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Cleo Smith: ‘Nanna’ of accused abductor Terence Kelly says she fears for his safety in jail

‘Grandmother’ of Cleo Smith’s accused abductor breaks her silence in tearful interview saying ‘I’m very, very scared’ for his welfare in jail

  • Terence Darrell Kelly, 36, appeared in court over alleged abduction of Cleo Smith
  • Remanded in custody to reappear on January 24 for further legal advice hearing
  • Cleo, 4, rescued from property minutes from her Carnarvon home last month
  • Esther Mingo, the sister of Mr Kelly’s guardian Penny Walker, appeared at court
  • Ms Mingo said she was his ‘nanna’ and was worried about his safety in prison  


The self-described ‘nanna’ of Cleo Smith’s alleged abductor says she fears for his safety as he remains behind bars at a maximum-security prison in Perth. 

Esther Mingo supported Terence Darrell Kelly, 36, whom she refers to as her grandson but is not biologically related to, as he made a brief court appearance on Monday.  

It was the second time Kelly, who is accused of taking four-year-old Cleo from her family’s tent at the remote Blowholes campsite in Western Australia, has appeared in court since his arrest last month. 

Outside Carnarvon Local Court – where he appeared via video link – Ms Mingo told reporters she was the sister of Penny Walker, a respected Indigenous leader who raised Mr Kelly as her own from the age of two. 

Esther Mingo (pictured) has broken her silence over her grandson’s arrest as she supported him at court on Monday 

Wiping away tears, Ms Mingo called herself as Kelly’s ‘nanna’ and said she was concerned for his welfare in Casuarina Prison, which is one of the state’s toughest jails. 

‘I’m very, very scared,’ she told reporters. 

‘We all know what Casuarina prison is (like). People go there and spend life and they kill people. They belt them until they kill them.’

Kelly on Monday faced a magistrate in Carnarvon via videolink from prison, charged with multiple offences including forcibly taking a child under 16. 

Bail was not considered and Kelly was remanded in custody to reappear on January 24 for a further legal advice hearing.   

Ms Mingo said she hoped her grandson was being kept in isolation from other inmates and she is travelling to Perth to see him on Tuesday.

The respected community elder said she ‘cried and cried’ when she learnt of his arrest, describing her grandson as a ‘nice person’ to everybody he met. 

Terence Darrell Kelly (pictured) appeared in court via videolink on Monday

Terence Darrell Kelly (pictured) appeared in court via videolink on Monday

Cleo Smith (pictured) was found alive and well 18 days after she vanished from her family’s campsite

Ms Mingo said she intends to ask Kelly to ‘tell me the truth’ when they reunite in the prison visitor room. 

‘I do feel upset. I need something to be done right for him,’ she said.

Cleo was found alive and well in early November, 18 days after she went missing from the campsite.

She was rescued from a property just minutes from her family home in the nearby town of Carnarvon, almost 1000km north of Perth.

Police forced entry to the home and found Cleo alone in a room, physically unharmed and playing with toys.

Kelly was arrested on a nearby street around the same time. He is alleged to have acted alone and is yet to enter a plea to his charges.

Cleo was rescued from a property (pictured police searching the house) just minutes from her family home in Carnarvon

Cleo was rescued from a property (pictured police searching the house) just minutes from her family home in Carnarvon

Cleo Smith and her mother Ellie Smith leave a house where she spent her first night after being returned to her family

Cleo Smith and her mother Ellie Smith leave a house where she spent her first night after being returned to her family

Police say he has no connection to Cleo’s family.

Kelly appeared before a magistrate in Carnarvon last month and was remanded in custody ahead of the matter returning to the same court.

He was shackled and accompanied by armed riot squad guards on a charter flight from Carnarvon to Perth after his first court appearance.

The extra security was put in place after Kelly was twice hospitalised with self-inflicted injuries while in custody.

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