The man accused of abducting four-year-old Cleo Smith has pleaded guilty to a charge of child stealing.
The Western Australian man faced Carnarvon Magistrates Court on Monday, January 24 via video link from the maximum security Casuarina Prison in Perth. In an unexpected development, he entered a guilty plea to ‘forcibly taking a child aged under 16’.
The matter was committed to the Western Australian District Court for a sentence mention on March 25.
More as the story develops.
A Western Australian man has been charged in relation to the alleged abduction of four-year-old Cleo Smith, ABC News reports. The charges included one count of forcibly taking a child under 16, and the matter will return to court in early December. WA Police’s Media Unit said they cannot confirm the name of the accused, for legal reasons.
Cleo disappeared from the tent she was sleeping in with her parents at the Blowholes campsite in Macleod, north of Carnarvon, on October 16, but police found the little girl alive in a locked house in Carnarvon at approximately 1am, Wednesday.
Detective Senior Sergeant Cameron Blaine, one of four officers who found Cleo, spoke to reporters briefly outside the courthouse on Thursday. “It’s obviously a combination of lots of hard work and that’s what we’ve been here for, so yeah, it’s fantastic,” he said. “The matter is before the court so we’re not going to make any more comment at this stage.”
Earlier on Thursday, WA Police released audio of the dramatic moment Cleo was rescued by police.
“My name is Cleo.” pic.twitter.com/xiy59x4kjP
— WA Police Force (@WA_Police) November 4, 2021
Despite her ordeal, reports indicate Cleo is holding up well. WA Premier Mark McGowan visited Cleo’s family while in Carnarvon, and said, “Cleo was a delightful little girl, playing in the backyard. She is just bubbly, playing, friendly, sweet. She was eating an icy pole. She spilled it everywhere, she told me it was very, very sticky, which I believed. She was just delightful.”
Blaine also commented on Cleo’s positive nature, describing her as “so well-adjusted and happy” following the rescue. “It was really, heart-warming to see,” he said. “She is playing in the backyard, exactly how you would expect, like how my daughter did when she was four years old.”
More to come.