The depraved monster who likely snatched little Cleo Smith from her family tent in the dead of night is someone who appears ‘very normal’ and can ‘blend in’ easily, a renowned criminal psychologist has told Daily Mail Australia.
It’s been six days since the four-year-old in pink pyjamas disappeared from the remote Blowholes campsite in Carnarvon, on the northwest coast of Western Australia.
She was sleeping alongside her mother Ellie Smith and step father Jake Gliddon but when they woke up at about 6:30am on Saturday, she was nowhere to be found and her adult-sized red and grey sleeping bag was also missing.
It was originally thought the little girl had simply wandered off towards the ocean or the rugged scrublands nearby, however detectives are now convinced Cleo was abducted by a brazen child predator.
But criminal psychologist Tim Watson-Munro who has spent the past four decades analysing the minds of some of the worst criminals of our times: terrorists, mass murderers, sex offenders and torturers of children, says the real danger about these people is ‘their ordinariness’.
The depraved monster who likely snatched little Cleo Smith (pictured) from her family tent in the dead of night is someone who appears ‘very normal’ and can ‘blend in’ easily, a renowned criminal psychologist has told Daily Mail Australia
Criminal psychologist Tim Watson-Munro (pictured) has spent the past four decades analysing the minds of some of the worst criminals of our times: terrorists, mass murderers, sex offenders and torturers of children
The four-year-old was last seen by her parents (pictured with her mum Ellie and partner Jake Gliddon) about 1.30am on Saturday when she woke up and asked for a drink
‘The problem with a person like this is it could be anyone,’ he said.
‘It’s someone who can blend into a suburban lifestyle, he could be a father, he could be involved in community or sporting clubs.
‘If you met the offender he may appear very normal.
‘This is the danger about these people – their ordinariness. They can blend in very easily and generally they are well presented.’
Dr Watson-Munro said the kidnapper is most likely to be a ‘calculated’ man and a textbook psychopath driven by a sickening desire for ‘power and control’.
‘We are talking about someone who is bad but not mad,’ he said.
‘To do something like that without any anxiety suggests they are psychopathic in their disposition because psychopaths have a very high threshold for anxiety.
‘Things that would make a normal person’s blood turn cold doesn’t bother them.’
Friends of Cleo’s family said the smart four-year-old (pictured) ‘wouldn’t just wander’ away from the tent
Ellie Smith and her partner, Jake Gliddon (pictured) fronted the media for the first time on Tuesday after four-year-old Cleo (middle) went missing near the Blowholes campsite north of Carnarvon in Western Australia five days ago
A map showing the possible roads Cleo Smith was taken on in the time between when she went missing and when police
Someone who could sneak into a tent and abduct a child in her sleeping bag as her parents lay next to her ‘is not somebody who is prone to nervousness’.
Police now believe an abduction took place because the zipper of the tent was found undone in the morning, even though Cleo is too short to reach it.
It can be the case that child predators and sex offenders are dishevelled, affected by drugs and alcohol or have below average intelligence, but in this case Dr Watson-Munro says ‘it’s very unlikely’.
‘In order to plan a crime like this you have to be at least average intelligence to get away with it. We are not looking at some bumbling imbecile,’ he said.
‘They are capable of forward planning both in terms of abducting the child and allowing themselves plenty of opportunity to get far away.’
So far police have no ‘concrete suspects’ in the baffling case and on Thursday afternoon announced a $1million reward for anyone who has any information that could lead police to the culprit.
Cleo had been inside the tent with her mother and stepdad but was gone in the morning with the zipper almost completely open
Ellie Smith made a harrowing statement online at 6am on Thursday morning – exactly six days after she discovered her eldest daughter was missing
Alarmingly, there are about 20 known sex offenders living in the surrounding area.
But Dr Watson-Munro says that while the perpetrator may have a history of sexual offending, it’s quite possible it could also be a first-time offender because there ‘haven’t previously been any child abductions in that area before’.
‘It could be somebody who is Paedophilicly-inclined and may have sexual fantasies about abducting a kid,’ he said.
