Incredible moment 'Australia's Maddie' Cleo Smith is rescued by police

Incredible moment ‘Australia’s Maddie’ Cleo Smith, four, is rescued by police from rundown home of a 36-year-old ‘childless loner’ – 18 DAYS after she was snatched from her family’s tent 47 miles away

  • Bodycam footage shows the moment Cleo Smith was rescued by WA Police and carried out of the home 
  • Neighbours shocked missing tot Cleo Smith was held prisoner on their doorstep and they never knew it
  • One heard a little girl crying at night and saw him buying nappies at Woolworths but didn’t realise it was Cleo
  • Another said the man was ‘quiet’ and ‘an oddball’, who drove fast with his dogs and was acting ‘weird’

This is the incredible moment four-year-old Cleo Smith was rescued from a stranger’s house in Western Australia, more than two weeks after going missing from a remote campsite where she was staying with her family. 

Cleo, dubbed ‘Australia’s Madeleine McCann’, was discovered by detectives around 1am Wednesday inside a locked house in Carnarvon – a rural town an hour from the campsite where she vanished on October 16 and just seven minutes from her family home.

In the footage, police can be seen carrying the tired-eyed girl into the garden of the house before a police detective asks whether she is OK. When Cleo smiles and nods, he tells her: ‘We’re going to take you to see your mummy and daddy, OK?’

The tender moment brings to an end a desperate investigation that began when Ellie Smith – Cleo’s mother – reported her missing from a tent the two were sharing on the Blowholes campsite 18 days ago, and which had been overshadowed from day one by the thought that Cleo could have wandered to her death, or worse. 

Thankfully she is now recovering in the company of her parents – having been pictured smiling from a hospital bed with an ice lolly, waving to the camera as her mother’s hand rests on her leg.

Meanwhile police said they have arrested a 36-year-old man, who they have not yet named, in connection with her disappearance. The man was also pictured in hospital – being wheeled inside with a bandage around his head after apparently being beaten by other inmates when taken into custody. 

Police have not yet outlined how or why they believe Cleo was taken from the campsite, or how she came to be locked inside a house just a short drive from where he distraught parents were organising efforts to find her.

Investigators have also not disclosed exactly what led them to the house, saying only that they acted on a ‘tip off’ along with ‘forensic’ clues – and that a report of a car in the area was crucial to tracking the girl down. 

Incredible bodycam footage shows the moment Cleo Smith was rescued by Western Australian Police (pictured)

Pictured: Detective Sergeant Cameron Blaine tells Cleo: ‘We’re gonna take you to see your mummy and daddy’ 

Detective Blaine, who has been tirelessly working the case since Cleo vanished, said the first thing he did upon finding the little girl was to ask her for her name. After three attempts she finally replied: ‘My name is Cleo.’

Once he realised they had found the missing girl, Blaine said that detectives were ‘openly crying with relief’ before taking Cleo to hospital where she was reunited with her parents.

Mother Ellie took to social media to express her relief, posting a picture of her daughter with the caption underneath: ‘Our family is whole again.’ 

Speaking about the moment Cleo was found, Detective Blaine said: ‘It was a shock to start with, quickly followed by elation. That could have been any one of the team, but it turned out I was one of four guys that were fortunate enough to go through that door and make that rescue.

‘We had always hoped for that outcome, but were not prepared for it. It was absolutely fantastic to see her sitting there in the way that she was. It was incredible.’

‘I wanted to be sure it was her. I said, “What is your name?” She didn’t answer, I asked three times, and then she looked at me and said, “My name is Cleo.”

‘And that was it. Then we turned around and walked out of the house. Not long after that we got into the car and the officer called Cleo’s parents. It was a wonderful feeling to make that call.’   

The pre-schooler was then immediately rushed to hospital for a welfare check. It was there that police took a photo of her smiling and eating an ice lolly, saying she was bouncing around like ‘a little energizer bunny’.  

Detective Superintendent Rod Wilde, who led the missing person investigation, said Cleo ‘is physically OK’ and had since been released from hospital to be with her mother and stepfather Jake Gliddon. 

Police say the 36-year-old suspect was not in the home when it was raided, is not known to Cleo’s family, and is not a registered sex offender.

He was reportedly beaten by another inmate when he arrived at the Carnarvon holding cells in the middle of the night after the other prisoner learned what he’d been arrested for.

Police feared the missing girl could have been spirited away to anywhere in the country – but instead she was under their noses all along just 3km from her home and 75km from the campsite. 

The first picture of Cleo Smith, safe and sound in hospital, after she was rescued from a house in Carnarvon, in northwest Western Australia, where she was held for 18 days

Neighbours of the home where little Cleo Smith (pictured) was kept prisoner before she was rescued by police on Wednesday have revealed the tell-tale signs they missed.

Cleo was likely already locked up in the house when her parents awoke at 6am to find she was no longer lying next to them and her baby sister Isla in their tent.

Shocked neighbours tell Daily Mail Australia they were first alerted to the commotion when police flood lights lit up their cul-de-sac, which is normally bustling with children playing in their front yards and at the park across the road during daylight hours. 

‘My nephews went up to see what was going on and then they saw cops leading out the little white girl,’ a neighbour who has known Kelly for more than a decade said.

Others woke to the news that Cleo had been rescued from the home 18 days after she disappeared from the Blowholes campsite, filing into the streets before the sun even rose to watch the scene unfold.    

The neighbour said he was a loner who ‘kept to himself’ and was not the type of person anyone else in the street would ‘have a yarn with’ despite being a long term resident. 

He last saw Kelly just three days after little Cleo disappeared. Former friends say Kelly had not long been freed from jail.  

‘His grandmother raised him… but after she died a year or so ago, nobody went over to yarn to him,’ he said.

‘He got a new car after… he used to park it in the driveway and then close the gate, every day, always went and put the car in the same spot and closed the gate.’

He was reportedly beaten by another inmate when he arrived at the Carnarvon holding cells in the middle of the night after the other prisoner learned what he’d been arrested for

Superintendent Wilde described the moment four police officers including himself burst inside and rescued Cleo 

‘[I was] shocked to start with. Quickly followed by elation. They could have been anyone of the team but it turned out that I was of four guys that was fortunate enough to go through that door and make that rescue,’ he said.

‘We had always hoped for that outcome but were not prepared for it was absolutely fantastic. Originally, to see her sitting there in the way that she was, it was incredible.

‘I asked her what her name was. One of the guys jumped in front of me and picked up and I just wanted to be absolutely sure that, it certainly looks like Cleo.

‘I wanted to be sure it was her. I said, ‘what is your name?’ She didn’t answer, I asked three times and then she looked at me and said ‘my name is Cleo.’ And that was it.’

Superintendent Wilde said the next task was to call Cleo’s parents, which he and another officer did from the car. ‘You can imagine, absolute surprise and they were ecstatic,’ he said.

The moment Cleo was reunited with her mother was just as heartwarming, as she immediately shouted ‘mummy!’ 

‘A lot of kisses, hugs and tears,’ Superintendent Wilde said – and that included hardened police officers.

‘People were in tears. It is fair to say. It is an amazing outcome. We hoped, we kept working with that believe that we could get there, you could find Cleo. I don’t know what happened but we were lucky,’ he said.

Superintendent Wilde said Cleo was in good spirits and communicating well with officers, though there was more interviews to do in coming days.

‘Having seen her a couple times this morning, she is a little Energiser bunny. How she has that much energy, I wish I did, I am about ready to go to sleep,’ he said.

‘Very sweet, energetic girl. Very trusting and very open with us. We all wanted to take turns holding her. It was a really good experience.’ 

Police received a sudden tip-off on Tuesday night containing ‘really important information about a car’, which they confirmed with phone data and ‘a lot of forensic leads’ – and just hours later raided the house. 

Detectives confirmed the tip they received with phone data and ‘a lot of forensic leads’ – and just hours later raided the house. 

There were other signs too, from the sound of a little girl crying heard by neighbours to the suspected kidnapper pacing around the street and buying nappies for a child he didn’t have.

However, neighbours on Tonkin Crescent admit they didn’t join the dots until after Cleo was rescued and failed to report suspicious behaviour to police that could have led them to her days earlier. 

Sahntayah McKenzie recalled hearing a little girl crying one night, but did not think anything of it at the time.

‘Not last night, the night before it… I heard a little girl crying but I wouldn’t expect it to be Cleo,’ she told the West Australian.

‘I didn’t expect it would happen in this little neighbourhood, a lot of people know each other.’ 

It’s reported that police were tipped off to the address after neighbours spotted the suspect buying nappies.

One of them told Seven News she became suspicious after seeing the suspect buying Kimbies nappies from a supermarket. 

‘The other day, I think it was Monday, we saw him in Woolworths buying nappies but we didn’t click on who it was or what he was buying them for,’ she said. ‘Until now.’

Another neighbour told Nine he had spotted the arrested man behaving bizarrely in recent days, hooning through the streets with his dogs in the front seat of his car.

