A man has faced a West Australian court charged over the alleged abduction of four-year-old Cleo Smith from her family’s campsite.
Terence Kelly, 36, appeared before a magistrate in Carnarvon on Thursday charged with various offences including forcibly taking a child under 16.
The matter will return to court next month.
Cleo was found alive and well early on Wednesday, 18 heartbreaking days after she went missing from her family’s tent at the remote Blowholes campsite.
She was rescued from a property just minutes from her family home in Carnarvon, a coastal town almost 1000km north of Perth.
The little girl was returned home to her mother Ellie Smith, stepdad Jake Gliddon and baby sister Isla and is said to have been happy and playing.
Ms Smith accompanied Cleo, who smiled at photographers while clutching a pink balloon, to the local police station on Thursday.
It’s understood she was set to speak to specialist child interviewers for the first time.
Officers found Cleo, alone in a room and physically unharmed, after breaking into the locked-up house and the remarkable moment was captured by an officer’s body camera.
“My name is Cleo,” she said when asked for her name.
Kelly, who is yet to enter a plea to his charges, was arrested on a nearby street around the same time.
Police have confirmed he was taken to hospital twice following his arrest after self-harming while in custody.
Supt Wilde said it was yet to be established whether Cleo was kept at the property for the entire 18 days she was apart from her family.
Homicide detective Cameron Blaine, who was among Cleo’s rescuers, spent time with the family on Thursday and said the little girl appeared to be holding up well.
“I can only see her from the outside. But from that point of view, I’m amazed that she seems to be so well-adjusted and happy,” he said.
“It was really heartwarming to see that she’s still bubbly and she’s laughing.
“She’s falling asleep in her mother’s arms. There was one occasion where she asked if she could lay next to mum and have Ellie look at her while she fell asleep.
“It’s really good to see that she’s adjusted, she’s getting some sleep, she’s playing in the backyard exactly how you would expect.”
Premier Mark McGowan also met with the family, describing Cleo as a delightful little girl who spoke to him about her school and her dog.
“It was a lovely experience to meet her … she was a very bright, upbeat, sweet little girl,” he said.
“They’re decent, fundamentally honest people.”
Police have already confirmed the accused man has no connection to Cleo’s family and was not on a list of known sex offenders in Carnarvon.
He is alleged to have acted alone.
Authorities have been tight-lipped on the exact intelligence that led officers to Cleo’s location. They had been seeking the driver of a car that was seen leaving the Blowholes campsite around the time she was allegedly taken.
“That hasn’t been confirmed as yet,” Supt Wilde replied when asked whether it would be alleged Kelly had been the driver.
“But certainly we would say that that car was significant and it was in the right timeframe.”
He said the specialist child interviewers that have been flown to Carnarvon would meet with Cleo when the time was right.
Cleo was pictured smiling and waving from a hospital bed soon after reuniting with her mother and stepdad.
Her rescue has captivated the nation and WA Police have been hailed for the investigative breakthrough that led to her discovery.