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Cleo Smith disappearance: Mother issues harrowing plea to missing four-year-old

Little Cleo Smith’s mother is holding out hope that the four-year-old will ‘come home to her’.

Ellie Smith made a harrowing statement about 6.20am on Thursday morning – exactly six days after she discovered her eldest daughter was missing.

‘I miss you. I love you. Please come home to me,’ the mother-of-two said.

Cleo disappeared from the family tent at the Blowholes campsite north of Carnavon in Western Australia between 1.30am and 6am on Saturday.

She, along with her mum, stepdad Jake Gliddon and baby sister Isla had only arrived for the weekend getaway hours prior.

Ms Smith has issued several pleas for her daughter’s safe return since she realised Cleo was missing, the first on her Facebook page on Sunday and the second to the media on Tuesday.

Ellie Smith made a harrowing statement about 6am on Thursday morning – exactly six days after she discovered her eldest daughter was missing

Little Cleo Smith's mother is holding out hope that the four-year-old will 'come home' to her

Little Cleo Smith’s mother is holding out hope that the four-year-old will ‘come home’ to her

Mounted police were called to join the search this week amid concerns that Cleo has been abducted

Mounted police were called to join the search this week amid concerns that Cleo has been abducted

Early on Thursday morning, she spoke publicly again to share the missing child poster that was created by strangers and distributed widely across the nation.

The poster illustrates the red and grey sleeping bag that disappeared with Cleo along with a number to call police. 

She also shared a fresh picture of Cleo enjoying a Cornetto ice-cream in a leopard print jumpsuit. Her pink scooter was visible in the background.

‘My sweet girl, come home to me,’ Ms Smith captioned the photo. 

Cleo’s family have told detectives they will remain at the campsite, hopeful the little girl will wander back in.

But detectives fear with every passing hour, there is less of a chance they’ll find Cleo alive – or nearby. 

‘Whilst time is not on our side… there have been instances in the past where even small children lost in remote areas still being found safe and well,’ acting Deputy Police Commissioner Darryl Gaunt said.

‘There’s been some rain that gives us hope that there’s water on the ground, those type of things which, you know, we take all of these things on as a positive, and we keep searching with every bit of energy that we have.’ 

Mother Ellie Smith and step-father Jake Gliddon (pictured) were distraught during their first press conference since the disappearance of Cleo Smith on Saturday

Mother Ellie Smith and step-father Jake Gliddon (pictured) were distraught during their first press conference since the disappearance of Cleo Smith on Saturday

Detectives are preparing for the ‘nightmare scenario’ that Cleo was abducted from her tent.

They’re considering the possibility that she could have already been taken interstate, given the time that has passed. 

But search crews, volunteers, local Indigenous bush trackers and mounted police returned to the campsite on Thursday. 

“We will be here until we are satisfied that Cleo is not in this area,” Inspector Jon Munday said.

“We have searched thoroughly all the high probability areas that Cleo could be in this campsite. We are now extending into the further areas where Cleo could have walked herself.”

WA police have labelled the disappearance of Cleo (pictured) 'a mystery we're trying to unravel'

WA police have labelled the disappearance of Cleo (pictured) ‘a mystery we’re trying to unravel’

Ms Smith appeared emotional during a press conference on Tuesday while Mr Gliddon was lost for words as they recounted the last time they saw Cleo.   

‘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.   

Body language experts have weighed in on the interview analysing the gestures, tone of voice and facial expressions of the couple

Body language experts have weighed in on the interview analysing the gestures, tone of voice and facial expressions of the couple 

Ms Smith has been left distraught since her four-year-old daughter Cleo (pictured) vanished from a campsite in Western Australia

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  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

The couple (pictured with their family) first appealed for help locating missing Cleo via social media on Sunday 

Ms Smith’s voice faltered as she relayed the moment she unzipped the tent to discover her four-year-old was missing. 

‘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

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 

 

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

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

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.’ 

Mr Gliddon was frantic when he realised Cleo was missing, according to a camper on the scene who assisted with the search.

He started dating Ms Smith two-and-a-half years ago, when Cleo was barely one. It’s understood he has raised Cleo as his own ever since.

‘You are incredible and the best dad Cleo could ask for,’ Ms Smith said in a tribute post to her partner last Father’s Day.

‘Thank you for stepping up and being her Daddy. We love you… our favourite man.’ 

A close friend of the couple said Mr Gliddon ‘absolutely adores Cleo [and] took her on as his own not long after she was born’.

‘He may be a stepfather but those kids mean the world to him… He’s a great dad.’   

Cleo was nowhere to be found when her mother and stepdad woke in their shared tent at around 6am on Saturday

Cleo was nowhere to be found when her mother and stepdad woke in their shared tent at around 6am on Saturday

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. 

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.’

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'

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

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

It comes as a disturbing new clue in the disappearance pointed to the ‘worst case scenario’ the little girl was snatched from her tent as her family lay sleeping.

Police revealed little Cleo was too small in stature to reach the zipper of the tent, which was found hanging open by her mother at 6am, to open it herself.

WA Police Inspector Jon Munday said the height of the zip opening was a major factor in the possibility Cleo was now in the hands of an unknown third party. 

‘The positioning of that zipper for the flap is one of the circumstances which has caused us to have grave concerns for Cleo’s safety,’ he said on Wednesday.

The family tent had several entry points that could be unzipped, with the one found open being at the front-facing area of the tent where the little girl had been sleeping. 

The new detail comes after other campers claim they heard the sound of a car speeding off around 3am and police revealed up to 20 sex offenders live near the campsite where Cleo was last seen five days ago.

Police have disclosed that while there are currently no concrete suspects for Cleo’s disappearance, but there are ‘groups they are interested in’. 

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  

 

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Read more at DailyMail.co.uk