Sahntayah McKenzie recalled how she heard a little girl crying one night, but did not think anything of it at the time

Latest on Cleo Smith found alive after 18 days

  • 36-year-old man with no connection to the familyis in police custody
  • Neighbours said the ‘quiet man’ was seen buying nappies at Woolworths
  • Cleo found alone inside the house when police broke down the door at 1am
  • Police were acting on a tip-off that led them to the housing commission home 
  • The home is just seven minutes’ drive from Cleo’s family home 
  • Cleo was smiling when she was rescued, the police commissioner confirmed 
  • She is now in hospital for an assessment after being reunited with her family

‘He’s been acting a bit strange lately,’ Henry Dodd told Nine News. ‘He will get in his car, drive that fast. 

‘He doesn’t have his dogs at the front [normally], he has his dogs out the back, but through this week he had his dogs out the front and he has been acting weird.’

Henry Dodd said police spent several hours driving up and down the street before breaking into the home.

Neighbours described the man as ‘quiet’ and said they wouldn’t expect him to be involved.

‘Everyone that knows the person that stays in that house, wouldn’t think that it would be him,’ he said.

‘We got a shock ourselves that it was him.’

Another neighbour told the Today show: ‘S**t, she’s been that close.’

Another local described the man in custody as an ‘oddball’.

‘He is a very quiet guy, bit of an oddball… definitely wouldn’t have picked him… it has completely derailed me,’ Rennee Turner said.

‘I’d heard whispers… I kind of figured the police might have had an idea of what was going on, because I have never seen such a massive amount of cops here for so long.’ 

Others said he in recent weeks bought food he didn’t usually buy, and that he moved his dog that usually stayed in the backyard to the front yard.

Neighbours who witnessed the dramatic police raid, after which officers were seen carrying a crow bar and a battering ram out of the house, described how Cleo was carried to safety.

In the early hours of the morning, police smashed through the locked door of a home (pictured) in the Brockman suburb of Carnarvon, Western Australia, to rescue the four year old

One neighbour Henry (pictured)  said he had spotted the arrested man behaving unusually in recent days, hooning through the streets in his car with his dogs in the front seat

‘We stood back and waited but after that, we saw someone, on the detective shoulder. We thought it might be the little girl, which it was,’ Henry Dodd told Seven News.

‘I went closer to the detectives car and I saw her in the back of the car with the detective, he was holding her. They put her in the back and I came over, rushed over here and seen her there. She looked at me, a bit scared.’ 

Mr Dodd said he was shocked he had been just metres away from her while the nationwide hunt was going on for her.

‘I just can’t believe it and get over the fact that she is just the house down from us and locked up here for a couple of weeks,’ he added.

‘Going on three weeks, she is straight across from us. I’ve got little sisters there…’  

Cleo was found alone in this suburban home in Carnarvon, in the north-west of Western Australia, shortly before 1am on Wednesday morning

Deputy WA Police Commissioner Col Blanch said Tuesday night’s tip was the final piece of the puzzle that allowed detectives to finally track down Cleo.

‘We’ve collected phone data, witness statements, DNA, fingerprints, rubbish along the highways, CCTV – we’ve collected everything,’ he said.

‘The million dollar reward helped us with collecting even more from the members of the public. Everyone came forward to helping us.

‘There were car movements, there were phone movements, there were antecedents of people, the jigsaw fit the puzzle.

‘We had to find that needle. Last night the needle in the haystack came out and they acted in a heartbeat.’ 

The vital tip-off was the last piece of the puzzle in a case that until then frustrated and eluded detectives and had Australians fearing Cleo would never be found, let alone alive.

Police said Cleo was smiling when she was rescued at the house, with the moment captured on police bodycam footage that brought a tear to his eye.

‘I’ve seen it. It’s burned into my memory for life. You cannot look at that and not feel it in your heart. Unbelievable moment,’ he said.

‘I saw detectives that have worked for 18 days straight, 24/7 see little Cleo in a room, and just the look on their faces. The care that was expressed immediately, the cuddling, the asking of her name, her little voice.’

Cleo was found in her hometown of Carnarvon in Western Australia, 75km from where she went missing on October 16

Cleo is now back in the arms of her mum Ellie and stepfather Jake (pictured together)

Daily Mail Australia understands a local police officer rang Cleo’s mother to break the incredible news. She is now in hospital for assessment.

Ms Smith wrote on Instagram hours later: ‘Our family is whole again.’

