Watch: Australian police scour beach for missing girl
The mother of Cleo Smith says she woke to find the tent open and her daughter missing, along with her sleeping bag, on the morning the four-year-old vanished from a popular Western Australian campsite.
Ellie Smith said she had barely slept since her daughter’s disappearance and called for Cleo’s safe return after the search entered its fourth day.
“Everyone asks us what we need and all we need is our little girl home,” she said on Tuesday.
The family had arrived at the Blowholes campsite at Macleod, on the north-west coast of Western Australia, on Friday about 6.30pm. Smith said Cleo went to bed about 8pm after dinner before the rest of their family, including her sister Isla.
Smith said her daughter had woken in the night about 1.30am on Saturday asking for water and that was the last time her parents saw her.
At the time of her disappearance, the girl was wearing a pink one-piece sleepsuit with a blue and yellow pattern, and was in a red and black sleeping bag which is also missing.
“I got her some water. She went to bed,” Smith said of her last interaction with her Cleo.
“I checked on Isla, made sure Isla was OK I got back in bed and that was it really, we went back to sleep, woke up to Isla wanting a bottle. As we passed the divider, I went into the other room and the zipper was open. Cleo was gone and that was about it for Saturday morning until everything started.”
Smith said she turned to her partner, Jake Gliddon, and said: “Cleo’s gone.”
“The tent was completely open. It was about 30cm from open,” she said. “We grew up here, we literally grew up 100 metres from where we stayed at the same age. So we just looked everywhere that we went as kids and we couldn’t find her. We realised we had to call the cops because she wasn’t here.”
Watch: Cleo Smith - Major search launched after four-year-old disappears from Australian campsite in middle of night
Smith said her little girl would never leave the tent on her own and someone must know where she is.
“She’s lazy when it comes to walking. She won’t ride her bike very far. All she wants to do is go in the bottom of our pram,” she said.
“She would never leave us, she would never leave the tent. We hold hope that she’s here [near the campsite] because if I think about her being taken ... a million other things cross our mind.”
Searches resumed with mounted police officers in and around nearby shacks on Tuesday afternoon after being temporarily paused due to damaging wind gusts and heavy rain in the area.
Homicide and major crime forensic investigators have joined local police amid fears Cleo may have been abducted. Helicopters and drones have been deployed as detectives comb through CCTV and dashcam footage.
Insp Jon Munday told Perth radio 6PR it was “a race against time” and he couldn’t rule out the girl may still be in the area.
“That is probably our worst-case scenario because that really paints a sinister picture with what’s happened,” he said. “We’re just trying to find answers.”
Smith said she had “no idea” what had happened to her daughter, but the most difficult part was the lack of control over her fate.
“There’s probably a million things that I’ve thought of and as everyone tells us they are searching every angle that we probably have thought of,” she said.
“The worst part is, we can’t do anything more. It’s out of our hands so we feel hopeless and out of control.”
The WA premier, Mark McGowan, said his thoughts were with the girl’s family during what was “undoubtedly an extremely difficult time for them and everyone involved”.
“To Cleo’s family and on behalf of West Australians, we are thinking of you at this difficult time,” he said.
Cleo’s mother urged anyone with information to contact police.
“If you see something, report it,” Ellie Smith said.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s small or big or if you’re sure or not ... we want our little girl home. We sit and watch the sand dunes and we just think she’s going to run down it and back into our arms, but we’re still waiting.”
- with Australian Associated Press