Richard Wainwright / AAP Image via AP
CANBERRA, Australia – Cleo Smith was back to herself laughing and bubbling as she played in the backyard of her family home on the west coast of Australia on Thursday, hours before a 36-year-old foreigner be accused of abducting the 4-year-old from a camping tent more than two weeks ago.
Police charged Terry Kelly, a local resident, of forcibly taking a child away among other offenses, according to a police statement.
Kelly appeared briefly in Carnarvon City Court where a magistrate refused to release him on bail.
Police visited Cleo’s family in Carnarvon as they prepare to collect crucial eyewitness evidence implicating Kelly, who is believed to have snatched her from a campground north of the city of 5,000. people on October 16.
“I can only see her from the outside, but from that point of view I’m amazed that she looks so well adjusted and happy, and it was really … heartwarming to see that she is still bubbly and let her laugh, “Senior Detective Sgt Cameron Blaine said.
“I’m sure it made an impact, but just seeing her behave naturally enough like a 4 year old girl should and just enjoy being around her little sister and family was good.” , added Blaine. .
The police used a ram to save Cleo
Blaine was part of a four-member police team that used a ram to crash into a locked house early Wednesday and save Cleo. The lights were on and she was alone playing with toys in a house within a 10-minute drive of her own, police said.
“My name is Cleo,” the smiling girl told officers who rescued her and asked her name to confirm they had found the right child.
Kelly was arrested on a nearby street around the same time, police said.
Detective Superintendent Rod Wilde, who heads the police investigation, said specialist investigators for children had traveled to Carnarvon from the state capital, Perth, 900 kilometers (560 miles) to the south.
“The main concern about this is Cleo’s well-being,” Wilde said of the interview.
“We have experienced people who will undertake this and it will take as long as it takes. We will sit down with the family and determine the appropriate time,” added Wilde.
The police did not want to say if Cleo had been questioned before Kelly was charged.
Media reported Kelly raised suspicions from other residents when he was seen shopping for diapers and was known to have no children, but police released little information on what made the man a suspect.
“It wasn’t a random tip or a clairvoyant or any other stuff you might hear,” Police Minister Paul Papalia said. “It was just hard police work.”
The suspect was injured while in police custody
Kelly was taken from police custody to a hospital on Wednesday night and again on Thursday, with what the media reported to be self-inflicted injuries.
Asked about reports that Kelly was injured after hitting his head against a cell wall, Western Australia Police Deputy Commissioner Col. Blanch only replied that he did not there were “no serious injuries”.
A police statement said “Kelly’s medical case is not related to any police involvement with him.”
Wilde said Kelly had since returned to the police station and “was talking to the police”.
Wednesday was Cleo’s first full night at home with her mom, Ellie Smith, step-dad Jake Gliddon and half-sister Isla Gliddon since the start of the family event.
Cleo’s return sparks celebrations
As they slept, Perth’s public buildings were lit up with blue lights to celebrate the success of the police investigation. In Carnarvon, balloons were hoisted on buildings and signs were put up to welcome Cleo.
Western Australian Prime Minister Mark McGowan also visited the family on Thursday and commented on how “well adjusted” the child and his parents appeared.
“She’s bubbly, cheeky, friendly, sweet. She was eating an iced post, she knocked it all over the place. She told me it was very, very sticky, which I thought, and she was everything. simply delicious, ”McGowan said.
McGowan said he gave her two teddy bears dressed in police uniforms, but she didn’t seem impressed by his suggestion to name them Cameron and Rod after the senior detectives who conducted her investigation.
Blaine, a homicide investigator, said he was not sure Cleo recognized him from their first meeting when they saw each other on Thursday. He described his reaction to finding Cleo alive as “shock, followed by elation.”
“We had always hoped for this outcome, but we still weren’t prepared for it,” said Blaine.
Xanthe Mallett, a criminologist at the Australian University of Newcastle, said it was rare to find a victim of a stranger abduction alive after more than two weeks.
“Unfortunately, they’re normally killed quickly, usually within the first three hours,” Mallett said.
The Carnarvon community’s willingness to help police locate Cleo was likely a key factor in the success of the investigation, she said. Police had offered a million Australian dollars ($ 743,000) reward for the information, but don’t expect the money to be claimed.
“I always thought it would be someone with local connections because it was someone who knew this campsite, so the fact that she is so close to this campsite and so close to Cleo’s house doesn’t didn’t surprise me, ”Mallett said. noted.
The police “got so well engaged with this community and had them on board, they had the eyes of the whole community on everyone, pointing out anyone suspicious. I think that was really the key to this investigation – everything just awesome, old-fashioned, boots on the ground police work, ”Mallett added.