04 November 2021

Police to charge man with abduction after missing four-year-old girl found

04 November 2021

Police are expected to charge a 36-year-old man with abducting four-year-old Cleo Smith from her family’s camping tent in Australia with the child found 18 days later when officers rescued her from a locked house.

The man was arrested early on Wednesday around the time that police found the child alone in the house in the Western Australia town of Carnarvon, with the smiling girl telling officers “my name is Cleo”.

Police Minister Paul Papalia said the suspect, a Carnarvon local, would likely be charged on Thursday but he did not detail the charges and added that the police investigation was continuing.

Cleo had disappeared with her sleeping bag on October 16, the second day of a family camping trip at a campground on Australia’s remote western coast north of Carnarvon, a community of 5,000 people where her family lives less than 10 minutes drive from the house where she was found.

Media have reported the arrested man raised suspicion among locals when he was seen buying diapers and was known to have no children, but police have disclosed little information about what made him a suspect.

“It wasn’t a random tip or a clairvoyant or any of the sort of things that you might hear,” Mr Papalia told Australian Broadcasting Corporation. ”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”.

Wednesday was the first full night Cleo spent at home with her mom Ellie Smith, stepdad Jake Gliddon and her baby half-sister Isla Gliddon since the family’s ordeal began.

As they slept, public buildings in the Western Australia state capital Perth, 560 miles south of Carnarvon, 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.

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