The mother and step-father of missing four-year-old Cleo Smith are experiencing ‘genuine sadness’ as they struggle to keep it together, body language experts revealed.
Cleo Smith mysteriously vanished from her tent near the Blowholes campsite north of Carnavon, Western Australia between 1.30am and 6am on Saturday morning.
As police focus on a ‘worst case scenario’ where the little girl may have been abducted, all eyes were on Ellie Smith and her partner Jake Gliddon as they fronted media for the first time on Tuesday.
Ms Smith appeared emotional during the press conference while Mr Gliddon seemed lost for words as the couple recounted the last time they saw young Cleo.
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Body language experts have weighed in on the interview analysing the gestures, tone of voice and facial expressions of the couple
Mother Ellie Smith and step-father Jake Gliddon (pictured) were distraught during their first press conference since the disappearance of Cleo Smith on Saturday
‘In the cases similar to this that I’ve worked on I’ve seen much more emotion from both parents. I think she’s working hard to keep it together,’ Body Language expert Traci Brown told Daily Mail Australia.
‘I heard her voice waiver a bit and that’s the only way I could tell real sadness is there. I think his stress response is to shut down so that’s what we’re seeing.’
She added the couple appeared to be ‘wired differently’ in terms of emotional responses, pointing out Mr Gliddon gave off a ‘heavy energy’ despite appearing stiff and less reactive.
‘My guess is he’s the strong silent type,’ Ms Brown said.
Both had their arms crossed, which was a sign the pair were facing ‘stress triggers’ as the pair exhibited ‘self-comforting behaviour’ during the interview.
Ms Smith has been left distraught since her four-year-old daughter Cleo (pictured) vanished from a campsite in Western Australia
Body language expert David Stephens from Critical Insights told Daily Mail Australia added that when someone crosses their arms it can be a way of pacifying or self-comforting in stressful situations.
‘The question we always need to ask of course, is why are they seeking comfort – what is it that has them worried?,’ he explained.
He added the gesture, tone of voice and facial expressions seen during the interview indicated truth-telling while mirroring the couple’s sadness and distress.
The couple (pictured with their family) first appealed for help locating missing Cleo via social media on Sunday
WA police have labelled the disappearance of Cleo (pictured) ‘a mystery we’re trying to unravel’
Ms Smith’s voice faltered as she relayed the moment she unzipped the tent to discover her four-year-old was missing from her red and grey sleeping bag.
‘Her gestures and illustrators, of which there are several, broadly match what she is saying, which is a good indication that she is being truthful,’ he said.
‘The pitch of her voice, her tone and facial expressions generally match what she is saying verbally, which indicates distress and sadness.’
While Ms Smith fought back tears her partner, Jake Gliddon, sat quietly by her side.
His twitching mouth and the licking of his lips was a sign he was preparing to talk but hesitated during the moment, Traci Brown pointed out.
‘His hesitancy to speak comes down to the fact he is not Cleo’s biological father,’ Ms Brown said.
‘He’s unsure of how to respond to the situation.’
Ms Smith (pictured) has insisted Cleo would never leave the tent on her own and said she would have asked her mum for help unzipping her one-piece sleeping suit
The devastated couple (pictured) have asked the public to report anything they see ‘big or small’ to police to help bring their beloved Cleo back home
Mr Stephens agreed noting that while Mr Gliddon showed genuine sadness Ms Smith was clearly the speaker of the couple.
‘He wants to say something but is not given the chance or is simply unable to verbalise it,’ he said.
‘The media obviously like to focus on the mother, so you don’t necessarily get a lot of the partner shots especially when it’s not the biological father in this case.’
It marked the first time the couple have spoken publicly since little Cleo vanished after Ms Smith issued an urgent plea for help to social media over the weekend.
Although investigators have called Cleo’s disappearance ‘a mystery we’re trying to unravel’, there is no suggestion that Ms Smith or Mr Gliddon were in any way involved. Police have declared the entire area a potential crime scene.
Body language experts have said the couple don’t appear to be hiding anything sinister from their body language and believe they’re suffering from ‘genuine sadness’
Mr Stephens said the couple don’t appear to be hiding anything sinister from their body language and believes they’re suffering from ‘genuine sadness’.
‘Her gestures and her illustrators – the movements someone makes to illustrate what she’s saying – they match what she’s saying which are good indicators what she’s saying is the truth – it’s stuff like that that corroborates what she’s saying,’ he said.
‘Families who are faking it will often try to fake sadness so crocodile tears – and their facial expressions won’t match the emotions they are trying to pull off.
‘If someone is making it up their illustrators or gestures don’t match up with what they’re saying – they’ll say one thing where ‘this is what happened’ but they’ll be shaking their head or shrugging at the same time,’ he continued.
‘[Ms Smith] does a lot of head shaking but it’s part of her baseline – what she’s done throughout the interview – so it’s consistent and relating to her trying to come to terms with the situation.’
Cleo was nowhere to be found when her mother and stepdad woke in their shared tent at around 6am on Saturday
Meanwhile, police have received information from people ‘from around the world’ adding police are treating the little girl’s disappearance as a ‘search and rescue mission’
Ellie Smith is seen with Cleo (left) and her baby sister Isla. The mother said when she woke in the morning the tent zipper was nearly completely open