One year ago on Sunday, little Cleo Smith was snatched from her family’s tent, triggering an 18-day ordeal before her remarkable rescue. Lachlan Allen visits the campground and Cleo’s home town to find out if the case still haunts, or whether people have moved on. Matthew and Jessica Emmanuel pause to appreciate the breathtaking Quobba Blowholes coastline before them, as their two young daughters, Isabelle and Emberlee play in the sand nearby. It’s a picturesque scene of simple family bliss. The young family from Perth are just three weeks into a four-month long holiday, travelling around the WA coast in search of their next adventure. There are parallels to be drawn between the Emmanuels and another young family with two little girls who camped at the Blowholes 12 months ago this weekend. For Ellie Smith and Jake Gliddon, the Blowholes was their regular camping spot, just a 35-minute drive from their hometown of Carnarvon. They arrived on October 15 last year for their latest getaway with four-year-old Cleo and her baby sister Isla, ready to teach Cleo how to ride her bike without her training wheels and show Isla the Blowholes for the first time. But in the middle of their first night, their world was shattered when Cleo was cruelly snatched from their tent. Waking up the next morning to no sign of Cleo and an unzipped tent, Ellie and Jake spent the next 18 days enduring torture as a town and region lost its innocence. It wouldn’t be until November 3 that Cleo was rescued by police from a house in Carnarvon where she had been kept prisoner and presumably treated as a living doll by her kidnapper, local loner Terence Darrell Kelly. One year on since Cleo’s face and name became global news, it is clear the ordeal is still at the forefront of many people’s thoughts despite a strong desire to move on. Initially a missing person’s case, the campground soon became the biggest crime scene in Australia, flooded with police, forensics and volunteers. Twelve months later last Friday, an eerie silence fell over the Blowholes site with many families departing for home before the end of the school holidays. A handful of caravans populated the usually packed holiday destination, while the dilapidated beach shacks remain, ahead of their eventual demolition. The Emmanuels set up camp in their own caravan just 500m from the very spot Cleo was taken. Mr Emmanuel said they came to the Blowholes as they “live and breathe the ocean” but was well aware of its recent history. “We can catch fish, we can swim, it’s perfect,” he said. While some families might shy away from the topic, Mr Emmanuel said Cleo’s kidnapping was something they openly discussed with their daughters, aged six and nine. “There’s not been a second that we’ve been here that we haven’t thought and talked about what happened that day to Cleo, so thank god it was just a great ending to a horrible story,” he said. Mr Emmanuel said it made them think more carefully about their safety but did not let it ruin their holiday. “The thing that went through my mind more than anything is that for us to bring the girls here after what happened would be a big statement for Australia and where we live, you never want to dwell on the past,” he said. “You want to think well beyond the bad stuff that’s happened. And there’s no way I was going to let something like that get in the way.” “Unfortunately, people have bad things happen to them all over the country. So to think that it’s going to happen in this beautiful location, a second or third time, it may never happen again. We just don’t let that cross our minds.” Graham and Caralyn Dobbs, who travelled from Queensland, said they weren’t aware Cleo was taken just a couple of hundred metres from where they were camping. “It’s terrible really. I mean, you would be a bit hesitant. You know, we haven’t got kids now, we’ve got grandkids. But even so if I had my grandkids here and knew that I’d be a bit wary too,” she said. Justin Borg, from Coral Coast Helicopters, was one of the first responders at the Blowholes campground after he got a phone call from a distressed member of the Smith family, pleading for him to help find the missing four-year-old from the air. Reflecting on that day, Mr Borg said it had been in the back of his mind throughout the year. “Leading up to the anniversary there’s a lot of things that come back and cause you to reflect, especially when you’ve got children of your own,” he said. At the time he said Carnarvon would forever be haunted by Cleo’s abduction but looking back on it now he hopes the town can move on. “Haunted is probably a fairly strong word to use. I think Carnarvon’s reputation of being such a child and family friendly holiday destination is always going to be tarnished to those that don’t know the town all that well,” he said. “But to the local community, it’s still just as safe as it was prior to Cleo going missing, I think it’s still a very safe place to raise your children and to holiday.” As for whether Cleo’s abduction has changed Carnarvon, Mr Borg doesn’t believe so. “It’s just one of those little things that sits in the back of your mind. We probably don’t change our practices all that much but it’s something that we’re more mindful of now.” Back in Carnarvon, and the atmosphere last weekend could not be more different than it was 12 months ago. The Carnarvon town centre was a buzz of activity on Saturday morning with bustling markets and cafes full of visitors and locals. Families lined the picturesque fascine making the most of the wonderful weather with some fishing. Locals Rob Meyer, Pip Meyer and grandson Flynn were one such