Police involved in the rescue of young Cleo Smith have described the raw emotion at finding the four-year-old alive after being missing for 18 days.
Cleo was discovered alone in a home in Carnarvon in the early hours of Wednesday morning after Police smashed their way into the house.
She was taken to hospital before being reunited with her family but is in good health.
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A heart-warming photo released by WA Police following her rescue shows Cleo sitting on a hospital bed smiling while eating an ice block.
Police have also released body-worn camera footage of the moment shortly after she was found.
One officer is heard asking Cleo if she is ok before telling her they were taking her to see her mummy and daddy.
The moment Cleo was rescued 👏 pic.twitter.com/arusYi9kCa
— WA Police Force (@WA_Police) November 3, 2021
“To those of you who have been hoping, wishing, and praying that we were able to find little Cleo alive and give her back to you in your arms is just a wonderful, wonderful day, and it is a day that we all hoped for,” WA Police Commissioner Chris Dawson said.
Detective Senior Sergeant Cameron Blaine was one of four officers who broke into the home this morning, discovering Cleo in a room by herself.
He says there was a range of emotions going through the entire team.
“Shock to start with, quickly followed by elation. We had always hoped for that outcome but were not prepared for it, it was absolutely fantastic,” Det Snr Sgt Blaine said.
“Originally, to see her sitting there in the way that she was, it was incredible.
“One of the guys jumped in front of me and picked her up and I just wanted to be absolutely sure that, it certainly looks like Cleo, 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’ and that was it.”
The officer who led the investigation, Superintendent Rod Wilde says they never gave up hope of finding Cleo alive.
“People were in tears it is fair to say. It is an amazing outcome. We hoped, we kept working with that belief that we could get there, you could find Cleo. I don’t know what happened but we were lucky,” Superintendent Wilde said.
Police are remaining tight-lipped about the man arrested over Cleo’s abduction what led detectives to the home where she was found.
Detectives say the 36-year-old man who was taken into custody is a local man who only became a suspect yesterday.
They have confirmed he is known to them but is not a known child sex offender.
It’s believed the man acted alone and the abduction was not planned but was ‘opportunistic’.
The man has since been taken to hospital after reportedly injuring himself in a Police cell.
Charges are yet to be laid but Police expect that to happen soon.
Superintendent Wilde says it wasn’t one single thing that led them to this man.
“We had together all this information, all this evidence, paint a picture of what happened, interview the witnesses, speak to everyone out there so we could understand what happened, who was there at the wrong time, that is what happened.
“We collected a lot of data. That is what we do in these situations. It is a thorough investigation.
“We analyse, we find what we are looking for, and we are lucky that we found it. It was the hard work of the team that did it. Analysing all that information, gathering it and finding the needle in the haystack.”