Cleo Smith: how was missing 4-year-old in Australia was found as Terrence Kelly pleads guilty

Terence Darrell Kelly was charged with a number of offences following his arrest, and has now pleaded guilty to the abduction of 4-year-old Cleo Smith

Cleo Smith is a four-year-old little girl who went missing in mid-October last year, and was found by Western Australia Police officers 19 days after her disappearance.

Terence Darrell Kelly, the 36-year-old man who had been taken into police custody in regards to her abduction, has pleaded guilty in court to the kidnapping of Cleo.

Sign up to our NationalWorld Today newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

This is everything you need to know about what happened.

What happened to Cleo Smith?

Four-year-old Cleo Smith went missing on Saturday 16 October 2021 after being abducted from her family’s tent whilst camping at the Quobba Blowholes.

When she first went missing, the initial search was under the assumption that she had let herself out of the tent and had wandered away.

However, it was then revealed that the zipper on the compartment that she and her sister were sleeping in was too high for her to have reached it, which led to fears about about whether she had been abducted.

A massive air, land and sea search was launched with a taskforce of 100 officers sent from Perth, the state capital.

A reward of $1 million Australian dollars was offered by authorities (£540,000) for information regarding Cleo’s whereabouts.

When was she found?

Cleo was found alone in a house in Carnarvon, a town situated in the north-west coast of Western Australia, roughly 46 miles from where she and her family had been camping when she disappeared.

She was found in the early hours of 3 November, 19 days after she went missing.

Speaking to Network Seven, Deputy Commissioner Col Blanch said at the time: “Late last night [the police] found that needle that led them to that address and rescued Cleo.”

Cleo Smith was found in the early hours Wednesday 3 November after police raided a house in Carnarvon (Photo: WA Police Force via Getty Images )

Police have revealed that the information was about a car, but could not elaborate any further.

At the time, Blanch said in a statement: “A Police team broke their way into a locked house in Carnarvon about 1am.

“They found little Cleo in one of the rooms.”

Detective Superintendent Rod Wilde said that police believe it was an “opportunistic” crime.

After she was found, Cleo was taken to hospital for medical examination. She appeared to be physically well.

Cleo has since been discharged into her parents’ care.

When did Terence Kelly plead guilty?

Kelly appeared in Carnarvon Magistrates’ Court via a videolink from Casuarina Prison on Monday (24 January), charged with multiple offences in regards to the alleged abduction of Cleo.

He pleaded guilty to a charge of child stealing, for which he could face up to 20 years in prison on the conviction of forcibly taking a child aged under 16.

Bail was not considered and Kelly did not admit to any other criminal charges, including assaulting a police officer. These matters have been adjourned to a later date.

The moment Cleo Smith was rescued by police officers (Photo: WA Police)

Kelly will appear in a Perth district court on 20 March.

Western Australian Police Minister Paul Papalia said: “Today’s guilty plea is confirmation of the excellent policing work and just how strong a case had been presented by Western Australian Police force.”

Kelly’s grandmother, Esther Mingo, attended his hearing and told reporters that she wanted the “truth” to emerge.

She said: “I’m upset, I’m angry for him coming to court.”

Who are her parents - and what has her family said?

Cleo’s parents are separated, and she lives with her mother Ellie Smith and stepdad Jake Gliddon.

The day she was found, Cleo’s mother shared a picture on Instagram of her daughter at around 6am local time with the caption: “Our family is whole again.”

Speaking to a local newspaper, Cleo’s father, Daniel Staines, said: “We are all absolutely overjoyed at the good news this morning and so happy that Cleo has been reunited with her mum and dad.

“Thank you to everyone who helped look for her and bring her home, particularly the WA Police, SES and the Carnarvon community.”

Detective Sergeant Hutchinson, the family liaison officer, said that when he told Cleo’s parents about the news, they “were ecstatic”.

He explained that the raid had developed very quickly and that police had not had time to warn Cleo’s parents.

Hutchinson said: “To be able to give them that news and say they can make their way to the hospital and we will meet them there, that was fantastic.

“It was an honour to be able to witness that reunion.”

In their first public statement, released on Friday 5 November, Cleo’s mother and stepfather said that they were “humbled by the love and support” that they had received from “not only [the] local community but the whole of Western Australia and across the country”.

Cleo Smith is carried inside a friend’s house by her mother (Photo: Tamati Smith/Getty Images)

The statement said: “We would like to take this opportunity to thank all those involved in the rescue of our daughter Cleo Smith.

“In particular, we would like to thank WA Police, all those involved in the initial search, the Carnarvon community, local businesses and of course our family and friends.”

The pair added that they “are so thankful that our little girl is back within our arms and our family is whole again”.

What did the Australian Prime Minister say?

After Cleo was rescued, Scott Morrison, the Prime Minister of Australia, said: “The fact that that nightmare has come to an end, and our worst fears were not realised, is just a huge relief. And a moment for great joy.

“This particular case, obviously, has captured the hearts of Australians as we felt such terrible sorrow for the family.

“I want to thank, particularly, all of the police and all of those who were involved in making sure that Cleo is safe. And we are so thankful, thank you so much for what you have done.

The Prime Minister applauded the WA Police Force for their work (Photo: Rohan Thomson/Getty Images)

“I know you do it every day. I know that you feel a great sense of satisfaction in the work you have done to bring her home.

“But we know each and every day, they are out there doing the same thing. And trying to keep our kids safe and keep our people safe. So thank you so much.

“And thank God that Cleo is home and that she is safe.”

A message from the editor:Thank you for reading. NationalWorld is a new national news brand, produced by a team of journalists, editors, video producers and designers who live and work across the UK. Find out more about who’s who in the team, and our editorial values. We want to start a community among our readers, so please follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and keep the conversation going. You can also sign up to our newsletters and get a curated selection of our best reads to your inbox every day.