‘They may peruse the internet looking for child porn and this abduction represents the next step up because this kind of offending always escalates.’
While it might seem contradictory for a crime to be both ‘planned and opportunistic’, in the bizarre case of Cleo that is what it appears to be.
The strange details of the abductions seem to indicate the kidnapper had ‘cased’ the remote camping grounds and was waiting for the right opportunity to strike.
Cleo Smith (pictured) has now been missing for six days and there is now a $1million reward for anyone who can lead police to her suspected kidnapper
Hopes are fast fading that Cleo will be found near the campsite as it becomes increasingly likely she was abducted
Cleo’s stepdad Jake Gliddon was frantic when he discovered Cleo was gone, according to a camper on the scene who assisted with the search
‘It is hard to determine if it was a local or someone passing through but it could be both,’ Dr Watson-Munro warned.
‘It could be somebody who lives in the area and has a thing about kids – a paedophile perhaps – who has seen this child with her parents and has seized the moment,’ he said.
‘Or there is the possibility that it’s somebody who knows the family or knows the child and has been potentially stalking the child for some time.
‘They may have even followed them there. You couldn’t rule that out.’
Taskforce RODIA has now been established to help piece together the events leading to and immediately after Cleo’s disappearance.
Little Cleo Smith’s mother is holding out hope that the four-year-old will ‘come home’ to her
All you need to know about Cleo’s disappearance
Friday 6.30pm: Cleo and her family arrive at the campsite as the sun begins to set. They quickly set up their tent and get settled in, feeding both of the girls.
Friday 8pm: Cleo went to bed while her younger sister and parents stayed up for a little while longer.
Saturday 1.30am: Cleo woke up asking for a drink of water. Ellie tended to her and checked on Isla, who was in a crib right next to Cleo’s mattress in one room in the tent.
Saturday 6am: Ellie woke up to Isla wanting a bottle. She passed the divider that separated the two rooms in the tent and immediately noticed the zipper was almost entirely open. Cleo was gone.
Saturday ‘mid-morning’: Police and emergency services arrive to assist with the search, starting with local Carnarvon officers.
Sunday: Cleo’s mum issues a desperate plea on Facebook to find her daughter.
Sunday/Monday: Homicide detectives, bush trackers and more volunteers are brought in to assist with the search.
Monday: Police confirm Cleo’s grey and red sleeping bag also disappeared. They are yet to comment on whether there were marks that indicate it was dragged from the tent.
Police reveal they are not ruling out any possibilities relating to Cleo’s disappearance.
Tuesday morning: Search is suspended due to wild weather.
Daily Mail Australia confirms the ‘interaction’ Cleo had with her mother was ‘not sinister’ and simply the four-year-old asking for a sip of water.
Tuesday midday: Search continues again as storm passes.
Tuesday 1.30pm: Cleo’s mum and stepdad, Jake, speak to the media for the first time since she disappeared, revealing key pieces of evidence, including:
– The tent they were staying in was left almost entirely open. Cleo and Isla were in the room nearest to the entrance, which was unzipped when Ellie woke up at 6am. Isla remained in her crib unharmed, but Cleo was gone
– Cleo is ‘not the sort of child to wander off’ and would have woken her parents if she needed anything, like when she woke hours earlier to ask for a sip of water
Wednesday: Police confirm reports a car was heard ‘screeching off’ from the campsite at about 3am.
Assistant Commissioner Darryl Gaunt revealed there are ‘between 10 and 20’ known sex offenders in the Carnarvon area, but none are suspects into Cleo’s disappearance following inquiries.
‘We don’t have any concerns about that,’ he said on 6PR Mornings.
‘I know part of the investigative strategies have included reaching and making inquiries into their whereabouts and movements, and this point in time we’re very comfortable where we sit with those inquiries.’
Investigators confirm Cleo would be too short to open the tent zip by herself, stoking fears she was abducted
Thursday 12.30pm local time (3.30pm AEST): WA Premier Mark McGowan offers $1million reward for any information which leads to Cleo coming home or the arrest and conviction of those responsible for taking her