Today’s big question

What happened to Cleo Smith? Man charged over four-year-old’s abduction

Terence Darrell Kelly appeared in court today after the toddler was rescued from his home

An Australian man has been charged with the abduction of four-year-old Cleo Smith who was rescued this week 18 days after she disappeared from a family camping trip in Western Australia.

Terence Darrell Kelly, 36, appeared at the Carnarvon Magistrate’s Court charged with forcibly or fraudulently taking or enticing a child under 16, and will be remanded in custody until 6 December, according to local media.

Cleo Smith was found alone in a house just a six-minute drive from her family home in the coastal town of Carnarvon, around 560 miles north of Perth. In an Instagram post, her mother, Ellie Smith, wrote: “Our family is whole again.”

Police said Cleo had been found “alive, well, smiling” in a house raid at around 1am local time on Wednesday, reported national broadcaster ABC. Asked her name by one of four officers who kicked down the door, she replied: “My name is Cleo.”

Police said the alleged kidnapper was “taken to hospital with self-inflicted injuries” before being charged, said the BBC. He did not apply for bail and was not required to enter a plea today, added the broadcaster.

According to authorities, he has no connection to the family with police alleging he “acted alone” in an “opportunistic” kidnapping.

Appearing “shoeless” during his court appearance, Kelly screamed “I’m coming for you” as he appeared before the judge, before asking “what the f*** are the media doing here?” and gesturing to journalists in the gallery, said The Telegraph

Charged man has ‘doll room’ inside house

WA Today claimed that Kelly has a “doll room” inside his home after videos emerged of the Australian “recording himself inside a room filled with dozens of dolls”.

He also reportedly uploaded photos to Facebook in April 2020 which show him “taking a doll for a car drive”. 

He captioned the post, “I love taking my dolls for drive arounds and doing their hair and taking selfies in public.”

And in another social media post from July 2020, Kelly is pictured wearing a Bratz T-shirt and holding two dolls, commenting: “Nothing beats chilling at home with my Bratz dolls.”

Detective Senior Sergeant Cameron Blaine, a member of the four-person rescue team, told WA Today that Cleo had been found in “physically good health” in a bedroom in Kelly’s home, but would not comment further. 

“The lights were on and she was playing with toys, I think that’s about all I want to say. This is still a matter that needs to go before the courts. There’s certain aspects about what we saw that is going to be evidence,” he said. 

Initial ‘walking off’ theories

Cleo’s parents first noticed that she had gone missing at around 6am on Saturday 16 October, when they woke to feed her baby sister. The tent zip was lifted almost to the top – “much higher than Cleo could reach”, The Guardian said on Wednesday – and her sleeping bag was missing. 

Police initially assumed that Cleo had just walked off, but mounting evidence quickly pointed towards an abduction. The state government offered a AU$1m (£540,000) reward for information concerning Cleo’s disappearance. 

Asked on Wednesday whether the reward had been claimed, Western Australia Police Deputy Commissioner Col Blanch replied: “I don’t believe so.”

‘Needle in a haystack’

A team of four forensics officers and 20 police officers spent days sorting through a mountain of rubbish collected from roadside bins along a stretch of the northwest coast covering more than 370 miles.

The team also used drones and satellite technology to “map every inch” of the area, said news.com.au

Blanch said his team had collected “thousands of pieces of evidence, intelligence, data, witness statements”, in a “hard slog” that felt like “looking for that needle in a haystack”.

The police force was expected to release further information about the case over the coming days. 

Lead investigator Detective Superintendent Rod Wilde has told Perth’s 6PR radio that the abduction was probably an “opportunistic” crime.

‘Incredible’ outcome

Officers described Cleo’s rescue as “one of the most remarkable days in policing in Western Australia”.

Cleo was taken to a local hospital for tests early on Wednesday but had been discharged and was back with her parents, said police.

Detective Senior Sergeant Blaine told reporters that he felt “fortunate” to “go through that door and make that rescue”, Perth News reported. 

“We had always hoped for that outcome but were not prepared for it,” Blaine continued. “It was absolutely fantastic. Originally, to see her sitting there in the way that she was, it was incredible.”

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