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Police Believe Girl, 4, Was Abducted From Tent

Australian police offer $750K reward in Cleo Smith case
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 21, 2021 9:30 AM CDT
Police Believe Girl, 4, Was Abducted From Tent
Police released this photo of the missing girl.   (Western Australia Police)

(Newser) – A 4-year-old girl who disappeared from a campsite in Western Australia almost a week ago was probably kidnapped, police say. The parents of Cleo Smith say they last saw her asleep in their multisection tent around 1:30am Saturday, their first night at the remote Quobba Blowholes coastal campsite, the BBC reports. Her mother, Ellie Smith, says she woke up around 6am to feed Cleo's baby sister and discovered that the entrance to Cleo's part of the tent was open and the girl was gone. Investigators say the zip was too high for Cleo to reach on her own.

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"The positioning of that zipper for the flap is one of the circumstances that has caused us to have grave concerns for Cleo's safety," says police Inspector Jon Munday, who is leading the search, per the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. A massive land, air, and sea search has been underway since Saturday and authorities say that if Cleo had wandered off on her own, they would almost certainly have found her by now. Police say the operation is now a nationwide search. A reward of $1 million Australian—$750,000 US—is being offered for information on Cleo's whereabouts.

Police say they are chasing down leads. They have spoken to registered sex offenders in the area and DNA swabs have been taken from people who were at the campsite Friday night and Saturday morning. Ellie Smith and partner Jake Gliddon say it would have been completely out of character for Cleo to wander off on her own. "She's been strong from the day she was born, so I know she can get through whatever she's going through," the mother says, per the ABC. "We sit and watch the sand dunes and we just think she's going to run down it and back into our arms, but we're still waiting." (Read more Australia stories.)

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