The overjoyed mother of Cleo Smith says her family is whole again after the four-year-old was found alive and well in a locked house, more than two weeks after disappearing from her family’s tent on WA’s northwest coast.
Cleo was discovered by WA police officers just before 1am on Wednesday, alone in a room in the house in Carnarvon, some 75 kilometres south from where she went missing.
Deputy Commissioner Col Blanch described seeing seasoned detectives “openly crying with relief”, saying it was the result of some incredible police work.
“For the last 18 days we’ve collected everything,” he told Clairsy & Lisa just hours after the news broke. “We’ve collected rubbish, we’ve collected fingerprints, DNA, phone data, witness statements, we’ve collected so much information from the community.”
“Late last night, we found a needle in a haystack of what we thought fit the profile of what had occurred at the Blowholes and police acted on that information – rapidly.”
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Meanwhile, a 36-year-old man from Carnarvon is in custody and is being questioned in relation to the suspected abduction.
Police say he has no connection to Cleo’s family and was not present at the house when Cleo was found.
The girl has been reunited with her mother Ellie Smith and Ms Smith’s partner Jake Gliddon. She is receiving medical care but is said to be in good physical health.
“Our family is whole again,” Ms Smith posted on Instagram alongside a photo of Cleo.
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The state government had offered a $1 million reward for information to find Cleo but Mr Blanch said it was not expected to be claimed.
Cleo vanished from a tent at the Blowholes campsite, about 950km north of Perth, after the family arrived on October 16.
She was last seen by her mother around 1.30am that night.
The search for Cleo captured national attention, including in NSW where the state’s police commissioner on Wednesday recounted a conversation he had with WA counterpart Chris Dawson after Cleo was found.
“He said when he got the call this morning he broke down and cried,” Mick Fuller told Sydney radio.
“It’s such an amazing story.”
Mr Dawson, who will travel to Carnarvon on Wednesday, said it was one of the greatest moments in the history of the force.
WA Police had suspected she was abducted by an “opportunistic” offender. A press conference will be held later on Wednesday.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Cleo’s discovery was “wonderful, relieving news” and thanked police for their efforts.