Police officers scoured the family home of missing four-year-old girl Cleo Smith for seven hours as part of a ‘routine practice’ to eliminate all possibilities, Western Australia’s top cop said.
The leading theory remains that Cleo was likely abducted from her tent at the Blowholes campsite, and her parents are not considered suspects in her disappearance.
A newly resurfaced social media post from 2014 has also stoked fears of a kidnapper in the region.
A distressed mother revealed her daughter was approached by ‘a man in his late 40s with a beard driving a small red car’ while they were camping at the popular holiday spot.
The woman lodged a complaint with police at the time, warning the man asked her daughter to ‘go for a drive in his car’ but she refused and ran back to her family.
Little Cleo Smith and her step father Jake Gliddon, who has ‘raised her as his own’ are pictured together
A distressed mother revealed her daughter was approached by ‘a man in his late 40s with a beard driving a small red car’ while they were camping at the popular holiday spot
A police officer loads up his car with bags of evidence on Tuesday evening
The little girl wasn’t able to provide a thorough description of the man’s appearance, and it appears nothing ever came of the police report.
But she shared the post publicly hoping to warn other parents who might bring their children to the area, adding it would be a ‘good time to remind our precious ones of stranger danger’.
There are now concerns within the local community that Cleo’s disappearance could be linked to the incident.
Since the post was initially unearthed, several people have reported it to Crime Stoppers, hopeful any potential links will be thoroughly investigated.
Forensic officers and detectives spent much of the day at her home in Carnarvon, 900km north of Perth, on Tuesday and left with two bags of evidence although it’s unclear what was inside.
Acting WA Police Commissioner Col Blanch said the search of the family home was ‘standard practice’ and did not indicate they were suspects in Cleo’s disappearance.
‘The parents have been nothing but helpful. We’ve worked very closely with them, they’ve let us into their home, they’ve let us into their cars, their phones, everything,’ Mr Blanch told 6PR.
‘That is a normal part of an investigation and we must follow it thoroughly.
Acting WA Police Commissioner Col Blanch said the parents were not suspects in their daughter’s disappearance
‘Our job is to eliminate everyone that was at that campsite, and that is a systematic and thorough approach in doing so in any investigation. And that really is the focus of the investigation at the moment.’
Mr Blanch said while they were keeping ‘open minded’ about Cleo’s disappearance, the ‘highest probability’ was that she had been abducted.
The four-year-old hasn’t been seen since the early hours of Saturday morning October 16 at the Blowholes campsite near Carnarvon.
Her heartbroken stepdad Jake Gliddon returned to the family home on Tuesday to allow police and detectives inside.
The four-year-old girl’s teary-eyed mother Ellie Smith told a TV interview on Monday that the couple had hardly been back to the house, finding it too agonising to return without their daughter.
Although investigators had been to the home before, this was the first time they thoroughly searched inside with a forensics team.
The heartbroken step father of Cleo Smith (pictured in a green singlet and sunglasses) has returned to the family’s home for the first time since his little girl vanished from Blowholes campsite in Western Australia 11 days ago
Detectives are now looking into footage taken from a home on the North West Coastal Highway, near the Blowholes campsite, which reportedly shows a sedan travelling down the road at about 3am
On the previous occasion forensic officers combed the outside looking for signs of a stalker along the fence line and windows but ‘no evidence’ was uncovered and the theory discounted.
The little girl in pink pyjamas was sleeping in a tent alongside her mother Ellie, stepfather and baby sister Isla on their first camping trip together.
She was last seen by her parents at 1.30am on Saturday when she woke up to ask for a drink of water.
But by 6.30am when her parents woke up, little Cleo along with her red and grey sleeping bag had vanished.
Police are now looking into CCTV of a car that was seen driving down a highway near the Blowholes campsite in the time window Cleo disappeared in.
With an extensive search of the area leaving no clues, detectives believe the four-year-old may have been taken.
The footage was taken from a home on the North West Coastal Highway, which reportedly shows a sedan travelling down the road at about 3am.
Two people on their way to work had earlier told police they saw a car turning south off Blowholes Road at about 3am on the day Cleo vanished.
Police are now working to identify the driver and registration plates to determine whether or not the car seen in the footage is the same as the one in the reports, 7 News reported.
A massive land, sea and air search has continued for almost two weeks but there is still no signs of the pre-schooler and detectives have no firm suspects.
To flush out information the WA government last week announced a $1million reward for any information that can lead to Cleo’s whereabouts.
Immense scrutiny has followed Ms Smith and her partner Mr Gliddon since their nightmare ordeal began, with hoards of online sleuths and ‘amateur detectives’ pointing the finger at them.
The devastated couple vehemently on Monday night denied any involvement in Cleo’s disappearance and made a heartfelt plea to bring her home.
Ms Smith urged anyone with information on the missing toddler to call police because ‘we want our daughter back and she wants us’.
Wiping away tears, she also had a message for Cleo’s abductor: ‘Just give her back to us,’ she said on Channel Seven’s Flashpoint program.
Ms Smith on Tuesday said she was overwhelmed by the generosity of Australians who donated to a Gofundme page set up by a family friend.