle. Fantastic news for me to wake up to. I was extremely pleased to hear that,” she said.
Dr Mallett said the last few days indicated police were moving towards a “conclusion strategy”.
She said police would have looked into every single lead that was brought to them.
“It may be that car that was the key to solving this, it may have been something else. Obviously they have looked closely in the local community, we always felt this was something targeted,” she said.
“To me, it made no sense this was a random event, as a total stranger happening upon Cleo, there was never a logical conclusion.”
“I imagine there will be something to her, and that is how the police have tracked them down. That’s my sense from having looked at a number of child abduction cases, the link is going to be key here.”
Abduction likely an ‘opportunistic’ event, police say
Lead investigator into Cleo’s disappearance, Detective Superintendent Rod Wilde revealed on Tuesday that police believed the four-year-old was likely targeted in an “opportunistic type event”.
“We know they got there … on the Friday night. It was getting dark and so there would have been limited opportunity for people to observe Cleo at that time,” he told 6PR radio.
Superintendent Wilde said police were examining how someone could take Cleo from the tent without attracting attention.
“That’s what we’re trying to resolve, that’s what were trying to understand,” he said on Tuesday.
“We’re doing a lot of work forensically … we’ve had over 1000 calls to Crime Stoppers.”
Before Cleo’s discovery, Acting Police Commissioner Col Blanch told ABC radio that the working theory was that she was likely still in WA.
He said the focus at the moment was eliminating “as many people as possible” as suspects, along with forensically going over the ground “inch by inch” for any evidence or clues.
“It could be tyre tracks, it could be the sleeping bag — it could be anything,” he said.