Cleo Smith’s suspected abductor could have taken one of more than a dozen different escape routes from the campsite she was last seen at.
The missing four-year-old vanished without a trace from the Blowholes camping ground, near Carnarvon in WA in the early morning of Saturday.
She was last seen by her parents at about 1.30am and when they woke at 6.30am, she along with her adult-sized sleeping bag had gone.
With the search now entering its seventh day, detectives believe the little girl was likely snatched, with fears for her safety getting worse as each hour passes.
The search is expected to be scaled back on Friday, as detectives shift their focus from the theory that she simply wandered off to the possibility that she was taken.
Cleo Smith was last seen at the Blowholes campsite near Carnarvon in WA. Her suspected kidnapper could have taken her down a number of different trails which snake off from the main road
Cleo was last seen by her parents at about 1.30am and when they woke at 6.30am, she along with her adult-sized sleeping bag had gone
While Blowholes Road is the main sealed road out from the camping ground, a map of the area shows there are countless smaller dirt trails which all snake off in multiple directions.
If Cleo was taken north on Gnaraloo Road there are also multiple tracks heading inland from the main road.
The complex intertwining of roads makes it harder for detectives to pin down exactly which direction she may have been taken in the event she was kidnapped.
It’s understood from the time her parents woke up that it was at least another three hours before police were called, meaning she could have reached as far as Tom Price just over eight hours north-east of the Blowholes camping ground.
Cleo may also have been driven south with the town of Kalbarri, five hours away, also a possible area she may have passed through, as is the suburb of Meekatharra, 670km south-east.
The Minilya Roadhouse is around 165km north of the campsite and is on the only northbound road away from Blowholes and records every vehicle that passes through.
It’s understood police are investigating the CCTV taken from the roadhouse.
A dozen petrol stations told the West Australian they’d been contacted by police to hand over CCTV in relation to Cleo’s disappearance, with one as far as 800km south of Blowholes in Lancelin.
Detectives now believe the missing girl was likely abducted as her search enters a seventh day
Cleo’s mother Ellie Smith and stepdad Jake Gliddon fronted the media as the agonising search for their daughters goes on
While there are fears the little girl could have been taken interstate, Western Australia’s strict Covid-19 policy with police guarding the borders makes it likely she’s still within WA.
WA Police Detective Superintendent Rod Wilde said that after a week of scouring the area, the search ‘hadn’t led us anywhere’.
‘So that, gathered with some of the evidence that we have gained from the tent and the surrounds there, has led us to believe that possibly someone else was involved in her disappearance,’ he told the Today Show.
‘There is a lot of information that has come in. So we are going through that methodically. Look, we are hopeful that will lead us to discovering where she is.’
When speaking about the grief Cleo’s parents are feeling, Mr Wilde said it ‘doesn’t get any worse’.
‘We know that. We really feel for the parents,’ he said.
A $1million reward is now on offer for anyone who can provide information to police which leads them to finding little Cleo.
Pictured: A timeline of Cleo’s holiday with her family, from before she disappeared to the present search
Police have no ‘concrete suspects’ in the baffling case and say they will not rule anything out.
Alarmingly, there are about 20 known sex offenders living in the surrounding area.
Taskforce RODIA has now been established to help piece together the events leading to and immediately after Cleo’s disappearance.
WA Police confirmed that everyone who was at the campsite where the four-year-old disappeared is a potential person of interest.
‘Our job is to eliminate everyone that has a trace at the campsite during that time,’ Deputy Police Commissioner Col Blanch said.
‘There have been hundreds of Crime Stoppers calls, primarily about suspicious persons in the area, and that’s what we’re responding to.
Cleo’s stepdad Jake Gliddon was frantic, according to a camper on the scene who assisted with the search
Commissioner Blanch was asked whether sex offenders identified as living in the area were the subject of investigation.
‘Sex offenders would certainly be on the list of persons of interest.’
‘The process of any investigation is the process of elimination. We have to eliminate the fact of where that person was at the time of the offence.’
Cleo was last seen when she woke her mum Ellie Smith up about 1.30am to ask for a sip of water. When Ms Smith got up again about 6am to feed Cleo’s sister Isla, she realised Cleo and her sleeping bag were gone.
The family had only arrived at the campsite about 6.30pm on Friday for a weekend getaway.
Ms Smith has been visiting the Blowholes campsite since she was a little girl and Cleo was also familiar with the area.
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 says he has an ‘important announcement’ about investigation into Cleo’s disappearance