A close family friend also revealed the emotional message Ms Smith earlier wrote to her loved ones to let them know her ‘beautiful girl is home’.

‘To be woken at 4.50am with my phone going crazy and see the words Cleo is home alive and safe,’ she wrote on Facebook.

‘Seeing Ellie saying her ‘beautiful girl is home’ is nothing short of a miracle.’ 

In a local Facebook group, a concerned local suggested people in the small town remove ‘missing’ posters and stickers to prevent the family from suffering any more trauma.

But the youngster’s mother Ellie Smith commented on the post to let people know it was unnecessary.

‘Cleo has seen her photo. She thought it was beautiful,’ Ms Smith wrote.

Cleo’s biological father Daniel Staines, who lives with his parents about 1,000km south of Carnarvon in Halls Head, said he is ‘overjoyed’ that the little girl was found alive.

‘We are all absolutely overjoyed at the good news this morning and so happy that Cleo has been reunited with her mum and dad,’ the Staines family said in a statement to The West Australian.

‘Thank you to everyone who helped look for her and bring her home, particularly the WA Police, SES and the Carnarvon community.’

 They sent Cleo, her step-father Jake Gliddon and Ellie their ‘best wishes’. 

Commissioner Dawson reportedly broke down in tears upon learning the heartwarming news. He said the youngster (pictured) was good as can be expected

Cleo’s mum Ellie Smith broke her silence on Wednesday morning, sharing a series of love heart emojis on Instagram after her daughter was found alive and well

What happened to Cleo in the house where she was held captive for more than two weeks, without her family, but psychologists said she would have a long road to recovery.

Police Air Wing PC12 picked up the suspect, who has no relation to Cleo’s family, from Carnarvon and landed at Perth’s Jandakot Airport late on Wednesday morning. 

Police Commissioner Chris Dawson was on board the plane and will spend the day meeting with police involved in the rescue and checking in with Cleo’s family.

The police chief broke down in tears upon learning the heartwarming news. He said Cleo was as good as can be expected.

‘I saw the vision, Cleo is a beautiful little four-year-old girl,’ he said.

‘She’s as well as we could expect in the circumstances. She’s alive, well, smiling, so it is a wonderful, wonderful result.’

He said Cleo’s parents were emotional but doing well.

‘They’re strong people, they are really strong people. They have good support around them,’ Commissioner Dawson said. 

‘It’s a wonderful result today but it’ll be a tough journey for them.’


 By Olivia Day for Daily Mail Australia

Friday, October 15

Cleo along with her mother Ellie Smith, her partner Jake Gliddon and her little sister Isla Mae arrive at the Blowholes campsite around 6:30pm.

They had a ‘quiet’ night and arrived at sunset.

Saturday, October 16

1:30am: Parents’ last sighting of Cleo in the tent she shared with her parents and baby sister when the four-year-old asks for some water.

6.23am: Ellie calls 000 to report her eldest daughter missing as she continues to search the camp ground.

6.30am: The first two officers are dispatched from Carnarvon police station. They travel to Blowholes as a matter of priority, with sirens and lights.

6.41am: A second police car with another two officers is sent to Blowholes, also with lights and sirens.

7.10am: The first police car arrives. The second is only minutes behind.

7.26am: Police on the scene establish a protected forensic area which is taped off to the public, surrounding the family tent where Cleo was last seen.

7.33am: A drone operator is called upon to search from the skies.

7.44am: A third police car is dispatched to the Blowholes.

8am: Family and friends of Cleo’s parents begin to arrive to help with the ground search.

Another group of detectives briefly searches Cleo’s home to make sure she’s not there.

They then head to Blowholes and begin stopping cars coming into and leaving the area.

8.09am: A helicopter from a local company arrived at the scene and started searching as police request an SES team attend the Blowholes search.

8.24am: Police air-wing and volunteer marine searchers are called in to assist with the search.

8.34am: Roadblocks are set up at the entrance of Blowholes as detectives gather the names, registration details and addresses of people coming and going. Police search cars.

9.25am: Nine SES personel arrive at the Blowholes to assist with the search.

Investigators, bounty hunters and officers from the Australian Federal Police have spent two-and-a-half weeks searching for missing four-year-old Cleo (pictured)

9.30am: Detectives sit down with a distressed Ellie and remain by her side for the rest of the day while other search crews hunt for Cleo.

11am: Homicide detectives from the Major Crime Division are called and begin travelling from Perth to assist with the search.

1pm: More homicide detectives and search experts are flown in from Perth.

3pm: Officers and search experts arrive in Carnarvon to offer their expertise.

