Cleo Smith, the little girl who disappeared from a Western Australian campsite more than two weeks ago, has been found “alive and well”.
The four-year-old was rescued from a locked house early on Wednesday morning, WA police said.
Cleo has been reunited with her family, who launched a desperate search for the girl after she disappeared from her tent during a stay at the Blowholes campsite near Macleod.
WA Police Deputy Commissioner Col Blanch said officers forced their way into a home in Carnarvon, 50 kilometres from where Cleo was last seen on October 16.
Mr Blanch said “this is the outcome we all hoped and prayed for”.
“A police team broke their way into a locked house in Carnarvon about 1am,” he said.
“They found little Cleo in one of the rooms.
“One of the officers picked her up into his arms and asked her ‘what’s your name?’ She said, ‘my name is Cleo’.”
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.
Police say it was a forensic lead that brought them to the property.
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.
Cleo’s mother Ellie Smith posted her reaction on social media, saying: “Our family is whole again”.
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Mr Blanch thanked Cleo’s parents, the WA community, volunteers and his police colleagues.
“We’ll have more to say on the rescue of Cleo as the day unfolds,” he said.
“For now – welcome home Cleo.”
WA Police Commissioner Chris Dawson told ABC Radio on Wednesday that police were very concerned for Cleo’s safety throughout the investigation, but
Investigators said on Tuesday that they had spoken to more than 110 people who were at the campsite when she went missing but were yet to track down a driver of a car seen leaving in the middle of the night.
They believed she had been taken by an “opportunistic” offender.
Cleo was last seen by her mum Ellie Smith and stepfather Jake Gliddon when they put her to bed inside the family tent. Ms Smith said she woke about 6am to discover the little girl was missing.
It was later confirmed the zipper on the tent was found open to a height Cleo could not have reached, seemingly ruling out the possibility she wandered off on her own. Her red and black sleeping bag was also missing.
WA Premier Mark McGowan said during the search – which stretched nationwide amid fears Cleo had been abducted and taken interstate – that every resource had been directed into finding the little girl.
The search for Cleo captured national attention, including in NSW where the state’s police commissioner on Wednesday recounted a call he had with Mr Dawson after Cleo was found.
“He said when he got the call this morning he broke down and cried,” Mick Fuller said of Mr Dawson while speaking on Sydney radio 2GB.
“It’s such an amazing story,” he said.
Mr Fuller praised WA Police for their “good old fashioned police work”, adding he had feared the chances of finding Cleo alive were slim.
WA investigators spoke to more than 110 people who were at the campsite when Cleo went missing.
They sifted through more than 1000 calls to Crime Stoppers and trawled through vast amounts of materials for forensic clues.
They had also been searching for the driver of a car seen leaving in the campsite in the middle of the night before it was discovered the child was missing.
WA Police had suspected she was abducted by an “opportunistic” offender.
Police will hold a press conference later on Wednesday.
The WA government had offered a $1 million reward for information to find Cleo.
Cleo’s mother earlier posted repeatedly on social media begging for the return of her child.
In a public plea last week Ms Smith spoke of the pain the family was experiencing, describing the situation as “heartbreaking”, “heart-wrenching” and “completely scary”.
Meanwhile, vigils were held in the town of Carnavon, while shops and cars were plastered with posters and stickers calling for anybody with information about Cleo to report it.
Of the hundred police officers involved in the investigation, at least 50 were based in Carnarvon alone.
There were also more than 1000 calls to Crime Stoppers during the investigation.