Cleo Smith search: Police not giving up hope as they cast the search net wider

Headshot of Sarah Steger
Sarah StegerThe West Australian
Email Sarah Steger
VideoDetectives reveal new detail in missing Cleo Smith case.

The search for missing four-year-old Cleo Smith has entered its sixth day, with police saying they have not given up hope of finding her alive.

WA Police Inspector Jon Munday said search crews would cast the net wider as they continued to scour the Blowholes area, with more than 20 square kilometres already covered.

State Emergency Services volunteers are set to search the large grid on foot and on ATVs today, joining four officers from the mounted police section and members of the homicide squad and forensics.

The West Australian was told the large space had been divided into smaller sections, which will then be closely inspected Corporal Robin Downes and Private Julian McQuade — the Army Reservists from the Pilbara Regiment operating the drone.

Australian Defence Force personnel assisting in the search are also set to launch a drone into the air above the sprawling search area.

Police fly a drone in the search for Cleo Smith.
Camera IconPolice fly a drone in the search for Cleo Smith. Credit: Jackson Flindell/The West Australian
The SES and Army reserve search bushland approx 3km from the campsite.
Camera IconThe SES and Army reserve search bushland approx 3km from the campsite. Credit: Jackson Flindell/The West Australian

Insp. Munday said Cleo’s distraught mum Ellie and step-dad Jake Gliddon would remain in the region while crews continue to search the region — clinging to hope she will return.

“They don’t want to leave and that is completely understandable... as you can imagine they don’t know what to do, they’re distraught,” he said.

“We will be here until we are satisfied that Cleo is not in this area, we have searched thoroughly all the high probability areas... we are now extended into the further reaches of the places where Cleo could have possibly walked herself.”

Cleo Smith was last seen at about 1.30am Saturday morning.
Camera IconCleo Smith was last seen at about 1.30am Saturday morning. Credit: Facebook/supplied

It comes as police admit there’s evidence to suggest she was taken from her West Australian campsite.

Police say the tent Cleo Smith was staying in when she disappeared was unzipped at a height which the four-year-old could not reach, leading to “grave concerns” for her safety.

Insp. Munday said the tent Cleo and her family were staying in at the Blowholes campsite had several entry points which could be unzipped.

The entry which was found open by Cleo’s mother Ellie was a zipped entrance at the front-facing area of the tent, nearest where Cleo was sleeping.

Seemingly quashing the theory that Cleo could have wandered off, Insp. Munday said the zipper was too high to be reached by the little girl.

“The positioning of that zipper for the flap is one of the circumstances which has caused us to have grave concerns for Cleo’s safety,” he said.

Forensics officers have examined the tent since Cleo was reported missing on Saturday morning and it is expected it will be taken to Perth for further investigation.

Cleo Smiths mother, Ellie Smith and her partner Jake Gliddon.
Camera IconCleo Smiths mother, Ellie Smith and her partner Jake Gliddon. Credit: James Carmody/ABC News

While it is not believed anyone saw Cleo the night before she went missing, Insp. Munday said there was evidence placing Cleo at the Blowholes campsite, although he would not reveal exactly what that evidence was.

Cleo’s mum and step-dad reported an “interaction” with Cleo about 1.30am before noticing she was no longer in the tent by 6am.

“The account given to us by Cleo’s parents ... there is nothing to indicate to us that that account is anything but accurate and truthful,” Insp. Munday said.

Press Conference at the Police Command Centre at the Blowholes.
Camera IconPress Conference at the Police Command Centre at the Blowholes. Credit: Jackson Flindell/The West Australian

Yesterday, police revealed there were almost 20 registered sex offenders living in the Carnarvon area.

Insp. Munday revealed there were no suspects in relation to the case but all those on the sex offenders register had been spoken to as part of the investigation.

“There are certain people, or groups of people we are interested in. Certainly, any registered sex offenders that have been identified as being around the Carnarvon area have been spoken to,” he said.

He also conceded it was possible that people could have left the campsite before police roadblocks were put in place and there could still be people who stayed at the site “that we don’t know about”.

Anyone who was travelling in the area around the time she disappeared is asked to contact police on 131 444.

Get the latest news from thewest.com.au in your inbox.

Sign up for our emails