/ 04 November 2021

You little ripper

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Cleo Smith, the 4yo from Carnarvon in Western Oz who went missing from her tent at a campsite on 16 October, was found “alive, well, smiling” and alone in a local home a bit before 1am WA time yesterday morning. Get that up ya, 2021…

How is she? Cleo is out of hospital and is home with her family, and police said she’s “physically ok”. Detective Senior Sergeant Cameron Blaine – one of the 4 officers who discovered her – said she’s “a little energiser bunny. How she has that much energy … I wish I did. I’m about ready to go to sleep.”

What do we know about the man they have arrested? A 36-year-old man is in police custody in Carnarvon hospital, and no charges have been laid at this stage. Police say they don’t believe he’s linked to Cleo’s family, and he became a suspect on Tuesday.

And what have police said about her discovery? A bit about the moment she was found, but nothing about how they put the clues together to find her. “It was just that methodical grind of going through all the information we had, all the data, joining those dots together and finding that vital piece of information,” said lead investigator Detective Superintendent Rod Wilde.

Police will continue to question the man they have in custody. In the meantime, people are reflecting on how remarkable it is that Cleo was found in good nick after 18 days. Xanthe Mallett, a criminologist at the University of Newcastle, said “I can’t remember a case like this off-hand when a child has been returned safe and well to their family after this length of time. I mean, this really is almost a miracle.” And until police get answers, it’s probably enough that Cleo’s home with her family. “Our family is whole again,” mum Ellie Smith posted to Insta yesterday.

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