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Missing four-year-old girl Cleo Smith has been found “alive and well” in a locked house in Western Australia, 19 days after she vanished.
Cleo disappeared on October 16 while camping with her family at the Blowholes campsite near Carnarvon.
At about 1am on Wednesday, police broke into a locked house in Carnarvon and found Cleo.
“Cleo is alive and well,” Deputy Commissioner Col Blanch said in a statement.
“A police team broke their way into a locked house in Carnarvon about 1am.
“They found little Cleo in one of the rooms.”
She has been reunited with her family.
As police entered the home, one officer picked her up into his arms and asked her: “what’s your name”.
“She said – ‘My name is Cleo’,” Blanch said.
“This is the outcome we all hoped and prayed for.
“It’s the outcome we’ve achieved because of some incredible police work.
“I want to thank Cleo’s parents, the Western Australian community and the many volunteers.
“And of course, I want to thank my colleagues in the Western Australia Police Force.”
A man from Carnarvon is in custody and is currently being questioned.
Over the last eighteen days, detectives and volunteers have been searching for Cleo, leaving no stone unturned.
Cleo had woken up around 1.30am on that Saturday morning and asked her mum Ellie for a drink of water
When Ellie woke up later that morning around 6am, the flap to the tent was open and Cleo and her sleeping bag were missing, leading authorities to believe Cleo had been abducted.
By 7.10am, the first police officers to be called to the incident arrived at the scene.
At the time of her disappearance, Cleo was last seen wearing a pink and purple sleepsuit with a blue and yellow pattern.
Detectives have reviewed CCTV footage from the scene and had urged a driver seen leaving the site shortly after 3am that morning to come forward.
Police also searched Cleo’s family’s home several times, scoured the dark web, interviewed more than 100 people and sifted through garbage in the search for the four-year-old.
A $1 million reward for information was announced by the WA government for information leading to Cleo’s location.
Ten days after she went missing, Cleo’s parents made a heartbreaking plea for their daughter to be returned home.
Ellie Smith and stepdad Jake Gliddon told Seven’s Flashpoint they were worried and scared about a lack of solid clues explaining what might have happened to Cleo at the time.
“You’ve just got to keep going; we have a young baby as well,” Ellie said.
“We’ve just got to try and keep positive.
“Every day is harder, but we’re hoping by being here (doing the interview), it will help to find her.”
Ellie said she “just felt sick” when she woke up and realised Cleo was not in the tent.
“When the police were asking us to go through everything, I just remember thinking, ‘how did someone come into that tent and take Cleo?’,” she recalled.
“How could someone feel that they could do that to someone else?
“No-one I know has ever been through it and I would never wish for anyone to go through it, to wake up and feel that feeling that went through me.
“I couldn’t explain it to you.”
A tearful Ellie added she just wanted her baby home.
“We want her back in our arms.”
Earlier this week, Ellie made an emotional plea online, saying the entire family miss her.
“Every day is getting harder without my shining bright light,” she wrote on Instagram.
“(On Sunday) she’s missed Halloween with her family – her cousins, aunties, uncles, nannas and pop, but most of all her parents and baby sister.
“She needs us and we need her.”
Criminologist Xanthe Mallett said the happy news is a “miracle” as “it’s highly unusual to find an abducted child alive and well after so long.”
“I’ve got to say that I have been expecting the worst, we’re up to day 19 now,” she told Sunrise on Wednesday.
On Tuesday, the lead detective on the case Detective Superintendent Rod Wilde said he believed Cleo was likely taken by an “opportunistic” offender.
But Mallett believes the man who is being questioned is likely to be “linked” to Cleo and her family.
“We always felt that this was something targeted,” she said.
“To me it made no sense that this was a random event, just a total stranger happening upon Cleo.
“That was never a logical conclusion to reach.”
Mallett said she’s confident “there will be a link to Cleo or her family” which police will likely reveal in the coming days.
“I imagine that they will know Cleo, there will be some link to Cleo and that’s how they will have tracked them down.”