Cleo Smith: Footage shows moment missing four-year-old was rescued 18 days after disappearance

‘Our family is whole again,’ mother says as her daughter is found after 18 days

Zoe Tidman
Wednesday 03 November 2021 19:28
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Moment missing Cleo Smith is found by police

Bodycam footage has captured the moment police rescued Cleo Smith 18 days after the four-year-old went missing in Australia.

The young girl was found in a house in Carnarvon, the same town where her family lives on the western coast, during a police raid in the early hours of Wednesday.

The state police chief said his force was “so thankful” the four-year-old had been found alive.

A 36-year-old man has been taken into custody in connection with her disappearance.

According to media reports, the man has since been taken to hospital after sustaining a head injury while in a cell. “We were told somehow he became injured in custody,” a reporter told 7News on Wednesday.

The suspect from Carnarvon is reportedly under police guard in hospital.

Police announced on Wednesday that Cleo had been found in the early hours and was “alive and well”.

“A police team broke their way into a locked house in Carnarvon about 1am,” Col Blanch, the Western Australia Police Force’s deputy commissioner, said in a press conference.

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

Mr Blanch told media one of the officers picked Cleo up and asked what her name was after they found her in the house. He said she replied: “My name is Cleo.”

He said seasoned police detectives were overcome with emotion after they tracked her down. They were “openly crying with relief”, he said.

The girl was reunited with her mother Ellie Smith and stepfather Jake Gliddon soon after her rescue. “Our family is whole again,” the mother said on social media.

The rescue came more than two weeks after Cleo went missing from a tent in a campsite around a 50-minute drive away from Carnarvon.

She was last seen at around 1.30am in mid-October during a family camping trip at the Blowholes Campground north of their hometown. Her family said they woke up at 6am to find the child was missing.

A team of 140 people had been working on the case, with police fielding more than 1,000 tips from the public in the search for Cleo.

Footage has been released showing the moment the girl was carried out of the house during her rescue.

The child can be seen being carried by an officer with her arms around his neck.

Another officer can be heard saying to Cleo: “Are you OK? We are going to take you to see your mummy and daddy, OK? Is that good?” Cleo smiles and nods in reply.

Police had received intelligence on Tuesday guiding them to the house but the breakthrough was the result of investigators piecing evidence together, Mr Blanch said.

“There were lots of things. There were car movements, there were phone movements, there were antecedents of people,” he said.

Police said the kidnapping appeared to have been opportunistic.

Chris Dawson, Western Australia state police commissioner, said on Wednesday he would not detail what the girl had gone through.

She is “as well as you can expect”, he said. “This has been an ordeal. I won’t go into any more details, other than to say we’re so thankful she’s alive.”

Senior sergeant Cameron Blaine, who was one of the four people to rescue Cleo, said she was “physically OK”.

“Taking her to the hospital we got assurance of that from people that know what they are doing,” he said.

The member of the rescue team said finding her was “without a doubt” the best moment of his career.

Police released an image of the four-year-old smiling and waving in a hospital bed on Wednesday.

Scott Morrison, the Australian prime minister, has thanked police for finding Cleo and supporting her family.

“It’s every parent’s worst nightmare. The fact that that nightmare has come to an end and our worst fears were not realised is just a huge relief, a moment for great joy,” he said.

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

Speaking to media on Wednesday, Mr Blanch said finding Cleo alive was “the outcome we all hoped and prayed for”.

“It’s the outcome we’ve achieved because of some incredible police work,” he added.

Additional reporting by agencies

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