family enjoying the day’s events last Saturday. As a parent and grandfather, Mr Meyer said he still thought about what happened to Cleo. “I took it for granted a bit before but seeing it happen in front of you in a town like this? It makes you think about it definitely,” he said. “It makes you look twice when the kids go missing for a few minutes.” Watching on as her daughter and grandson played in the sand along the foreshore, foster mother Leisha Norling said the situation had changed her perception of safety in Carnarvon. “We keep our eyes much more closely on the kids, it’s concerning, the most frightening thing about it was we all thought this was an out-of-towner and it wasn’t, it was a local,” she said. Geoff and Silvana Scott grew up in Carnarvon and said the “Blowholes was their happy spot.” “Right from the 50s, 60s that was where everyone went to cool down, take it easy and have a relaxing time from the work on the plantations ,” Geoff said. Having lived in the town for more than 30 years, the couple said they were shocked by Cleo’s disappearance. “That happening to our little town it was devastating at the time just thinking what could have happened to this little girl,” Silvana said. “Of course, once we saw the photo of her big smile (after her rescue), we were all just on top of the world.” While some locals say it still lingers in their mind, the majority said they have moved past the incident and did not want it to define Carnarvon. A once vocal champion of the town’s response to Cleo’s disappearance, Shire president Eddie Smith refused to be drawn into the ongoing impacts 12 months later. “After talking to quite a few members of the community, I think the media need to let it go. The community is moving on,” he said. Recently elected North West Central MP Merome Beard said the town would never lose its respect for the family, but it wasn’t something they thought about too much. Owner of the 6701 Waterfront Cafe, Matt Dodd, echoed those thoughts. “I think everyone’s moved on pretty quickly. I understand that the family themselves have left for a trip around Australia. Yeah, I mean, it was obviously a fairly difficult time for them and the community,” he said. As people “move on” and a sense of normalcy has returned, it’s a far cry from what the town was going through at the beginning of its ordeal just 12 months ago. The town’s collective fear grew day by day, as it held its breath for any news of Cleo’s fate, with posters, stickers and signs plastered on windows, cars and roadsides. The community banded together in support of Cleo and her family, but hope began to fade in even the most optimistic minds. From the worst of times to the best, the day of Cleo’s rescue was one to remember in the town’s history, marked by tears of joy, balloons and “Welcome Home Cleo” signs popping up everywhere. But as a sense of hopelessness was replaced by relief and celebration, there was also anger and disbelief as it was revealed that one of Carnarvon’s own was responsible. Following a painstaking police investigation, detectives stormed into Terence Kelly’s duplex in the early hours of November 3, where they found Cleo alone in a locked room. The dramatic rescue, as well as the little girl’s now famous words — “My name is Cleo” — was captured by detectives’ body-worn cameras. Cleo was reunited with her family and the town of Carnarvon began to heal as their collective nightmare came to an end. Bryan Ng has lived in Carnarvon for the past three years and distinctly remembers the time surrounding Cleo’s disappearance. “My friend was staying at the Blowholes campground at the time, she actually saw the car take off with a girl screaming. The house Cleo was found in, that is actually very close to where I live,” he said. Mr Ng lives on the same street — Tonkin Crescent — but said he never had any problems living there, despite its social issues. “Once you know all the neighbours they protect themselves. They always say hi and are nice to me because you’re like a foreigner to them,” he said. However, he never suspected that one of his neighbours was capable of such a crime. “The guy who grabbed the girl, he’s pretty well known in town,” Mr Ng said. The street remains an eyesore for the Carnarvon community despite a commitment to clean it up following Cleo’s return. Broken glass, rubbish and debris line the road, while many of the houses are heavily graffitied and in need of repair. Meanwhile, Kelly will learn his fate in two months, when he is sentenced over two days on December 13 and 14. Over those two days, the full scale of Kelly’s crimes will likely be revealed — including his actions in the days leading up to Cleo’s kidnapping, his movements on the night and how long he was in the Blowholes camp site before abducting her. Kelly has been locked up since his dramatic arrest in November last year — first at the Carnarvon watch house and then at Casuarina Prison — in one of the maximum-security jail’s most secure cells — where he arrived in the days after Cleo was reunited with her mother Ellie and stepfather Jake Gliddon. The last time Ellie and Jake spoke publicly they were planning to step out of the spotlight by buying a caravan and travelling around Australia. Carnarvon is where both of them grew up and it’s clear it’s still home to them, judging by how fiercely many locals have closed ranks around them. Now five, Cleo may not fully realise just how much her disappearance and subsequent rescue stopped a State and nation in its tracks. But the fact she has spent the past year creating happy memories with her family is all anyone could have wished for.