Prisoner’s mother tells how ‘loner’ Terry Kelly, 36, was ‘given a real hiding’ by her ‘furious’ son

The suspected abductor of four-year-old Cleo Smith who sustained a heady injury in custody after his

The suspected abductor of four-year-old Cleo Smith who sustained a heady injury in custody after his arrest was beaten ‘black and blue’ by another prisoner inside a police holding cell, the inmate’s mother has claimed. 

Terry Kelly, 36, was arrested by police over the disappearance of Cleo, dubbed ‘Australia’s Madeleine McCann’, before officers rescued the little girl from a house in Carnarvon, Western Australia, 18 days after she went missing from a remote campsite.

The suspect had only been at Carnarvon police station for a few hours on Wednesday when he was allegedly set upon by a prisoner. 

Today, the prisoner’s mother said her ‘furious’ son ‘blew up’ and beat Kelly ‘black and blue’ when he discovered that he had been arrested over the four-year-old’s abduction.  

She said: ‘As soon as he heard this bloke was arrested over that little Cleo, he blew up, beat him black and blue.

‘I tell you what, he (Kelly) got a real hiding…my son had to be taken out in shackles, and he (Kelly) was taken for treatment…he was in a bad way. He is a big bloke but he really copped it’.

A spokesman for Western Australia Police said they would not be commenting on the woman’s claims.

Earlier today Kelly was seen being loaded into an ambulance outside the police station and taken to hospital for treatment with a large white bandage wrapped around his head. 

Officers had pulled over the alleged kidnapper and bundled him out of a car just after midnight before police executed a search warrant at the nearby home and found Cleo inside a locked property.

Neighbours earlier described the suspect as ‘a loner’ who had been behaving ‘weirdly’, including one who saw him buying nappies in a nearby supermarket despite not having children. Another reported hearing a girl crying at night in recent days, but said she thought nothing of it at the time. 

Cops said the 36-year-old, who has undergone a psychiatric assessment after being deemed mentally unstable, was only identified as a suspect on Tuesday, and is now being questioned over a suspected abduction. They are not looking for anybody else. 

Cleo was discovered by detectives at around 1am on Wednesday alone and playing with toys inside the bedroom of a rundown and locked house in Carnarvon – a rural town 47 miles from the campsite where she vanished on October 16, and just two miles from her family home. 

Detectives had used crowbars and battering rams to kick in the door and free the little girl at about 12.46am local time on Wednesday. 

The suspect was not at the house when Cleo was found, officers added, but was arrested a ‘short’ distance away. Detective Wilde said he is not known to Cleo’s family and is not a registered sex offender, but is ‘known to police’. ‘I have to be very careful about that,’ he added.

Terry Kelly (pictured in the back of an ambulance), 36, who was arrested by police over the disappearance of Cleo, dubbed ‘Australia’s Madeleine McCann ‘, had only been at Carnarvon police station, in Western Australia, for a few hours on Wednesday when he was allegedly set upon by a prisoner

Cleo was pictured smiling and waving for the camera from a hospital bed while eating an ice lolly as mother Ellie Smith's hand rested on her leg (bottom right) in the first image of her since she went missing on October 16

Cleo was pictured smiling and waving for the camera from a hospital bed while eating an ice lolly as mother Ellie Smith’s hand rested on her leg (bottom right) in the first image of her since she went missing on October 16 

Footage later showed the moment the four-year-old  was found alive by detectives inside a locked house in the town of Canarvon, Western Australia, 18 days after going missing while on a family camping trip

Footage later showed the moment the four-year-old  was found alive by detectives inside a locked house in the town of Canarvon, Western Australia, 18 days after going missing while on a family camping trip

Detectives allege Kelly was behaving suspiciously in the 18 days since Cleo vanished, doing laps of his street at all hours of the day and buying toddler nappies from his grocery store despite not being known to have children.

Dogs that he usually kept on the backyard of his home were also suddenly moved to the front of the home.

Following the arrest, locals described their bizarre run-ins with Kelly, with a baker telling of the moment he waved at him just a day before the raid and a woman detailing a strange interaction at Bunnings where the suspect ‘stared at her’. 

