‘A Moment For Great Joy’: Australian Girl, 4, Rescued 18 Days After She’s Kidnapped
Cleo Smith was abducted from a tent while on an overnight camping trip with her parents.
A 4-year-old Australian girl was kidnapped while on a family camping trip, but police who conducted a “dogged, methodical” investigation were able to rescue the child from her abductor 18 days later, authorities said.
On Oct. 16, Cleo Smith went camping with her mother, Ellie Smith, and stepfather, Jake Gliddon, at the Blowholes Shacks campsite, a remote area located around 50 miles from their home in Carnarvon, Western Australia.
The first morning after arriving, Smith said she woke up to discover their tent “completely open” and her daughter missing along with the child’s sleeping bag.
Law enforcement launched a massive search, and around 1 a.m. on Nov. 3, four officers broke down the door at a locked house in the family’s hometown, Carnarvon, and located Cleo alone in a room playing with toys, CNN reported.
Detective Sr. Sgt. Cameron Blaine had to ask the girl her name three times before, he recalled, “She looked at me and she said, ‘My name is Cleo.’”
On a nearby street, authorities arrested 36-year-old Terence Darrell Kelly — a Carnarvon man who had no connection to Cleo or her family despite living minutes from their home. Officials said the suspect acted “spontaneously” and “solely alone.”
Kelly, who was briefly hospitalized for non-life-threatening self-inflicted injuries, faces multiple charges in connection to the case, including forcibly taking a child under 16. Police have not disclosed what led them to the alleged kidnapper.
“Our family is whole again,” Cleo’s mother wrote on social media after reuniting with her daughter.
Western Australia state Police Commissioner Chris Dawson noted the child was “as well as you can expect” after the kidnapping, the Associated Press reported. “This has been an ordeal. I won’t go into any more details, other than to say we’re so thankful she’s alive.”
Cleo reportedly suffered no physical injuries in the almost three weeks she was missing.
“It’s every parent’s worst nightmare,” Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said of the little girl’s abduction, adding, “The fact that nightmare has come to an end and our worst fears were not realized is just a huge relief, a moment for great joy.”