‘My name is Cleo’: Tearful police officers describe ‘incredible’ moment Cleo Smith was found

The four-year-old had disappeared from her family’s tent on 16 October on the state’s northwest coast

Maroosha Muzaffar
Wednesday 03 November 2021 11:48
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Missing four-year-old Cleo Smith found ‘alive and well’ in Western Australia

Seasoned police detectives were overcome with emotion after they tracked down Cleo Smith, a senior Australian police officer said, describing the moment the missing four-year-old was found.

One of the police officers, who found Cleo Smith after 18 days of exhaustive search efforts, was “shocked” and “elated” the moment he saw her, West Australia Police Deputy Commissioner Col Blanch told the media on Wednesday.

The four-year-old girl was found alive and well. She had disappeared from her family’s tent on 16 October on the state’s northwest coast and was found in a locked house about 75km away from where she went missing.

In the emotional press conference, police officials said Cleo was found alone at a property in Tonkin Crescent, in the coastal town of Carnarvon.

Mr Blanch told the media that “one of the officers picked her up into his arms and asked her ‘What’s your name?’” And after she was asked this question thrice, she finally answered: “My name is Cleo.’”

He said seasoned detectives were “openly crying with relief.”

Cameron Blaine, one of the police officers who was part of the team that found the child, described his feelings the moment she was identified.

“Shock, followed by elation,” Mr Blaine said, adding that Cleo was like “a little energiser bunny.”

“We were talking to her and she was talking to us. How she has that much energy, I wish I did, I am about ready to go to sleep.”

Police commissioner Chris Dawson praised the investigators for not giving up.

“What a great day. We have now returned Cleo to her loving parents. It’s a wonderful day for this little girl and her loving family,” he said.

“It’s a really special day for west Australia and indeed I know the nation is rejoicing the fact we’ve been able to conduct this operation,” he added.

Law enforcement authorities said they arrested a 36-year-old man from Carnarvon but so far they are still investigating the connection between him and Cleo’s family.

Police minister Paul Papalia was quoted by 7News as saying: “Cleo’s rescue wasn’t the result of an accidental sighting, it was the result of hard police grind. They have delivered a ray of sunshine in an often dark world. It’s a wonderful thing.”

Cleo was taken to the hospital as soon as she was found. She has since been released and is now back with her family.

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