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Australia rejoices as 4-year-old girl found after 18-day search

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(Left) Four-year-old Cleo Smith and her parents Ellie Smith  display a photo of their missing daughter.
(Left) Four-year-old Cleo Smith and her parents Ellie Smith display a photo of their missing daughter.

AUSTRALIA: A four-year-old Australian girl abducted from a campsite 18 days ago was found “alive and well” in a locked house Wednesday, telling elated police officers: “My name is Cleo.”

Cleo Smith disappeared from her family’s tent in Western Australia last month, sparking a frantic air, sea and ground search involving 100 officers, one that most feared would end in tragedy.

The little girl was found alone inside a locked house in the coastal town of Carnarvon, a short drive away from where she disappeared, Western Australia police said.

“One of the officers picked her up into his arms and asked her ‘what’s your name?'” police deputy commissioner Col Blanch said. “She said ‘My name is Cleo’.”

Police detained a 36-year-old local man with no connection to the family after breaking into the house at about 1 am local time.

The young girl was reunited with her parents a short time later, with her mother Ellie taking to social media to express her relief.

“Our family is whole again,” she posted on Instagram under a photo of Cleo.

Ellie Smith had earlier described her distress at waking at 6 am to find the family’s tent unzipped and her oldest daughter missing.

Her public pleas for help to bring Cleo home had prompted an outpouring of support from across Australia.

State Premier Mark McGowan expressed elation at receiving the news overnight.

Investigators had been determined they “were not going to leave any stone unturned”, even as the search dragged on, Western Australia Police Commissioner Chris Dawson said.

“We had been following a lot of the forensic leads and it led us to a particular house,” he told ABC radio. “We put everything we had at it.”

Police last month had offered Aus$1 million (US$750,000) for information leading to Cleo’s recovery after she was feared abducted from her family’s tent at the remote Blowholes campsite — about 1,000 kilometres (600 miles) north of Perth — on October 16.


Thursday, November 4, 2021 – 01:00

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