Cleo Smith search: Mother Ellie says daughter would have not wandered from Blowholes campsite

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Bethany HiattThe West Australian
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VideoCleo Smith's family have given an emotional interview saying she'd never wander off alone.

The family of missing four-year-old Cleo Smith have described the terrifying moment they realised she had vanished from their tent — and their certainty she would not have wandered off by herself.

In their first interview since the little girl disappeared during the night from the tent she was sharing with her family at a popular camp site near Carnarvon, Cleo’s mum Ellie Smith said when she awoke at 6am the tent was open.

SEE THE INTERVIEW IN THE VIDEO PLAYER ABOVE

“The zipper was open and she was gone,” she said.

Forensics officers have joined the search for Carnarvon toddler Cleo Smith.
Camera IconForensics officers have joined the search for Carnarvon toddler Cleo Smith. Credit: Phoebe Pin/Geraldton Guardian

Cleo had been sleeping on a mattress next to the cot of her baby sister, Isla.

“The tent was completely open. I turned around to Jake and said ‘she’s gone’.”

The search for Cleo is now in its fourth day after the little girl was last seen about 1.30am on Saturday when she asked for a drink of water inside the tent at the Blowholes campsite in Macleod, about 70kms north of Carnarvon.

Looking exhausted and drained from their four day vigil, Ms Smith and her partner Jake Gliddon pleaded for anyone who might have seen something to report it to the police.

They said the last few days had been “horrendous.”

Speaking through tears, Ms Smith said Cleo was not the sort of child to wander off, and she would have asked for her mother’s help to unzip her one-piece sleeping suit.

“She’s lazy when it comes to walking,” she said.

“She’d never leave the tent alone.”

Cleo Smith’s mother, Ellie Smith and her partner Jake Gliddon.
Camera IconCleo Smith’s mother, Ellie Smith and her partner Jake Gliddon. Credit: James Carmody/ABC News

Ms Smith said as soon as they realised Cleo was missing, they searched for her on foot and then by car, before calling police.

“We haven’t really slept,” she said.

“I guess the worst part is we can’t do anything more. It’s out of our hands. It’s out of our hands now and we feel hopeless and out of control.

“We sit and watch the sand dunes and think she’s going to run down it and back into our arms — but we’re still waiting.”

Missing girl Cleo Smith.
Camera IconMissing girl Cleo Smith. Credit: Facebook

Asked if they feared someone had taken Cleo, Ms Smith said they were still clinging to hope that she was nearby.

She said someone had to know where Cleo was: “Someone has to, it’s been four days.”

The couple said they had been inundated with messages from the community, but asked people to tell police if they had seen anything.

“If you see something report it, doesn’t matter if it’s small or big,” Ms Smith said. “We want our little girl home.

“We’re going to find her, we have to.”

She said she felt “terrified” and would not want any other mother to go through her experience.

Ms Smith described her little girl as “beautiful, delicate and funny”, with “the biggest heart”, who loved make-up and collecting rocks.

Outside of Cleo’s biological father’s home.
Camera IconOutside of Cleo’s biological father’s home. Credit: Justin Benson-Cooper/The West Australian

“Every day she wants to wear a princess dress,” she said. “She’s so sweet — everything you’d want in a little girl.”

Although she was “terrified of the ocean”, Cleo had been looking forward to building sand castles on the beach.

The couple had brought her bike on the trip so she could learn to ride without training wheels.

Ms Smith said Cleo, who goes to school at St Mary Star of the Sea in Carnarvon, was a strong child.

“Cleo was born eight weeks early, she was premature and she’s been strong from the day she was born, so I know she can get through whatever she’s going through.”

WA Police Insp. Jon Munday said Cleo’s disappearance was “really really concerning”, and described the complex case with many moving parts as “a mystery we’re trying to unravel.”

It came after he revealed there were “quite a lot of people” at the Blowholes campground the night Cleo went missing.

“We’re tracking and tracing all of those people at the moment, but there’s also nothing to indicate that there’s any cause for the wider community to be alarmed,” he said.

Drone footage provided by police shows the Blowholes Campsite Carnarvon and the police command post.
Camera IconDrone footage provided by police shows the Blowholes Campsite Carnarvon and the police command post. Credit: WA Police/supplied

“But it is just really really concerning.

“Hopefully we can get some answers.”

Insp. Munday also confirmed police had interviewed Cleo’s biological father Daniel Staines at the Mandurah Police Station yesterday, where he willingly provided a statement to officers.

There is no suggestion he is involved in Cleo's disappearance.

Cleo is approximately 110 centimetres tall with honey blonde coloured hair and hazel eyes.

Anyone with information is urged to call police on 131 444.

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