Cleo Smith, a 4-year-old girl from Melbourne, Australia, was found "alive and well" after disappearing during a family camping trip 18 days before, according to Col. Blanch, Western Australia's deputy police commissioner, during a press conference.
Police wept upon finding the young girl. "One of the officers picked her up into his arms and asked her, ‘What’s your name?’ She said, 'My name is Cleo.' This is the outcome we all hoped and prayed for," he continued.
While we’re so glad to hear that Cleo is unharmed, officials are still trying to fill in the blanks. Here’s everything we know about Cleo Smith’s disappearance.
How did Cleo Smith go missing?
Cleo Smith was found after police broke into an empty house in Carnarvon, which is the town where she and her family live. A 36-year-old man was detained, but no details were released about him other than he had no known connection to the family and was not a registered sex offender.
Later, the man was identified as Terence Darrell Kelly. Kelly has remained in police custody and has been charged with several offences related to Cleo's abduction, including one count of forcibly taking a child under 16. Police believe the kidnapping was opportunistic.
On Oct. 16. 2021, Cleo had gone camping with her mother, Ellie Smith, stepfather, Jake Gliddon, and her younger sister. They were staying at a campsite on Quobba Blowholes, a popular tourist attraction in Western Australia.
She was last seen at 1:30 a.m. on the early morning of Oct. 17, when she asked her mother for a glass of water. When Ellie woke up again a few hours later, Cleo was gone. According to police, the tent’s zipper had been unzipped to a height that Cleo could not have reached.
Approximately 25,000 young people are reported missing each year in Australia, according to the Australian Federal Police. Xanthe Mallett, an associate professor of criminology at the University of Newcastle, told the New York Times that "the likelihood of her being recovered alive was very low and getting lower as the days passed."
He continued, "For a child to be taken and found well after nearly 19 days, I don’t think I’ve ever seen this kind of outcome. It is rare for missing children to be found alive after so long when they are taken by someone who is not a relative."
After rescuing Cleo, the police tweeted a photo of her smiling and sitting in a hospital bed. "The miracle we all hoped for," the caption read. That's for sure!