A 36-year-old man, who is a local resident, has been taken into custody in connection with the child's disappearance, revealed police during a news conference on Wednesday.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published on November 4, 2021. It has since been updated.
As parents, nothing can be worse than hearing the words, "Your child may be in danger." Unfortunately, this nightmare became reality for a family in Australia after their four-year-old girl went missing while camping with them. According to PEOPLE, Cleo Smith went missing last month on October 16 while camping with her family at the Blowholes Shacks campsite in Western Australia.
Apparently, when the family woke up at around 6 a.m. their little girl was nowhere to be found and the tent was unzipped higher than the toddler. Gripped with fear about what may happen to their child, they contacted the authorities. All they could do was wait and pray for her safe return. On Wednesday, their prayers were answered when the police managed to find Cleo.
Deputy Commissioner Colonel Blanch revealed in a video statement that the young girl was found at around 1 a.m. local time in a locked home in Carnarvon, a coastal town in Western Australia. The house is situated about 62 miles from the campsite where she went missing. The home, which is owned by the state housing commission was located just a few miles from the family home of the four-year-old.
Pictures released by authorities show the pre-schooler waving and smiling with an icy pole in her hand. Police informed reporters that Cleo appeared "physically OK" when officers found her in the bedroom of the home. According to Australia's ABC News, cops forced down the door of the home overnight and found the girl "alive, well and smiling."
It was Detective Senior Sergeant Cameron Blaine who found Cleo in the house, a moment that is "without a doubt" the best moment in his entire career. "It was absolutely fantastic, to see her sitting there in the way that she was, it was just incredible. I asked her what her name was. One of the guys in front of me jumped in and picked her up. It certainly looked like Cleo, I wanted to be absolutely sure it was her," said Blaine.
Apparently, the child did not respond to his question immediately, "So I asked her a third time and then she looked at me and said 'my name's Cleo.' And that was it. We turned around and walked her out of that house," he added. She was immediately transported to the hospital where it was confirmed that she had no injuries. It was an emotional moment even for the responding officers, who according to Blanch, wept.
"She's a little energizer bunny. How she has that much energy … I wish I did. I'm about ready to go to sleep," noted Blaine. "She was just a very, very sweet energetic girl, very trusting and very open with us." Thankfully, the young and cheerful girl was reunited with her family with "Big hugs, kisses and lots of tears," recalled Blaine.
"This is the outcome we all hoped and prayed for," he added. "It's the outcome we've achieved because of some incredible police work." Per authorities, 140 people had been working on Cleo's case. Previously authorities had offered a A$1 million ($743,000) reward for information about Cleo's disappearance.
A 36-year-old man, who is a local resident, has been taken into custody in connection with the child's disappearance, revealed police during a news conference on Wednesday. Police haven't identified any other suspect at the time and no charges have been filed yet. The investigation is still ongoing at the moment.
When news about Cleo's safe return began spreading, the Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison celebrated the moment on Twitter. "Cleo Smith has been found and is home safe and sound," wrote Morrison. "Our prayers answered. Thank you to the many police officers involved in finding Cleo and supporting her family."
Cover image source: YouTube Screenshot | ABC News (Australia)