Desperate land search for Cleo Smith resumes as police investigation goes national
The desperate land search for a four-year-old girl who vanished from a campsite has resumed after being temporarily suspended on its fourth day due to wild weather, as the police focus turns nationwide.
Cleo Smith was staying in a tent with her family at the Blowholes Campground in Macleod, near the West Australian coastal town of Carnarvon, when she was reported missing on Saturday morning.
The ground search was called off on Tuesday morning as rain and strong winds battered the coast, making it impossible for crews to make any progress.
But just before midday local time, police issued a brief statement, saying the search was “now back in full operation as weather conditions have eased”.
“Mounted section officers will be arriving today to assist with the search,” police said.
WA Police have also asked police in other jurisdictions across the country to spread the word, taking the desperate search nationwide.
NSW Police posted on social media: “Please keep a look out for four-year-old Cleo Smith missing from Western Australia.”
Queensland Police Service told their social media followers that they too had been asked to “share an appeal for information”.
Police in Victoria, Tasmania and South Australia also posted on social media.
Inspector Jon Munday told 6PR radio that police had made the hard decision to temporarily suspend the search on the ground after the weather threw a “spanner in the works”.
“We’ve got heavy rain and high winds here, and it’s simply not safe for the SES volunteers at the moment,” he said in the morning.
“We’re reassessing that hour by hour, but just at this point in time we pretty much can’t do too much, unfortunately.”
It comes after the marine search was called off late on Monday, as authorities shifted their focus to coastal shacks.
Inspector Munday said it was a very harsh environment for Cleo to be in.
“Until today, it has been quite warm, and there’s limited freshwater around,” he said.
“If Cleo is out in the area, we do have grave concerns for her.”
Inspector Munday said it would be the “worst-case scenario” if she was no longer in the area.
He made similar comments when he appeared on the Sunrise program, saying Cleo “could be anywhere by now”.
Inspector Munday also confirmed Cleo’s biological father Daniel Staines was questioned in Mandurah, but he said that was standard procedure.
There is no suggestion Cleo’s father had anything to do with her disappearance.
Late on Monday, police released an image of a sleeping bag similar to Cleo’s, which Inspector Munday had previously confirmed to be missing too.
Cleo was sleeping in a red and black sleeping bag and wearing a pink and purple one-piece jumpsuit with a blue and yellow pattern before she vanished.
Inspector Munday has repeatedly said authorities are “throwing everything” at the search and not ruling any theories out.
Homicide squad and major crime detectives this week joined the search for Cleo amid growing fears she might have been abducted.
Police said Cleo’s family had an “interaction” with Cleo about 1.30am then went back to sleep. They woke to find her gone about 6am.
“At this point in time, unfortunately, everything is still on the table,” Inspector Munday said on Monday when asked if she may have been abducted.
He echoed those comments in multiple media interviews on Tuesday.
But he has so far refused to comment about reports a car was heard skidding in the area about 3am on the morning Cleo vanished, nor would he comment on any further items that might have been taken or recovered.
Premier Mark McGowan fronted the media for a Covid-19 update on Tuesday and began by acknowledging the work authorities were doing to find Cleo.
“Our thoughts are with Cleo’s family during what is undoubtedly an extremely difficult time for them and for everyone involved,” Mr McGowan said.
“To every officer and volunteer involved in the search, can I say thank you for your efforts on behalf of the Smith family.
“To Cleo’s family, on behalf of all West Australians, we are thinking of you at this difficult time.”
Cleo’s mother Ellie Smith previously posted on social media, urging anyone who might have seen her “sparkling” daughter to call police.
A GoFundMe page has been set up by local man Bill Kent to help Cleo’s family and the search efforts, so far raising more than $48,000.
“I live on the other side of the world and cannot stop thinking about poor little Cleo after reading this story. Sending all my prayers and positive thoughts to her parents,” one person wrote alongside their donation.
Two private local companies, Coral Coast Helicopter Services and Double R, are helping with search efforts.
Others involved in the search include expert trackers, State Emergency Service personnel, rangers, an AMSA jet and Australian Defence Force drones.
Police Commissioner Chris Dawson said on Monday that detectives were “not ruling anything out”.
“We feel very desperately for the family in this very unusual situation where we don’t know where Cleo is,” he said.
Police also determined who was staying at the campsite at the time of Cleo’s disappearance and searched campers leaving the site.
Posters have also been put up at shopfronts
Anyone with information is urged to call police on 131 444.
Anyone who passed through the area between Friday and Sunday is also urged to come forward, especially if they have dashcam footage.
Originally published as Desperate land search for Cleo Smith resumes as police investigation goes national
Get the latest news from thewest.com.au in your inbox.
Sign up for our emails