'Loner oddball' arrested over Cleo Smith 'kidnapping' seen buying nappies by neighbours who heard 'crying from his home'
3rd November 2021

THE suspect arrested over the disappearance of Cleo Smith was seen buying nappies, a neighbour has said.

Cleo has been found as police arrested a 36-year-old "quiet man" described as an "oddball" by neighbours who heard crying coming from his home.



After weeks of searching in the Outback, Cleo was yesterday found in a room inside a locked house.

The four-year-old's first words were "my name is Cleo" as cops busted open the door and found the girl – 18 days after she vanished from her tent at Blowholes campground site in Western Australia.

Police have arrested the suspect – who was described by neighbours as "quiet" and was seen uncharacteristically buying nappies in the last few days.

"The other day – on Monday – we saw him in Woolworths buying Kimbies [nappies] and that," neighbour Henry Dodd told Australia's 'Sunrise' news show.

"Everyone knows the person who stays at that house, but no one would have thought it would be him,' he said. We were shocked."

Sahntayah McKenzie who lives nearby said she heard the sound of crying one night, but did not connect it to the missing girl.

"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."

The property where the little girl was found was just a seven-minute drive from her family home.

Western Australia Police confirmed that cops broke their way into a locked property at around 1am in Carnarvon, Western Australia.

The tot was found by a group of officers and she told them: "My name is Cleo."

Little Cleo has now been reunited with her family after a heartbreaking 18 days.

She is receiving care in hospital following her disappearance.

'BUYING NAPPIES'

Cleo's mum Ellie Smith spoke out for the first time since the little girl was found, posting the emotional message to Instagram: "Our family is whole again."

Police confirmed the four-year-old was found "alive and well" – which is the "outcome we prayed for."

The suspect, 36, was arrested at the property and is currently being questioned by detectives, police said.

He has no connection to the family, it was confirmed.

Deputy Commissioner Col Blanch said in a statement this evening: "It’s my privilege to announce that in the early hours of this morning, the Western Australia Police Force rescued Cleo Smith.

"Cleo is alive and well. A police team broke their way into a locked house in Carnarvon about 1am.

"They found little Cleo in one of the rooms."

He revealed that one of the officers picked the four-year-old girl up in his arms, before asking what her name was.

The tot, who police and civilians in Australia have been desperately looking for, replied: "My name is Cleo."

'MY NAME IS CLEO'

Commissioner Blanch added: "Cleo was reunited with her parents a short time later.

"This is the outcome we all hoped and prayed for.

"It’s the outcome we’ve achieved because of some incredible police work.

"I want to thank Cleo’s parents, the Western Australian community and the many volunteers.

"And of course, I want to thank my colleagues in the Western Australia Police Force.

What we know so far…

  • Cleo Smith, four, has been found alive and well after 18 days
  • Police broke into a locked house in Carnarvon at 1am
  • They found little Cleo in one of the rooms
  • The four-year-old has reunited with her family
  • Police arrested a man, 36, in connection to Cleo's disappearence
  • The man is in custody and is being questioned
  • The property where Cleo was found was just a seven minute drive from her family home

"I can confirm we have a man from Carnarvon in custody who is currently being questioned by detectives.

"We’ll have more to say on the rescue of Cleo as the day unfolds.

"For now – Welcome home Cleo."

Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison praised the police force for their work in rescuing the little girl.

"What wonderful, relieving news," he wrote.

"Our prayers answered. Thank you to the many Western Australia Police Force officers involved in finding Cleo and supporting her family."

FOUND ALIVE AND WELL

Shocked neighbours have described seeing a "quiet man" buying nappies just two days before Cleo was found inside a locked home.

The neighbour told Sunrise: "The other day – on Monday – we saw him in Woolworths buying Kimbies [nappies] and that.

"But we didn't click on what he was buying them for."

Speaking about the man who was arrested, he added: "Everyone knows the person who stays at that house, but no one would have thought it would be him.

"We were shocked."

Local resident Sahntayah McKenzie said she heard the sound of a child crying recently.

She told The West Australian: "Not last night, the night before it…I heard a little girl crying but I wouldn't expect it to be Cleo.

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

WA Police Commissioner Chris Dawson said the arrest came after detectives received information that led them to the house. 

Just days ago, it was reported that police were close to cracking the missing child case as officers were seen probing the family home for the third time.

'QUIET MAN' ARRESTED

Dubbed the 'Aussie Maddie McCann,' cops launched a desperate hunt for the child after she went missing from the remote campsite in her pink pyjamas.

Her mum Ellie last saw her at 1.30am when she gave her a drink of water, and then her and her partner Jake Gliddon awoke to find the tot missing – sparking a frantic search.

Cleo's disappearance sent shockwaves through the community in Australia.

The police were called around three hours after she was found to be missing as the family had hoped the girl was just hiding nearby – searching the area with other campers.

Police were searching rugged terrain near the remote campsite for the missing girl and said they had "grave concerns for Cleo’s safety".

Authorities previously also offered a $1m reward for information leading to Cleo’s location.



Just yesterday, the police said: "Police investigating the disappearance of four-year-old Cleo Smith continue to leave no stone unturned.

"As part of the investigation, officers collected more than 50 cubic metres of rubbish from roadside bins as far north as Minilya to as far south as Geraldton.

"The rubbish was packed into two trucks and transported to Perth, where four forensics officers and 20 officers spent two days sorting through hundreds of bags, in an effort to find any items that may assist in the investigation."

During the 18 days she was missing, Cleo's best friend pleaded for the "abducted toddler" to come home because "she needs to stay with her family".

Tot Lenaya "Naya" Forbes posed beside a drawing she made for her pal who had vanished.

"I still miss her," little Naya told 7News. "And I reckon she got taken from the tent.

REUNITED WITH HER FAMILY

"I still miss her cause she's lost and I want her to come back."

Meanwhile, a Madeleine McCann top cop Jim Gamble previously said Cleo likely would have known her abductor who may be someone who was following the family ahead of their trip.

Mr Gamble – who was the senior child protection officer in the UK investigation into the Maddie case – explained the chance of the girl being taken away silently by a total stranger in the middle of the night was low.

The top cop also added the "pivotal point" of the case was the fact her sleeping bag was missing from the campsite.

He explained you would expect the bag to be left in the tent if little Cleo had wandered off alone.

Timeline – The Search for Cleo

October 15 – Cleo arrives with her parents and baby sister at Blowhole Campground in Carnarvon, Western Australia

October 16 1.30am – The four-year-old wakes her mum up for a drink before going back to sleep in the tent she shared with her parents and sister

October 16 6.30am – Cleo's mother Ellie wakes to find her daughter has vanished without a trace

October 18 – Locals urged to check their bins for the missing child's sleeping bag

October 21 – Police offer $1million reward to anyone with information that leads them to Cleo

October 24 – Cleo's voice is heard on CCTV 20 metres from where she disappeared from the campsite

October 25 – Cops look for the driver of a car seen between 3am and 3.30am on the morning she vanished

October 30 – Police launch an air, land and sea search for the four-year-old

November 2 – Cleo is found by police "alive and well" locked in a room in Carnarvon – just 43 miles from the Blowholes camp

"On a campsite you can hear a pin drop in the middle of the night," Mr Gamble told The Sun Online.

"If you drag out a child – even if they have their sleeping bag over their head – the child will begin to scream.

"To get the child out of the tent without drawing any attention is a really difficult thing to do."

He explained: "If it is someone they know – and potentially trust – a child would be much more compliant.

"If a child is shocked out of their sleep by movement by someone they don't know they are much more likely to cry out – no question."




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