‘My name is Cleo’: Australian police release audio of moment missing four-year-old girl was found
“My name is Cleo,” the smiling girl told police officers who rescued her and asked her name as confirmation that they had found the right child.
On Thursday, officers visited the girl’s family at home in Carnarvon as they prepare to gather eyewitness evidence against the 36-year-old man suspected of snatching her from a campground north of the town of 5,000 people on October 16.
“I can only see her on the outside, but from that point of view, I’m amazed that she seems to be so well-adjusted and happy, and it was really… heartwarming to see that she’s still bubbly and she’s laughing,” Detective Senior Sergeant Cameron Blaine said.
“I’m sure that it has had an impact, but just to see her behaving quite naturally like a four-year-old girl should do and just enjoying being in the presence of her little sister and her family was good,” Mr Blaine added.
The officer was part of a four-member police team that used a battering ram to smash into a locked house early on Wednesday and rescue Cleo.
The lights were on and she was alone playing with toys in a house less than a 10-minute drive from her own, police said.
The suspect was arrested in a nearby street around the same time, police said.
Detective Superintendent Rod Wilde, who heads the police investigation, said specialist child interviewers had already travelled to Carnarvon from the state capital Perth, 560 miles to the south.
“The main concern around that is Cleo’s welfare,” Mr Wilde said of the interview.
“We have experienced people that will undertake that and it’ll take as long as it takes. We’ll sit down with the family and work out the appropriate time,” Mr Wilde added.
Police expect to charge the suspect, a Carnarvon local, on Thursday.
Media have reported he raised suspicion among locals when he was seen buying nappies and was known to have no children, but police have disclosed little information about what made the man a suspect.
“It wasn’t a random tip or a clairvoyant or any of the sort of things that you might hear,” Police Minister Paul Papalia said. ”It was just a hard police grind.”
The suspect was taken from police detention to a hospital late on Wednesday and again on Thursday, with what media reported were self-inflicted injuries.
Asked about reports the man was injured after banging his head against a cell wall, Western Australia Police Deputy Commissioner Col Blanch only replied that there were ”no serious injuries”.
A police statement said the suspect’s “medical matter does not relate to any police involvement with him”,
Mr Wilde said the suspect had since returned to the police station and was “speaking to officers”.
Wednesday was the first full night Cleo spent at home with her mother Ellie Smith, stepdfather Jake Gliddon and her baby half-sister Isla Gliddon since the family’s ordeal began.
As they slept, public buildings in Perth were illuminated with blue lights to celebrate the success of the police investigation.
In Carnarvon, balloons were raised on buildings and signs were posted welcoming Cleo home.
Western Australia Premier Mark McGowan also visited the family on Thursday and commented on how “well-adjusted” the child and her parents seemed.
“She’s bubbly, playing, friendly, sweet. She was eating an icy pole, she spilt it every way. She told me it was very, very sticky, which I believed, and she was just delightful,” Mr McGowan said.
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