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Crime News Breaking News

Australian 4-Year-Old Abducted From Campsite Found Safe, Suspect In Custody

Cleo Smith identified herself to police after they broke into a locked residence early Wednesday morning.

By Jax Miller
How To Stay Safe From Kidnapping

An Australian girl abducted from a campsite more than two weeks ago has been found safe, police say.

Four-year-old Cleo Smith was abducted from the remote Blowholes Campsite in Macleod at around 1:30 a.m. on Oct. 15, according to the Western Australia Police Force. On Wednesday, police recovered the girl at a Carnarvon residence and said she was safe.

“It’s my privilege to announce that in the early hours of this morning, the Western Australia Police Force rescued Cleo Smith,” said Deputy Commissioner Col Branch in Wednesday’s statement. “Cleo is alive and well.”

Western Australia Police Commissioner Chris Dawson stated a 36-year-old male with no connection to the family was taken into custody, according to ABC Perth News. The suspect was transported to a local hospital by ambulance, though it was unclear whether or not he’d sustained any injuries.

“There was some information we followed up on,” said Dawson. “We had been following, you know, a lot of the forensic leads, and it led us to a particular house.”

According to Deputy Commissioner Blanch, authorities broke their way into the man’s residence near 1:00 a.m. and found Cleo in one of the rooms.

“One of the officers picked her up into his arms and asked her, ‘What’s your name?’” said Blanch. “She said, ‘My name is Cleo.’”

Cleo was reunited with her family a short time later.

Cleo Smith Pd

“Our family is whole again,” Cleo’s mother, Ellie Smith, captioned with a photo on Instagram.

Cleo was last seen by her mother in the family’s tent when the child woke up at around 1:30 a.m. to ask for a drink of water, according to The Guardian. Cleo returned to her bed shortly after.

By daybreak, Cleo and her sleeping bag were gone.

“As we passed the divider, I went into the other room, and the zipper was open,” said Ellie Smith, according to The Guardian. Ellie turned to her partner, Jake Gliddon, and said, “Cleo’s gone.”

Family and investigators theorized early on that Cleo was abducted, and relatives didn’t believe she would have wandered off. Her disappearance sparked a massive search that included a task force consisting of about 100 officers.

“The positioning of that zipper for the flap is one of the circumstances that has caused us to have grave concerns for Cleo’s safety,” Inspector John Munday said five days into the search, according to The Guardian. It was reported that the zipper’s height was out of reach for the likes of a 4-year-old child.

Detective Rob Wilde also supported the abduction theory.

Cleo Smith Pd 1

“Given the information now that we’ve gleaned from the scene, the fact that the search has gone on for this period of time and we haven’t been able to locate her, it leads us to believe she was taken from the tent,” said Wilde, according to The Guardian.

Now, Australia rejoices over Cleo’s safe return.

“What wonderful, relieving news,” Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison tweeted on Wednesday. “Our prayers answered.”

“This is the outcome we all hoped and prayed for,” Blanch continued in his statement. “It’s the outcome we’ve achieved because of some incredible police work.”

The suspect, whose name has not been released, is being questioned by detectives. It is not clear what charges will be brought against him.

The deputy commissioner ended his statement with, “Welcome home, Cleo.”