Missing girl Cleo Smith’s home in Western Australia searched by forensic officers

·4 min read

Forensic officers have scoured Cleo Smith’s family home in Western Australia for more than seven hours with the state’s acting commissioner saying it was standard practice and police needed to “eliminate everyone that was at that campsite” when the four-year-old vanished.

The acting commissioner, Col Blanch, when asked on Wednesday whether it was possible Cleo was no longer alive, told 6PR radio: “There’s a massive police team still working every day and it’s important we all have hope that we can bring Cleo home.”

Cleo’s stepfather, Jake Gliddon, led forensic officers and detectives into the family’s South Carnarvon home on Tuesday afternoon, the West Australian newspaper reported. The police left about 10pm with evidence bags.

“The police were there [but] I must be very clear so that people don’t make assumptions – that is standard practice in any investigation,” Blanch said on Wednesday.

 Related: An open tent and an empty bed: desperate search for missing four-year-old Cleo Smith  

“We must do a thorough investigation. The parents have been nothing but helpful [and] we’ve worked very closely with them. They’ve let us into their home, their car, their phones, everything. That is a normal part of an investigation and we must follow it through thoroughly. Our job is to eliminate everyone that was at that campsite and that is a systematic and thorough approach.”

Watch: Parents of missing four-year-old Cleo Smith speak out

Cleo was reported missing in the early hours of Saturday 16 October after her parents could not find her at the Blowholes site where they had been camping north of Carnarvon.

WA police had previously said there was nothing to suggest the account given by Cleo’s parents was anything but “accurate and truthful”. Guardian Australia is not suggesting they were involved in Cleo’s disappearance.

Police believe she may have been taken from the family’s tent, with her sleeping bag, between 1.30am and 6am.

Blanch said on Wednesday the abduction theory was the “highest probability thinking of what’s occurred to Cleo” but police remained open-minded.

Investigators want to speak to the driver of a car reportedly seen turning south off Blowholes Road between 3am and 3.30am on the morning Cleo vanished. Blanch said CCTV footage from “shops, houses, everything” was being sought along the entire coastal highway to corroborate witness accounts of the car heading south.

“It’s not to say that is the person – but certainly driving around at 3am coming out of there would pique our interest,” the acting commissioner said on Wednesday.

Forensic officers last weekend searched the outside of Cleo’s Carnarvon house for fingerprints in an attempt to find any new evidence. West Australian media reported police were looking for signs of a stalker.

Cleo’s mother, Ellie Smith, earlier this week made further public pleas for any information regarding her daughter’s whereabouts.

“FIND MY LITTLE GIRL,” she wrote on Instagram with the phone number for Crime Stoppers and information about the $1m reward that had been offered by the WA government for any information leading to her location.

Watch: Australian state offer reward to find missing girl

Police had previously revealed the zipper on the tent was found open to a height Cleo would not have been able to reach – suggesting she couldn’t have just wandered off.

“We want our daughter back. We need her home,” Smith told Seven News in an interview on Monday.

“She was taken … we have hope our girl’s there, somewhere, but we don’t have any leads. How did someone come into that tent and take Cleo? How could someone take a child? My gut just felt sick.”

 Related: Cleo Smith: WA police say they want to talk to driver of car seen near campsite about 3am 

The Australian prime minister, Scott Morrison, confirmed to 6PR radio on Tuesday that the Australian federal police had joined the search and were using “leading edge” technology.

“The AFP have some very advanced capabilities,” he said.

“It’s leading-edge, not just here in Australia. They are helping in any way they possibly can through their intelligence capabilities, their technology and their forensic abilities.”

The WA premier, Mark McGowan, has urged anyone with information related to the investigation to come forward.

“We all feel for her and her family and we just want to make sure that we find her as soon as we can, and that every effort is made to uncover her location so that the family can find out where she is,” he said on Sunday.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting