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The parents of murdered schoolboy Daniel Morcombe have expressed their heartfelt relief that missing four-year-old Cleo Smith was found ‘physically unharmed’.
Bruce and Denise Morcombe took to social media on Wednesday after the little girl was uncovered in a midnight raid by Western Australian police three weeks after she disappeared from the remote Blowholes campsite near Carnarvon.
‘Wonderful news to hear Cleo Smith has been found safe and well and reunited with her family,’ they wrote on Facebook.
‘Excellent detective work by West Australian Police and a vigilant community.’
The remains of schoolboy Daniel Morcombe (pictured) were found in August 2011 after he was abducted in 2003
The parents of murdered schoolboy Daniel Morcombe have expressed their heartfelt relief that missing four-year-old Cleo Smith was found ‘physically unharmed’
The Queensland couple suffered their own agonising wait after their 13-year-old son was abducted from a bus stop on the Sunshine Coast in 2003.
Their worst fears were eventually realised eight years later when Daniel’s bones were discovered in the Glass House Mountains following a lengthy investigation which led to the prosecution of Brett Peter Cowan who received life behind bars.
In the wake of their horrific tragedy they set up a charity focused on supporting young victims of crime and teaching kids about how to stay safe in physical and online environments.
The disappearance of the preschooler, who vanished on October 16 while sleeping next to her parents and younger sister in a family tent, dredged up ‘haunting’ memories for the couple who said they felt like they were living through the trauma all over again.
‘Honestly it was an immediate flashback. We could feel their (Cleo’s parents) emotion as they were speaking because we have walked in their shoes. We have sat in that chair,’ Bruce Morcombe told the West Australian recently when a frantic search was getting underway.
‘We all hope that Cleo is found healthy and well. We genuinely wish and pray for a positive result.’
Incredible bodycam footage shows the moment Cleo Smith was rescued by Western Australian Police (pictured)
Cleo was found alone in this suburban home in Carnarvon, in the north-west of Western Australia, shortly before 1am on Wednesday morning
Latest on Cleo Smith found alive after 18 days
- A 36-year-old man with no connection to the familyis in police custody
- Neighbours said the ‘quiet man’ was seen buying nappies at Woolworths
- Cleo found alone inside the house when police broke down the door at 1am
- Police were acting on a tip-off that led them to the housing commission home
- The home is just seven minutes’ drive from Cleo’s family home
- Cleo was smiling when she was rescued, the police commissioner confirmed
- She is now in hospital for an assessment after being reunited with her family
Those prayers were answered when police broke down the door of a house in Carnarvon early on Wednesday morning following a ‘tip off’ from the public.
Hopes were fading fast that the toddler would be found alive but shocked detectives discovered Cleo trapped inside the locked house.
In remarkable bodycam footage, Detective Sergeant Cameron Blaine asks the four-year-old ‘are you okay?’ as she is carried out of the house.
The brave little girl, gripping onto her saviour, smiles and nods before Detective Sergeant Blaine says: ‘We’re gonna take you to see your mummy and daddy’.
The Homicide Squad veteran, who has been tirelessly working on the case every step of the way, described his adulation after Cleo was uncovered in a midnight raid following a ‘tip off’.
‘It was shock to start with. Quickly followed by elation. That could have been any one of the team, but it turned out I was of four guys that were fortunate enough to go through that door and make that rescue,’ he said.
‘We had always hoped for that outcome, but were not prepared for it, but it was absolutely fantastic to see her sitting there in the way that she was. It was incredible.
‘I wanted to be sure it was her. I said, “What is your name?” She didn’t answer, I asked three times, and then she looked at me and said, “My name is Cleo”.
‘Then we turned around and walked out of the house. Not long after that we got into the car and the officer called Cleo’s parents. It was a wonderful feeling to make that call.’
The pre-schooler was then immediately rushed to hospital for a welfare check, with detectives revealing she is ‘physically unharmed’.
The first picture of Cleo Smith, safe and sound in hospital, after she was rescued from a house in Carnarvon, in northwest Western Australia, where she was held for 18 days
Propped up on a hospital bed as she sucked on an icypole, Cleo Smith smiled from ear to ear in her first photo since she was rescued after being abducted on the family camping trip.
Cleo excitedly waved to the camera as her relieved mother Ellie Smith lovingly touched her right foot as she sat on the side of the bed, just happy to see her alive.
Police believe she was ‘opportunistically abducted’ 18 days ago and was found alive at 12.46am on Wednesday when police stormed a public housing home in the suburb of Brockman after police received vital information from the public.
Detective Superintendent Rod Wilde, who led the missing person investigation, said Cleo ‘is physically OK’ and had since been released from hospital to be with her mother Ellie Smith and stepfather Jake Gliddon.
Cleo is now back in the arms of her mum Ellie and stepfather Jake (pictured together)
A 36-year-old man who was not in the home when it was raided, not known to Cleo’s family, and not a registered sex offender was arrested in connection with Cleo’s abduction from the family’s tent at Blowholes campsite.
He was reportedly beaten by another inmate when he arrived at the Carnarvon holding cells in the middle of the night after the other prisoner learned what he’d been arrested for.
Charges are expected to be laid later today with investigators saying there are no other persons of interest.
CLEO DISAPPEARANCE TIMELINE
By Olivia Day for Daily Mail Australia
Friday, October 15
Cleo along with her mother Ellie Smith, her partner Jake Gliddon and her little sister Isla Mae arrive at the Blowholes campsite around 6:30pm.
They had a ‘quiet’ night and arrived at sunset.
Saturday, October 16
1:30am: Parents’ last sighting of Cleo in the tent she shared with her parents and baby sister when the four-year-old asks for some water.
6.23am: Ellie calls 000 to report her eldest daughter missing as she continues to search the camp ground.
6.30am: The first two officers are dispatched from Carnarvon police station. They travel to Blowholes as a matter of priority, with sirens and lights.
6.41am: A second police car with another two officers is sent to Blowholes, also with lights and sirens.
7.10am: The first police car arrives. The second is only minutes behind.
7.26am: Police on the scene establish a protected forensic area which is taped off to the public, surrounding the family tent where Cleo was last seen.
7.33am: A drone operator is called upon to search from the skies.
7.44am: A third police car is dispatched to the Blowholes.
8am: Family and friends of Cleo’s parents begin to arrive to help with the ground search.
Another group of detectives briefly searches Cleo’s home to make sure she’s not there.
They then head to Blowholes and begin stopping cars coming into and leaving the area.
8.09am: A helicopter from a local company arrived at the scene and started searching as police request an SES team attend the Blowholes search.
8.24am: Police air-wing and volunteer marine searchers are called in to assist with the search.
8.34am: Roadblocks are set up at the entrance of Blowholes as detectives gather the names, registration details and addresses of people coming and going. Police search cars.
9.25am: Nine SES personel arrive at the Blowholes to assist with the search.
Investigators, bounty hunters and officers from the Australian Federal Police have spent two-and-a-half weeks searching for missing four-year-old Cleo (pictured)
9.30am: Detectives sit down with a distressed Ellie and remain by her side for the rest of the day while other search crews hunt for Cleo.
11am: Homicide detectives from the Major Crime Division are called and begin travelling from Perth to assist with the search.
1pm: More homicide detectives and search experts are flown in from Perth.
3pm: Officers and search experts arrive in Carnarvon to offer their expertise.
Sunday, October 17
Ms Smith takes to social media to plead for help finding her missing daughter.
A Facebook post uploaded at 1:45am on Sunday which said: ‘It’s been over 24 hours since I last seen the sparkle in my little girl’s eyes.
‘Please help me find her!
‘If you hear or see anything at all please call the police!’
Police suggest Cleo may have been abducted.
Monday, October 18
Police release an image of the red and grey sleeping bag missing from Cleo’s tent.
Cleo’s biological father is interviewed by police in Mandurah and is asked to provide a statement, which he does so willingly.
WA Police with the help of SES members, volunteers and aircraft continue the land hunt for Cleo, with officers searching nearby shacks and vehicles in the area.
Tuesday, October 19
Cleo’s mother Ellie Smith and her partner Jake Gliddon front the media for the first time and describe the terrifying moment they realised the little girl was missing.
Ms Smith says her four-year-old would never have left the tent by herself.
Police release new images of Cleo and the pink and blue one-piece she was wearing the night she went missing to aid the investigation.
Investigators urge anyone who was at the campsite or in the vicinity on October 15 to get in contact with police.
Wednesday, October 20
Police reveal the zip of the family tent, which was found hanging wide open by her mother at 6am on Saturday morning, was too high for Cleo to reach.
Officers say they ‘haven’t ruled out’ reports from campers who heard the sound of screeching tyres in the early hours of Saturday morning.
Deputy Police Commissioner Daryl Gaunt confirms officers are investigating the whereabouts of 20 registered sex offenders in the Carnarvon area.
Thursday, October 21
The WA Government offers a $1million reward for information that leads to Cleo’s location announced by WA Premier Mark McGowan.
‘All Western Australians’ thoughts are with Cleo’s family during what is an unimaginably difficult time,’ Mr McGowan said.
‘We’re all praying for a positive outcome.’
The speed of the reward being issued – within days of her disappearance – was unprecedented.
Pictured: Police are seen examining rubbish left near the Blowholes campsite in remote WA
Monday, October 25
WA Police confirm Cleo was definitely at the camp site – on CCTV footage on a camera installed inside a beach shack just 20 metres from the family tent she disappeared from.
Tuesday, October 26
Forensic officers and detectives spent much of the day at her home in Carnarvon, 900km north of Perth, on Tuesday and left with two bags of evidence.
Although investigators had been to the home before, this was the first time they thoroughly searched inside with a forensics team.
Acting WA Police Commissioner Col Blanch said the search of the family home was ‘standard practice’ and did not indicate they were suspects in Cleo’s disappearance.
Wednesday, October 27
WA Police forensics officers return to the Blowholes campground and are seen collecting soil samples from a number of campfires near shacks in the area.
The federal government announce Australian Federal Police officers had been drafted in to support forensic and intelligence efforts.
Friday, October 29
Police return to the Blowholes camp to analyse the area with drones.
Detective Superintendent Rod Wilde returns to the Blowholes campsite to join the search for Cleo as the search hit the two-week mark.
He confirms national and international agencies are engaged in the search for Cleo.
Sunday, October 31
Detectives go door-knocking at a number of homes along the North West Coastal Highway in the North Plantations, 5km from Cleo’s hometown on Sunday.
Monday, November 1
Detectives sort through mounds of rubbish from roadside bins located hundreds of kilometres away from the campsite she vanished from.
The material was transported to Perth, where forensic officers and recruits sorted through hundreds of bags in search of items that may have helped them find Cleo.
Officers issue a plea for dash cam and CCTV footage from within a 1000km radius of where the four-year-old disappeared.
Police renew an appeal for more businesses in Carnarvon to provide footage and go door to door in an industrial area on the outskirts of the town.
Her elated mother, Ellie, (pictured, with Cleo, her partner and younger daughter) broke her silence the morning Cleo was found, sharing a series of love heart emojis on Instagram
Wednesday, November 3
After two-and-a-half weeks of searching Cleo Smith is found alive and well in the early hours of November 3.
WA Police Deputy Commissioner Col Blanch confirmed just before 7am AEST that little Cleo is alive and well and had been reunited with her relieved parents.
‘One of the officers picked her up into his arms and asked her ‘what’s your name?’ he said. ‘She said: ‘My name is Cleo’.’
Ellie Smith posted to social media: ‘Our family is whole again’.
A Carnarvon man is currently in custody and being questioned by detectives.
On October 19, Ellie Smith (pictured) and her partner Jake Gliddon fronted the media for the first time and begged the public to report any information ‘big or small’