Cleo Smith search: Mounted police called in as search enters fifth day
The search for missing four-year-old Cleo Smith has entered its fifth day, with teams of police, State Emergency Service volunteers and local community members resuming the desperate effort from first light.
Four mounted police officers will rejoin today’s land operation after making the long journey from Perth to Macleod, 70km north of Carnarvon, yesterday.
The West Australian was told the four officers from the mounted section were scouring a 5km grid of WA’s rugged Coral Coast near Blowholes for any sign of Cleo, who vanished from her family’s tent in the early hours of Saturday morning.
Cleo’s mother Ellie Smith yesterday confirmed she last saw her “princess” about 1.30am that day when she gave her a drink of water.
Ms Smith then went back to bed and when she woke about 6am to give her seven-month-old baby Isla a bottle, their tent was unzipped and Cleo and her red and grey sleeping bag were gone.
“She’s lazy when it comes to walking,” she said. “She’d never leave the tent alone.”
Asked if they feared someone had taken Cleo, Ms Smith said they were still clinging to hope that she was nearby.
She said someone had to know where Cleo was: “Someone has to, it’s been four days.”
While the close knit community of Carnarvon, in which the distraught family are locals, hopes of finding Cleo near the tourist hotspot are fading.
A police source who spoke exclusively to The West Australian yesterday said “the initial thoughts were that the little girl had gone out and got lost in the wilderness or fallen off a cliff into the water”.
“But I don’t think that is necessarily the case,” they said, before adding police had also searched a number of “shacks” along the coast near the camp site that are occupied by long-term residents.
“You’d have to have reason to be there,” they said. “It’s a destination — not a place you’d just pass through to go somewhere else.”
As fears Cleo was abducted mount, WA Police issued a national appeal for public information, enlisting the help of interstate police agencies including New South Wales Police, Victoria Police and Queensland Police Service.
Several alerts were posted to the various agencies’ social media pages, along with pictures of Cleo, her sleeping bag and the pink pyjama onesie she was last seen in.
A senior police officer last night told The West Australian they were going “full tilt” in the mammoth investigation and search for Cleo, and were sparing no expense.
“We are going full tilt. Everything is being thrown at the investigation, no expense is being spared,” the officer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said.
“We are doing everything that is possibly able to be done.
“Every agency that has boots on the ground is working tirelessly to find her.
While the temperature today is forecast to be cooler than normal for October at 23C, yesterday’s wild weather has eased, with clear conditions forecast ahead of today’s search.
A Go Fund Me page set up by local man Bill Kent to help Cleo’s family and the search efforts had last night raised $50,000.
Anyone with any information is urged to call WA Police on 131 444.
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