The girl, Cleo Smith, was found in a home in the town of Carnarvon, about 75 kilometers south of the campsite where she was last seen, the deputy commissioner of the Western Australian state police, Col Blanch, told the media.
Authorities stormed the house at around 1 a.m. local time, where they found the child alone in one of the bedrooms. One of the officers picked her up and asked her name, to which she replied, “My name is Cleo,” according to Blanch’s account in a video released to the media.
— 7NEWS Perth (@7NewsPerth) November 3, 2021
Shortly after police arrested a man allegedly linked to the disappearance of the minor, although authorities prefer to be cautious with this case that was compared in the Oceanic country with the disappearance of the British girl Madeleine McCann when she was in 2007 in Portugal with her parents.
“I don’t want to make any assumptions. I am well aware that most likely there will be a judicial process soon, we have to be very careful with what we say,” said the deputy commissioner in statements to the radio station 6PR. The police indicated that the minor is already with her family, while the man arrested, about 36 years old and without links to Cleo’s family, is being interrogated.
At the time of her disappearance, Cleo was inside a tent at Blowholes campsite, about 875 kilometers north of Perth, with her mother, Ellie Smith, and stepfather, Jake Gliddon. The girl had woken at one o’clock in the morning on Saturday 16 October to ask for water, but five hours later, when the mother and her partner got up they discovered Chloe and her sleeping bag were missing.
Police have released the first images of the arrested man, who is shown in this video with his head wrapped in bandages being carried on a stretcher.
— 9News Perth (@9NewsPerth) November 3, 2021
Prime Minister Scott Morrison reacted from the United Arab Emirates, thanking the police for finding Cleo and providing for her family. “It’s every parent’s worst nightmare. The fact that that nightmare has come to an end and our worst fears have not been realized is just a great relief, a moment of great joy,” Morrison told reporters. “This particular case has obviously captured the hearts of Australians as we feel such terrible pain for the family,” he added.
Cleo’s family lives in Carnarvon, a town of 5,000 people, and the girl had gone missing with her sleeping bag on the second day of a family camping trip at Blowholes Campground, 75 kilometers (47 miles) north of Carnarvon, on Oct. 16.