Suspect’s suspicious behaviour led to his arrest, police say 

Police have confirmed there were several signs that led them to suspect Terry Kelly rather than one particular lead.

Acting on community reports, detectives began to notice a pattern of suspicious activity from the 36-year-old.

While he was not linked to the family, police say there were behaviours over the past 18 days since Cleo disappeared that were out of the ordinary.

First, he started doing laps of his own street at all hours of the day or night.

Neighbours were also confused when they saw Kelly buying toddler nappies at the local Woolworths, despite not having any children. He was also purchasing food he wouldn’t normally buy.

Finally, the man’s dogs had recently been moved from the backyard into the front of the house.

Data from his phone was also collected to track his movements in the days leading to his arrest, further solidifying the theories that were being fleshed out among detectives. 

Carnarvon baker Donald said he waved to the accused kidnapper in a polite exchange on the street a day before Cleo was found.

Donald told 6PR Radio he ‘couldn’t have imagined anything like this.’

A neighbour who has lived across the street from Kelly for years recalled how she also had her own bizarre interaction with the man.

Pricilla Milly-Milly said she saw him at the hardware store Bunnings just last week, Perth Now reported.

‘He was in the car and he just kept staring at me,’ she said.

Ms Milly-Milly remarked that Kelly ‘never let anyone into his house’ even though they had been neighbours for a long time.

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

‘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.’

Mr Dodd added: ‘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.

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

Locals described how they would often see Kelly walking to and from the local grocery store, ‘keeping his head down and talking to nobody’. 

Another neighbour said Kelly 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. 

The suspect spent the morning being interrogated by detectives before being rushed to Carnarvon Hospital where he is now being guarded by three police officers. 

The suspect has undergone a psychiatric assessment after being declared not mentally stable, The West Australian reported.

Charges are expected to be laid on Thursday with investigators saying there are ‘no other persons of interest’. 

Stunned neighbours told Daily Mail Australia they were first alerted the girl was being held on their street when police flood lights lit up their cul-de-sac in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

‘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 the man for more than a decade said.   

Yesterday incredible video footage showed the moment that Cleo was found by officers in a rundown home 18 days after she vanished from a campsite where she was staying with her family. 

In the clip, police can be seen carrying the tired-eyed girl into the garden of the house before a 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 family was sharing on the Blowholes Campsite, and which had been overshadowed from day one by fears of a tragic ending for the little girl.

But Cleo is now safe and recovering in the company of her parents – having been pictured smiling from a hospital bed while eating an ice lolly, waving to the camera as her mother’s hand rests on her leg. Rod Wilde, the detective who led the investigation, said Cleo is ‘physically OK’ after being checked by doctors.  

Following the rescue operation, Western Australia Police Deputy Commissioner Col Blanch said: ‘Four fathers walked into that room… they might have been wearing guns and detective suits but they were four fathers.’

Cleo was first reported missing at 6.23am on October 16 by Ellie, who said she had last seen her daughter asleep alongside stepfather Jake and sister Isla in the family’s tent at 1.30am, but awoke to find her gone. The tent zipper was undone and the sleeping bag that Cleo was using had also disappeared.

Police quickly launched a search and rescue operation, using helicopters, drones, dogs and officers to scour the sparse countryside around the campsite and nearby coastline amid fears Cleo had wandered off. But after no sign of her was uncovered, police quickly pivoted to the theory that she had been taken. 

Officers trawled through hours of CCTV footage, combed satellite images, interviewed other campers and even dug through rubbish heaps for any sign of the missing girl before a ‘tip off’ led them to the Carnarvon house. 

Detective Sergeant Cameron Blaine (left) can be heard asking the girl whether she is OK. When she smiles and nods, he tells her: 'We're gonna take you to see your mummy and daddy, OK?'

Detective Sergeant Cameron Blaine (left) can be heard asking the girl whether she is OK. When she smiles and nods, he tells her: ‘We’re gonna take you to see your mummy and daddy, OK?’ 

