Cleo Smith’s heartbroken stepfather has returned to the family’s home for the first time since his little girl vanished during a camping trip 11 days ago.
The four-year-old girl’s teary-eyed mother Ellie 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.
Cleo went to sleep in a tent at Blowholes campsite, near Carnarvon in Western Australia, alongside her parents and baby sister, but was gone by morning.
Detectives and forensic crews scoured the inside of the house in Carnarvon on Tuesday afternoon for about four hours, desperately searching for anything which could help make sense of how the four-year-old disappeared.
Jake Gliddon, who is not considered a suspect by police, led investigators through the front door and spoke with detectives inside for several minutes before they all left in separate cars and forensic officers descended on the home.
Little Cleo Smith and her step father Jake Gliddon are pictured together
Mr Gliddon is seen walking his step daughter carrying a pink backpack to pre-school
About 6.30pm they emerged with evidence bags and duffel bags but it has not yet been revealed what was inside, the West Australian reported.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison the same day assured the family that everything is being done to find Cleo, including the use of ‘secret technology’.
Although investigators had been to the home before, this was the first time they thoroughly search inside with a forensics team.
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.
But when her parents awoke at 6am on October 16, she was gone along with her sleeping bag, which has also never been found.
Police initially believed Cleo had simply wandered off at the remote campsite, but investigators are now convinced she was snatched in the dead of night by a child predator.
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.
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
Jake Gliddon (pictured) is not considered a suspect by police in Cleo’s disappearance
Mr Gliddon (pictured with police) led investigators through the front door and spoke with detectives inside for several minutes
The Prime Minister told 6PR radio on Tuesday that the case has captured the ‘hearts and minds’ of everybody in the country.
He also said that everything is being done to locate the missing child including the use of top secret technology.
‘It certainly has captured our minds here — our hearts just go out to them,’ Mr Morrison said.
‘But in terms of technology and tradecraft, the Australian Federal Police have some very advanced capabilities, leading edge, not just here in Australia but all around the world.
‘As much as I’d love to reveal exactly what some of those are, and how they’re being used, we certainly can’t talk about that on air.’
‘I just hope we can find Cleo, I just really do. I just think the whole nation is just waiting and hoping and praying — we certainly are.’
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
Forensic investigations (pictured) descended on the home at about 2.30pm on Tuesday
A police vehicle is pulled up outside the family’s home as investigators look for evidence inside
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.
Queensland body language expert Allan Pease, said the couple were telling the truth and showed very ‘raw emotion’ and seemed heavily reliant on each other to answer questions.
‘There was nothing contradictory or deceitful or collusive about them — I see them as trying to emotionally support each other,’ he told The West Australian.
‘Ellie is constantly deferring to him (Jake) to make sure that what she’s saying is OK,’ he said.
‘When she was answering questions the reporter asked, she’d give the answer but she’d look at Jake, she didn’t actually answer to the reporter.’
Ellie Smith posted a 20-second TikTok montage of the smiling blonde-haired girl (pictured playing a xylophone) along with missing persons posters reminding Australians of the $1milliion reward for information that can lead to her whereabouts
Cleo was sleeping in a tent alongside her mother Ellie, stepfather and baby sister Isla on their first camping trip together. But when her parents awoke at 6am on October 16, she was gone along with her sleeping bag
A $1million reward is now on offer for anyone who has information into the disappearance of missing Cleo with fears she may have been abducted
He said it was most likely because she was intimidated about being on camera and not because she was being untruthful.
‘I mean these are just ordinary people from a small country town having the media and the police thrust in their face. These people just aren’t professional actors — they’re just lost,’ he said.
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.
Bill Kent on October 16 launched the fundraiser to continue the search and it has climbed to $76,230.
‘We had a lovely friend start a GoFundMe to support the small businesses and ourselves during this nightmare,’ Ms Smith said on Instagram.
‘We have been overwhelmed with so much love and support especially our community friends and family.’
Emergency crews scoured the area to locate the missing four-year-old who hasn’t been seen in over a week
Big sister Cleo Smith is pictured with her younger sibling Isla before she vanished.
Cleo Smith’s devastated mother Ellie burst into tears as she pleaded for the safe return of her missing four-year old daughter during an emotional TV interview
Although detectives have no strong leads about who the child abductor might be, there was a major breakthrough in the case on Tuesday.
Police seized CCTV of a car driving down a highway in the middle of the night near the campground where Cleo Smith was last seen.
Detectives are now looking into footage taken from a home on the North West Coastal Highway, which shows a sedan travelling down the road at about 3am.
Two people on their way to work earlier told police they saw a car turning south off Blowholes Road 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.
‘We want the person or persons who were in that vehicle to come forward and contact police,’ Detective Superintendent Rod Wilde earlier told reporters.
‘We want to know who they were and what they were doing.
‘The time is not exact but we believe it to have been between 3am and 3.30am.’
When her parents woke in the morning at about 6.30am, Cleo (pictured holding a cupcake with a sparkler inside) along with her grey and red sleeping bag had vanished
The four-year-old disappeared in the early hours of October 16 and was last seen in the tent she was sharing with her family at the Blowholes camping site, near Carnarvon in Western Australia
Superintendent Wilde said the evidence was ‘credible’ and the witnesses only came forward after learning of the possible abduction of the child, having not thought their sighting of the car was significant at the time.
The witnesses were travelling north on the North West Coastal Highway on their way to work when they spotted the mysterious vehicle leaving the camping ground.
Unfortunately, they were unable to give a description of the car or how many people were inside as it was too dark.
Other witnesses said they heard the sound of screeching tyres leaving the campsite at around the same time.
Cleo was last seen by her mother Ellie Smith and step-dad Jake Gliddon at 1.30am on Saturday October 16 when she asked for a sip of water
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
Sunday: West Australian Police say they have a new lead in the hunt for Cleo Smith after witnesses came forward with what could be a vital sighting of a car in the area near the time screeching tyres were heard at the scene.
Police confirm audio of Cleo’s voice has been captured on a CCTV camera installed inside a beach shack just 20 metres from where the little girl was staying on the day before she disappeared.