A landmark $1million reward for information helping to find Cleo Smith indicates police believe someone knows what happened to the missing toddler and could be enticed into coming forward.
The sixth day of the search for the missing four-year-old Carnavon girl took a sinister turn on Wednesday as police revealed they have been looking for a body, as the hopes of finding her alive begin to fade.
Abduction if now the key line of inquiry, and WA Premier Mark McGowan has offered $1million for any information relating to the disappearance of Cleo, who disappeared from a tent she shared with her mum, stepdad and baby sister during the early hours of Saturday morning.
It is the first time in the state’s history that the seven-figure sum has been offered for help solving a case within the first week of an investigation.
Renowned criminal psychologist Tim Watson-Munro said the payment – which is the highest police will ever exchange for information – is typically only offered once a case goes cold, as a means to get it back in the public eye.
A whopping $1million reward has been offered for help finding missing Western Australian toddler Cleo Smith (pictured)
‘It’s just day six and there is a $1million reward out,’ he told Daily Mail Australia.
‘I’m unaware of that ever occurring. Normally it takes years for these kinds of rewards to be offered.’
Detective Superintendent Scott Cook told the Sydney Morning Herald in 2018 that the amount offered does not reflect the importance of a case or of the person missing but is tactical.
‘If we set every unsolved homicide at $1 million overnight, no one would notice. We need to bring attention to it in order to get value out of it,’ he said.
‘An investigation might suit three (stages of reward) announcements, so we can make a fresh appeal for information.’
Such large rewards are offered in the belief that someone knows critical information but considers the benefit of revealing it is outweighed by the downside, particularly if it implicates them in the crime.
The reward is designed to make the pro’s of giving information outweigh the cons.
Once the $1 million is on the table, the price will not climb any higher.
WA Premier Mark McGowan (pictured) announced the $1million reward in a press conference on Wednesday, as police let slip they have been searching for a ‘body’
Cleo’s mother Ellie Smith has been left distraught since her four-year-old daughter (pictured) vanished from a campsite in Western Australia
The search for Cleo has entered a sixth day with crews continuing to scour the area
Key details from Mark McGowan’s press conference about missing Cleo
- Cleo has likely been abducted from her tent on Saturday night
- A $1million reward has been offered for any information which leads to her safe return, an arrest or conviction
- Deputy commissioner Col Blanch said at the beginning of the press conference that ‘despite an extensive land, sea and air search, we have not yet located her body’
- Detectives are certain that if she were still at the campsite, she would have already been located
- Police have not ruled out any suspects and have fielded hundreds of Crime Stoppers reports
- As soon as police were notified of her disappearance, they began taking down the registration details of cars arriving and leaving the campsite
‘If we jump from zero to $1 million in one move, we’re done. That is the limit,’ he said.
With the hopes of finding Cleo alive declining by the day, police have immediately gone to $1 million to throw everything at the case now.
Mr Watson-Munro said the top reward being offered at this point in the case also suggests police have a lot more information about the disappearance than has been released.
‘My thoughts on the reward being announced so early is that there is extreme urgency in this case, however a lot of cases have extreme urgency and it is a lot of money to flush somebody out of the woodwork,’ he said.
‘So it is quite probable WA Police have an idea about who the abductor might be, or it could be that they have an idea that other people may know who it is.’
‘I don’t think it is a move out of desperation and I suspect they have much more information than they are disclosing to the public, which is strategically wise.’
‘It’s actually quite refreshing to see such a proactive and pre-emptive move so soon after a crime has occurred because if it goes on too long the trail will go cold,’ he said.
Of the thousands of unsolved cases across Australia, only a handful will ever be escalated to the $1million mark.
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
In Western Australia, three other unsolved cases have drawn seven figure price tags, including two other instances involving children.
One is for the murder of 11-year-old Newman boy Gerard Ross who vanished during a family holiday to Rockingham in October, 1997.
His body was found 20km away two weeks later, with police announcing the top reward for information last year – more than 20 years after his death.
A $1million reward is also on offer for help solving the suspected murders of 12-year-old Lisa Mott in Collie, in October, 1980, and 28-year-old Lisa Govan who disappeared from Kalgoorlie without a trace in October, 1999. Both have never been seen since.
While abductions are rare, cases involving missing children are typically treated with urgency as studies showing kids who have been kidnapped are usually killed within the first two days.
Despite the rapid response employed in these instances, Cleo’s case remains a remarkable departure from the norm when compared to similar cases.
In comparison, when three-year-old William Tyrell disappeared from the backyard of his foster mother’s Kendall home in September, 2014, it took two years before NSW Police announced a $1million reward.
The four-year-old Carnarvon local has been missing for six days after she disappeared from a tent she shared with her mum, stepdad and baby sister in the dead of night on Saturday
Hopes are fast fading that Cleo will be found near the campsite as it becomes increasingly likely she was abducted
Announcing the reward for Cleo’s case on Wednesday, Mr McGowan said the state government ‘have ensured that we have delivered all the resources that police have requested’.
‘Police are looking around the clock to try and find Cleo right now,’ he continued.