Cleo was found inside the bedroom of this locked property in the north of the town of Carnarvon at 1am Wednesday after a 'tip off' to police. Officers said the arrested man was not at home when the raid took place

Cleo was found inside the bedroom of this locked property in the north of the town of Carnarvon at 1am Wednesday after a ‘tip off’ to police. Officers said the arrested man was not at home when the raid took place 

The four-year-old was first reported missing at 6.23am on October 16 by her mother Ellie, who said she had last seen her daughter asleep alongside stepfather Jake and sister Isla in the family's tent at 1.30am

 The four-year-old was first reported missing at 6.23am on October 16 by her mother Ellie, who said she had last seen her daughter asleep alongside stepfather Jake and sister Isla in the family’s tent at 1.30am

Police have not yet outlined how or why they believe Cleo was taken from the campsite, or how she came to be inside the locked house, just a two minute drive from their own headquarters. 

Cleo Smith and her family slept in the same room and ‘cuddled all night’ after incredible rescue 

By Tita Smith for Daily Mail Australia

Cleo Smith and her family spent her first night at home after their terrifying 18-day ordeal snuggled up together as they celebrated her miraculous rescue.

WA Deputy Police Commissioner Col Blanch said Cleo and her family slept in the same room on Wednesday evening and ‘cuddled all night’. 

Mr Blanch said her parents are relieved to have their little girl home after police beat the odds to find Cleo safe and alive. 

‘Ellie and Jake had been through 18 days of hell and I know Australia have felt that with them,’ he told 2GB‘s Ben Fordham on Thursday.

‘They had a small amount of hope, but I thought they probably thought they were never going to give her a cuddle again. 

 ‘I’m pretty sure they all slept in the same room just cuddling all night.’

Investigators have also not disclosed exactly what led them to the house, saying only that a report of a car in the area was crucial to tracking the girl down.

Officers had previously spoken of trying to trace a car seen leaving the Blowholes campsite around 3am the day Cleo vanished. 

Detective Blaine, who has been 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 detectives were ‘openly crying with relief’ before calling Cleo’s parents to tell them the good news.

‘We’ve got someone here that wants to speak to you,’ Blaine recalled telling Ellie as he put Cleo on the phone, before adding: ‘Please start making your way to the hospital, we’ll meet you there.’

The family were then reunited as doctors gave Cleo a check-up, with Blaine saying the little girl shouted ‘mummy’ before the pair shared a hug and kisses.

‘It was really an honour to be able to witness that reunion,’ he said. Asked whether that moment counts as the highlight of his career, he added: ‘Without a doubt.’

Mother Ellie then 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, 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.’

Police used battering rams and crowbars to break their way into the Carnarvon house, located on the outskirts of town in a suburb called Brockman, with neighbours telling Daily Mail Australia they were first alerted to the commotion when flood lights lit up their cul-de-sac in the middle of Tuesday night. 

‘My nephews went up to see what was going on and then they saw cops leading out the little white girl,’ a neighbour said. 

He added that he has known the owner of the property for more than a decade, describing him as ‘a loner’ who ‘kept to himself’ and was not the type to stop and talk to others who lived on the street.

He last saw the man just three days after Cleo disappeared. ‘His grandmother raised him… but after she died a year or so ago, nobody went over to [speak] to him,’ the man 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.’

Former friends added that the suspect had not long been released from jail, though did not say what he was in prison for. Police said only that he was ‘known’ to them and was not a registered sex offender.

While a handful of people witnessed the moment Cleo was rescued, others in Carnarvon woke to the news that she was safe – with the streets of the usually-quiet town, population 4,500, filled with pink balloons and ‘welcome back’ signs.  