Sunday, October 17

Ms Smith takes to social media to plead for help finding her missing daughter.

A Facebook post uploaded at 1:45am on Sunday which said: ‘It’s been over 24 hours since I last seen the sparkle in my little girl’s eyes.

‘Please help me find her!

‘If you hear or see anything at all please call the police!’

Police suggest Cleo may have been abducted.

Monday, October 18

Police release an image of the red and grey sleeping bag missing from Cleo’s tent.

Cleo’s biological father is interviewed by police in Mandurah and is asked to provide a statement, which he does so willingly.

WA Police with the help of SES members, volunteers and aircraft continue the land hunt for Cleo, with officers searching nearby shacks and vehicles in the area.

Tuesday, October 19

Cleo’s mother Ellie Smith and her partner Jake Gliddon front the media for the first time and describe the terrifying moment they realised the little girl was missing.

Ms Smith says her four-year-old would never have left the tent by herself.

Police release new images of Cleo and the pink and blue one-piece she was wearing the night she went missing to aid the investigation.

Investigators urge anyone who was at the campsite or in the vicinity on October 15 to get in contact with police. 

Wednesday, October 20

Police reveal the zip of the family tent, which was found hanging wide open by her mother at 6am on Saturday morning, was too high for Cleo to reach.

Officers say they ‘haven’t ruled out’ reports from campers who heard the sound of screeching tyres in the early hours of Saturday morning.

Deputy Police Commissioner Daryl Gaunt confirms officers are investigating the whereabouts of 20 registered sex offenders in the Carnarvon area.

Thursday, October 21

The WA Government offers a $1million reward for information that leads to Cleo’s location announced by WA Premier Mark McGowan.

‘All Western Australians’ thoughts are with Cleo’s family during what is an unimaginably difficult time,’ Mr McGowan said.

‘We’re all praying for a positive outcome.’

The speed of the reward being issued – within days of her disappearance – was unprecedented.

Pictured: Police are seen examining rubbish left near the Blowholes campsite in remote WA 

Monday, October 25

WA Police confirm Cleo was definitely at the camp site – on CCTV footage on a camera installed inside a beach shack just 20 metres from the family tent she disappeared from. 

Tuesday, October 26

Forensic officers and detectives spent much of the day at her home in Carnarvon, 900km north of Perth, on Tuesday and left with two bags of evidence.

Although investigators had been to the home before, this was the first time they thoroughly searched inside with a forensics team.

Acting WA Police Commissioner Col Blanch said the search of the family home was ‘standard practice’ and did not indicate they were suspects in Cleo’s disappearance.

Wednesday, October 27

WA Police forensics officers return to the Blowholes campground and are seen collecting soil samples from a number of campfires near shacks in the area.

The federal government announce Australian Federal Police officers had been drafted in to support forensic and intelligence efforts.

Friday, October 29

Police return to the Blowholes camp to analyse the area with drones.

Detective Superintendent Rod Wilde returns to the Blowholes campsite to join the search for Cleo as the search hit the two-week mark.

He confirms national and international agencies are engaged in the search for Cleo.

Sunday, October 31

Detectives go door-knocking at a number of homes along the North West Coastal Highway in the North Plantations, 5km from Cleo’s hometown on Sunday.

Monday, November 1

Detectives sort through mounds of rubbish from roadside bins located hundreds of kilometres away from the campsite she vanished from.

The material was transported to Perth, where forensic officers and recruits sorted through hundreds of bags in search of items that may have helped them find Cleo.

Officers issue a plea for dash cam and CCTV footage from within a 1000km radius of where the four-year-old disappeared.

Police renew an appeal for more businesses in Carnarvon to provide footage and go door to door in an industrial area on the outskirts of the town.

Her elated mother, Ellie, (pictured, with Cleo, her partner and younger daughter) broke her silence the morning Cleo was found, sharing a series of love heart emojis on Instagram 

Wednesday, November 3

After two-and-a-half weeks of searching Cleo Smith is found alive and well in the early hours of November 3.

WA Police Deputy Commissioner Col Blanch confirmed just before 7am AEST that little Cleo is alive and well and had been reunited with her relieved parents.

‘One of the officers picked her up into his arms and asked her ‘what’s your name?’ he said. ‘She said: ‘My name is Cleo’.’

Ellie Smith posted to social media: ‘Our family is whole again’.

A Carnarvon man is currently in custody and being questioned by detectives.

On October 19, Ellie Smith (pictured) and her partner Jake Gliddon fronted the media for the first time and begged the public to report any information ‘big or small’

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