‘I urge anyone who has any knowledge of the location of Cleo, please provide that permission to police and ensure that we can provide some certainty and information to Cleo’s loved ones. and hopefully bring Cleo back safe.’
Cleo and her family arrived at the popular Blowholes campsite on WA’s northwest coast about 6.30pm on Friday, just hours before the little girl disappeared.
She was last seen by parents about 1.30am on Saturday, when she woke up her mother Ellie Smith to ask for a sip of water.
Ms Smith said she then woke around 6am to feed Cleo’s baby sister Isla, and discovered her oldest daughter was missing from the family’s tent.
Police have confirmed the zipper on the family’s tent was found open to a height Cleo could not have reached, seemingly ruling out the possibility she wandered off on her own.
Her red and black sleeping bag is also missing.
Detectives have not given up hope of finding Cleo alive but admit all signs point to her having been abducted.
A land search in the immediate vicinity of the campsite, north of Carnarvon, will wind down on Friday with the focus to shift to a criminal investigation.
The couple (pictured with their family) first appealed for help locating missing Cleo via social media on Sunday
‘Given the information now that we’ve gleaned from the scene, the fact that the search has gone on for this period of time and we haven’t been able to locate her … it leads us to believe that she was taken from the tent,’ Detective Superintendent Rob Wilde told reporters on Thursday.
More than 100 police officers, as well as SES volunteers and army reservists, have been deployed to the land search in rugged terrain north of Carnarvon.
Homicide detectives have been assigned to the criminal investigation into her disappearance, dubbed Taskforce RODIA.
Superintendent Wilde said authorities were keeping an open mind in relation to whether Cleo may have been taken by someone known to her.
Police have not ruled out the possibility Cleo may have been taken across interstate borders.
‘We’ve been in touch with all jurisdictions around Australia,’ Superintendent Wilde said.
‘We want to get this information out there and if anyone Australia-wide has information that could be relevant to the investigation, we ask that they call CrimeStoppers.’
Top cop in Madeleine McCann case reveals the ‘real complication’ in Cleo Smith’s disappearance
A top detective who investigated the abduction of British toddler Madeleine McCann has weighed in on the eerily similar disappearance of Cleo Smith.
While there are ‘grave fears’ she was snatched, investigators are not ruling out the possibility she wandered off alone, with a massive land, sea and air search across the area entering its sixth day on Thursday as homicide detectives and missing persons specialists continue to scour the scene.
But UK cop Dr Graham Hill, who flew to Portugal to help in the desperate hunt for three-year-old Madeleine back in 2007, said there is one ‘real complication’ which suggests Cleo did not just wander off – the fact that her red and grey adult-sized sleeping bag is also missing.
‘I would say it’s a remote chance that she’s got up, wandered off and taken her sleeping bag with her. I think that’s highly unlikely because there’d be some disturbance. You’d see where she dragged the sleeping bag and how far is a four- year-old child going to get in the dark?’ he told the West Australian.
The search for Cleo Smith (pictured) is now in its sixth day, with police not ruling out any scenarios – but also not identifying any potential suspects
The disturbing worst-case scenario is backed up by a worrying new development revealed by police on Wednesday night.
WA Police Inspector Jon Munday said little Cleo was too short to reach the zipper of the tent entrance, which was found hanging open by her mother at 6.30am.
He said the height of the zip opening on the tent was a major piece of evidence that could point to the possibility Cleo has been deliberately taken from the tent while her parents slept.
‘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.
‘There are circumstances around her disappearance that make it very concerning … like the fact that the zipper was allegedly up so high (and) the sleeping bag is missing.’
Madeleine McCann (pictured) went missing in Portugal during a family holiday in 2007, with a child abduction expert who flew to Praia da Luz to help saying Cleo’s disappearance had ‘real complications’ because of her missing sleeping bag
Dr Hill – then a Surrey detective superintendent seconded to the UK’s new Child Exploitation and Online Protection centre – lent expert help to the hunt for Madeleine back in 2007.
An expert in the abduction and murder of children by sexual predators, he told her father Gerry that if Madeleine had been abducted – she would likely be dead.
In the majority of cases where a child is taken by a stranger, they are usually killed within three to six hours, with Dr Hill admitting ‘the statistics don’t lie’.
Other campers claim they heard the sound of a car speeding off around 3am, with police revealing up to 20 sex offenders live near the campsite where Cleo was last seen five days ago.
Investigators have disclosed that while there are currently no concrete suspects for Cleo’s disappearance, there are ‘groups they are interested in’.
Dr Hill said it’s vital for investigators to know who was near the campsite that evening – as a potential abductor would have noticed Cleo and decided to pounce.
‘When people abduct children, they have to see them in the first place. They have to know that they exist. So if that little girl turned up at the campsite late last Friday. Was she running around whilst they put the tent up?’ he said.
‘Offenders only abduct children they know exist. They don’t wander around people’s tents at night in the hope they’re going to bump into a little child.’
The adult-sized sleeping bag Cleo was sleeping in has also disappeared, police confirmed
Read more at DailyMail.co.uk