Cleo Smith was reported missing from Blowholes Campsite on the west coast of Australia at 6.23am on October 16 by mother Ellie who said she awoke to find her daughter gone. Police found the girl 18 days later inside the bedroom of a locked home in Carnarvon, 47 miles from the campsite and two miles from her parents’ house

Shocked neighbours (pictured) wake up to the news that Cleo Smith was found by WA police on their quiet street

Shocked neighbours (pictured) wake up to the news that Cleo Smith was found by WA police on their quiet street

An unremarkable house in the suburb of Brockman, Carnarvon, 900km north of the capital Perth in Western Australia (pictured), is now the scene of a major forensic investigation

An unremarkable house in the suburb of Brockman, Carnarvon, 900km north of the capital Perth in Western Australia (pictured), is now the scene of a major forensic investigation

Camera crews and police can be seen on the normally quiet street where missing four-year-old Cleo was rescued

Camera crews and police can be seen on the normally quiet street where missing four-year-old Cleo was rescued

Cleo had been sleeping in a tent alongside mother Ellie at a campsite the family often visited on the Western Australia coast when she vanished along with her sleeping bag some time in the early hours of October 16

Cleo had been sleeping in a tent alongside mother Ellie at a campsite the family often visited on the Western Australia coast when she vanished along with her sleeping bag some time in the early hours of October 16 

Superintendent Wilde said Cleo was in good spirits and communicating well with officers after being found, though added that there are 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 said the man arrested only became a suspect in the case on Tuesday, the same day that Wilde revealed officers were trawling the ‘Dark Web’ for images of the girl.

Hours before Cleo was found, Wilde also said he believes her disappearance was an ‘opportunistic’ kidnapping by someone who had only been aware of Cleo for a ‘short time’. Police have not yet elaborated on whether any of that information turned out to be accurate.

The early-hours raid came after officers received a tip-off Tuesday night with ‘really important information about a car’, which they confirmed with phone data and ‘a lot of forensic leads’.

Neighbours interviewed after the raid also recalled other signs that a child was being kept at the property, but said they only realised the connection to Cleo in hindsight. 

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, driving at speed through the streets with his dogs in the front seat of his car.

‘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.

Sahntayah McKenzie, who lives close to where Cleo was found, recalled how she heard a little girl crying one night recently but did not link it to the missing girl until after the police raid

Sahntayah McKenzie, who lives close to where Cleo was found, recalled how she heard a little girl crying one night recently but did not link it to the missing girl until after the police raid

One neighbour Henry (pictured right) said he had spotted the arrested man behaving unusually in recent days, driving at speed through the streets with his dogs in the front seat of his car despite usually seeing them in the back

One neighbour Henry (pictured right) said he had spotted the arrested man behaving unusually in recent days, driving at speed through the streets with his dogs in the front seat of his car despite usually seeing them in the back

How police knew that Cleo Smith’s parents were innocent from the start 

By Peter Vincent for Daily Mail Australia

A key part of the extraordinary investigation that led to the rescue of Cleo Smith was the clearing of her parents from any suspicion of guilt, after police monitored the couple and tapped their phones before concluding they were definitely not involved.

After the four-year-old went missing in highly unusual circumstances from her mum and step father’s tent while camping in Western Australia on October 16, suspicion unfairly – but inevitably – fell on them.

Initially, police said they ‘weren’t ruling anything out’ in relation to her bizarre disappearance, which took place in the middle of the night with nothing but a few shaky leads.

But authorities, and even the West Australian Premier, Mark McGowan, definitively ruled out Ellie Smith and Jake Gliddon as suspects in the midst of epic investigations that will go down in police folklore.

Cleo was rescued from a Carnarvon home on Wednesday before 1am in what is being regarded as a world-leading operation, bursting through a door and finding the little girl sat alone in a room playing with toys.

A 36-year-old Carnarvon man, with no connection to the family, is in custody and due to face charges over her alleged abduction.

So how and why were Cleo’s parents definitively cleared before she was even found?

It is understood that as soon as Cleo disappeared, West Australian police began extensive surveillance on the parents.

That involved WA Police tapping the phone calls of Ms Smith and Mr Gliddon for any conversations that might suggest guilt or show an inconsistency in their story – neither of which ever materialised.

The surveillance is believed to have been standard procedure.

Authorities are also understood to have monitored the anguished couple for suspicious remarks and behaviour, partly through ongoing interviews and contact with them.

Police often ask persons of interest in a major crime investigation the same questions several times in different ways in an effort to find inconsistencies in their stories.

