Cleo Smith disappearance: Mum makes direct plea to snatcher in tearful new interview
Cleo Smith’s mum broke down in tears and looked directly into the camera as she delivered a message to the person who took her four-year-old daughter from their family tent on a remote Western Australian campsite more than 10 days ago.
Speaking to Channel 7’s Flashpoint on Monday night, Ellie Smith and her partner Jake Gliddon also spoke of their last moments with their daughter, what was happening in the lead-up to the disappearance and their disbelief at the details emerging from the investigation.
After sitting down for the interview, Smith wasted no time getting to the message she wanted the world to hear, a direct plea to the person who took Cleo.
Police have now ruled out that the four-year-old could have wandered off and are treating the case as one of abduction.
“If the person who is watching has Cleo, we want her home with our baby we want her in our arms,” Smith said, briefly glancing into the camera.
The distraught mother then broke into tears as she spoke of what she had been through in the past 10 days, before revealing the “heartbreaking, heart-wrenching, completely scary” moment she realised she was gone from their tent at Blowholes campsite.
“I put her to bed, I tucked her in, I made sure her sleeping bag was completely tucked under her mattress,” she said. “I made sure she was warm, it was quite a windy night, it was overcast, we just tried to make sure she was safe.”
The mother said about 1.30am that night, she asked Cleo to “get back into bed” after she had a sip of water.
“I put my head through to check on (baby sister) Isla and that was it,” she said. “That was the last time.”
Smith said her mother’s instinct told her “straight away” that Cleo had not just wandered off. She said someone had snatched her from their shared tent — an act she described as being “absolutely disgusting”.
“I remember thinking, how did someone come into that tent and take Cleo?” she said.
“How, how could someone feel that they could do that to someone, how could someone take my child? My gut just felt sick.
“She was taken, she’s gone. She’s been taken from our family, from somewhere she’s meant to feel safe and she’s been taken.”
Asked what was going through her mind when she discovered Cleo was gone, Smith replied: “I mean, where could your head be?
“It was everywhere,” she said. “No one I know has been through that, and I would never wish anyone to wake up and feel that feeling that went though me. I couldn’t explain that to you.”
She also spoke of what happened in the lead-up to the trip — saying it was supposed to be Cleo’s first camping trip with her baby sister.
She was excited to “say the least”, Smith said.
The family had planned to wake up to a day filled with bike rides — Cleo had just had her training wheels taken off — and swimming.
However, the holiday ended in nightmare circumstances with the couple not leaving the Blowholes campsite until Friday — after seven days of searching at the site — at which point they knew Cleo had gone.
“We’d held hope, but the hope of her being there was slowly slipping away,” Smith said.
At the weekend, police forensics began scouring Cleo’s family home for clues.
Asked about the search, Smith said: “I guess we just hold hope that there’s something there that they can find that will help.
“Anything — I mean if it’s someone who has been watching for who knows how long, hopefully they pick something up that will help,” she said.
She said the family are struggling to face the prospect of having to return home without her daughter.
Asked to address rumours from “amateur detectives” who had pointed the finger at them, the couple both categorically denied having any involvement in their daughter’s disappearance.
“No, nothing,” Gliddon said when asked if there was something he was not revealing.
“No way — we love our daughter and want her home,” Smith said, when asked if she played a role in her vanishing.
“I can’t imagine what it feels like for someone, if they’ve got kids, they know what it feels like to be a parent, and there is no way that either myself or Jake could’ve done anything to hurt our daughter.”
The interview comes as detectives frantically search for the driver of a car seen near the camp site in the early hours of the morning Cleo was abducted.
Lead investigator, Det-Supt Rod Wilde, said “credible sources” had seen a car turn right off Blowholes Road on to North West Coastal Highway between 3am and 3.30am.
Cleo was last seen in the tent about 1.30am when her mum got her a drink of water.
When the parents woke up about 6am, the tent was unzipped to a height Cleo could not have reached and she was gone. Police said the car was a passenger vehicle, like a sedan.
Smith said she was trying not to hold “too much hope and get too excited, because like you said, we’re going into day 10 and we’ve got nothing”.
Police have said the occupants of the mystery car were not automatically suspects in Cleo’s abduction but the new information was “certainly of interest” to investigators.
Smith said she still has hope that her girl was “out there somewhere” but “we don’t have any leads”.
The mother urged anyone with information to call police because “we want our daughter back and she wants us”.
“Our daughter Isla needs her big sister, we need her home,” she said.
And if Cleo was watching, Smith had something she wanted her to know.
“I love you. We miss you. And we want you home,” she said.
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