Man linked to abduction taken to hospital as Cleo spends first night at home
Four-year-old Cleo Smith has spent her first night at home after being rescued by West Australian Police 18 heartbreaking days after she went missing from a campsite.
Four-year-old Cleo Smith recovers in hospital after being alive and well by West Australian police. (AAP Image/Supplied by WA POLICE)
But a man helping police with their inquiries into her suspected abduction has been taken to hospital for a second time.
Cleo was found alive and well in the early hours of Wednesday at a property in Carnarvon, a coastal town almost 1000km north of Perth, just minutes from her family home.
Her dramatic rescue came more than two weeks after she disappeared from her family’s tent at the remote Blowholes campsite 75km north of Carnarvon.
Cleo was back home with mum Ellie Smith and stepdad Jake Gliddon and her baby half-sister Isla Gliddon later on Wednesday.
“Ellie and Jake have been through 18 days of hell and I know Australia has felt that with them,” WA Deputy Police Commissioner Col Blanch said on Thursday.
“Overnight, spending time with Cleo again … I’m pretty sure they all slept in the same room just cuddling all night.”
Officers found Cleo alone in a bed after breaking into the locked-up house and the remarkable moment was captured by an officer’s body camera.
A 36-year-old Carnarvon man was taken into custody to be questioned over the suspected abduction but has not been charged.
Asked about reports the man was injured after banging his head against a wall in a holding cell Blanch said “there’s no serious injuries”.
“We’ve had to take him off to hospital again this morning, so that’s twice,” he told Sydney radio 2GB.
Blanch said it was important that before an interview takes place police are sure a person is of sound mind, healthy, fed, and has had sufficient rest.
“So we’ve got to make all the right accommodations for this person … so we can make the right decisions going forward today.”
Police have already confirmed the man has no connection to Cleo’s family and was not at the house when Cleo was found.
The man was not on a list of known sex offenders in Carnarvon, a tourist gateway on WA’s northwest coast known for its banana plantations.
There are no other suspects linked to the case.
Authorities have been tight-lipped on the exact intelligence that led officers to Cleo’s location.
Blanch said police were yet to interview Cleo but would take their time.
“We’ve got to be really careful with Cleo,” he said.
“We wanted to give them time as a family, that’s really important.
“We will be talking to Cleo but we have to do it very carefully.
“We’ll try to get information out of her about those 18 days – that’s a really hard, slow process and it is OK if she doesn’t want to tell us.”
Cleo’s rescue has been welcomed around Australia and WA Police have been congratulated for their “old fashioned police work” in tracking her down.
A photograph of her smiling and waving from a hospital bed soon after reuniting with her mother and stepdad was released by WA Police on Wednesday.
“Our family is whole again,” Ms Smith posted on Instagram.
Police Commissioner Chris Dawson said the 140-strong task force set up to investigate Cleo’s disappearance is continuing its work.
“We will be working through this for the next week or two at least,” he said in Carnarvon on Wednesday.
“But I’m just the proudest police commissioner in the world at the moment.”
The state government had offered a $1 million reward for information to find Cleo but authorities do not expect it to be claimed.