Ms Smith and Mr Gliddon were understood to have been rock solid in their accounts and squeaky clean in all observed conversations.

By the second week of the investigations, with hope fading and trolls beginning to point the finger at the parents, authorities were convinced they bore no guilt and were hiding nothing.

‘We want to make it clear — they are not suspects in this investigation. They have been helping us,’ the lead investigator, Detective Superintendent Rod Wilde, said last week.

‘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.

‘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.

‘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…’  

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.’

Police said Cleo (pictured with mum Ellie and stepfather Jake) shouted 'mummy!' while being reunited with her parents, and that all three of them shared hugs and kisses

Police said Cleo (pictured with mum Ellie and stepfather Jake) shouted ‘mummy!’ while being reunited with her parents, and that all three of them shared hugs and kisses 

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

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

A close family friend 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.

 She’s alive, well, smiling, so it is a wonderful, wonderful result

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 and Ellie their ‘best wishes’. 

What happened to Cleo in the house where she was held captive for more than two weeks, without her family, is not yet clear – but psychologists said she will 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.’

How phone data and a ‘needle in a haystack’ piece of evidence led police to Cleo Smith – and the unanswered questions detectives are not shedding any light on 

Australian police tracked down missing Cleo Smith thanks to a tip-off and forensic clues after finding her just two miles from her family home where she was hidden right under the noses of investigators.

Police said a ‘needle in the haystack’ clue late on Tuesday night led to Cleo’s discovery and a 36-year-old man who has not been named and charged was taken into custody.

While the force has not yet revealed the exact details that led to Cleo’s discovery, they said phone data and a car in the area played a crucial role. 

Officers have also remained tight-lipped about the suspect, why he was not in the house in the time and the circumstances in which Cleo was found.

Cleo Smith

Cleo Smith

Australian police tracked down missing Cleo Smith thanks to a tip-off and forensic clues – finding her locked inside a house just two miles from her family home, and two minutes from police headquarters

Cleo disappeared from her family’s tent between 1.30am and 6.30am as her mother Ellie Smith, step father Jake Gliddon and baby sister Isla were sleeping nearby. The tent zipper was undone, and the sleeping bag that Cleo was using had also disappeared.

Western Australia Deputy Police Commissioner Col Blanch said the mammoth search involved a task force of 100 officers and ‘thousands of pieces of evidence’.

Helicopters, drones, dogs and officers were deployed in the countryside and nearby coastline in case she had wandered off but police soon pivoted to the theory that she had been taken.

Officers had previously spoken of trying to trace a car seen leaving the Blowholes campsite around 3am the day Cleo vanished. 

Officers trawled through hours of CCTV footage, combed satellite images, interviewed other campers and even dug through rubbish heaps for any sign of the missing girl before a ‘tip off’ led them to the Carnarvon house.  

‘[Officers] have collected thousands of pieces of evidence, intelligence, data, witness statements,’ lead detective Ron Wilde told Sunrise on Wednesday morning.  ‘That has a been a hard, hard slog. 

‘Everything contributed. Certainly phone data helped us. It will become apparent that when we put the puzzle together it all led us to one place.’

Police Commissioner Chris Dawson said a tip-off led officers to the Carnarvon house and ‘a lot of forensic leads’ had pointed in the same direction.

‘There was some information we followed up on,’ he told ABC Radio.

‘We had been following a lot of the forensic leads and it led us to a particular house.

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

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

‘We mounted our general duties police who did a tremendous job within minutes of arriving [at the house]… declared it a forensic scene and sealed it off which was just really, really good policing.’

Hours before Cleo was found, Wilde said he believed her disappearance was an ‘opportunistic’ kidnapping by someone who had only been aware of Cleo for a ‘short time’. Police have not yet elaborated on whether any of that information turned out to be accurate.

The early-hours raid came after officers received a tip-off Tuesday night with ‘really important information about a car’, which they confirmed with phone data and ‘a lot of forensic leads’.

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.’ 

Cleo Smith timeline: How four-year-old vanished from a tent before being found in a locked house 18 days later 

 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)

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

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

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'

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’