The parents of Cleo Smith have spoken of the heartbreaking aftermath of their daughter’s kidnapping ordeal, revealing she still suffers from nightmares.
Cleo disappeared from the tent she was sleeping in with her parents at the Blowholes campsite in Macleod, north of Carnarvon, on October 16, 2021, police found the four-year-old alive in a locked house in Carnarvon at approximately 1am, November 3, 2021, 18 days after she went missing.
In their first interview since their daughter’s abductor was sentenced, Cleo’s parents, Ellie Smith and Jake Gliddon, have opened up about how their daughter has been coping and how they are trying to move forward from the traumatic experience.
“She still has her sad nights, her nightmare nights. Her nightmare nights are the worst nights,” Ellie told 60 Minutes.
“She doesn’t have the words to explain what she’s sad about. She was always a really independent little girl. Like, she would love sleeping by herself. She would love her own space, her own area.
“Now she’s a lot more with us.”
Although some days are better than others, Ellie is grateful to have her “family together”
“Obviously, we’re still sad, hurt, scared, angry, terrified. But we try not to let it rule our life,” she said.
The moment Cleo Smith’s mum realised her four-year-old had gone missing from their tent, she rang triple-0. This never before seen vision captures Ellie Smith’s anguish, and marks the start of the extraordinary job ahead for police to find Cleo.
Watch #60Mins on @9Now pic.twitter.com/EJREVM4ted
— 60 Minutes Australia (@60Mins) May 14, 2023
Despite the challenging circumstances, Ellie maintains an optimistic outlook regarding her daughter’s future.
“She loves ballet. She’s just starting tap and she wants to do horse riding. She has so much to live for,” she said.
“She’s five and she’s such a vibrant little soul, we’re grateful for having our little girl home.”
The interview comes shortly after Terence Darrell Kelly, the man who abducted Cleo, filed an appeal challenging his conviction.
On Wednesday, April 5, Kelly was sentenced to 13 years and six months in prison after pleading guilty to ‘forcibly taking a child aged under 16’.
However, lawyers representing Kelly have now submitted legal documents to the Court of Appeals in WA, asserting that District Court Judge Julie Wager was incorrect in her assessment that Kelly’s use of methamphetamine played a substantial part in the crime.
They further contend that Wager overlooked the impact of Kelly’s childhood trauma in her sentencing.
In response to Kelly’s appeal, the state’s Department of Public Prosecutions has announced that they have no intention of appealing Kelly’s sentence claiming “the view that appealing the length of sentence imposed would not be successful as the sentence is not manifestly inadequate.”
“Consequently, the State will not be lodging an appeal against sentence,” they said.
While delivering her verdict earlier this year, Wager outlined the “immeasurable” fear Cleo’s parents and the toddler must have felt during their 18-day ordeal.
“Eighteen days without contact or explanation, and with hours totally on her own and no access to the outside world, would have been very traumatic,” she told the court.
“In the world of a four-year-old, one day is a very long time. In the world of a four-year-old, 18 days is a very, very long time indeed.”
Kelly will be eligible for parole after he has served 11 years and six months of his prison sentence.