Who is Terence Darrell Kelly? Cleo Smith abduction case latest as man pleads guilty of taking child from tent

Four-year-old Cleo Smith was missing for 19 days last year in Australia

Terence Darrell Kelly has pleaded guilty to the abduction of four-year-old Cleo Smith, whose kidnapping last year shocked the world. The youngster was eventually found by Western Australian police 19 days after she disappeared.

This is everything you need to know.

Sign up to our NationalWorld Today newsletter

Who is Terence Kelly?

Not much is currently known about Kelly, and the police have said that he has no connection to Cleo’s family. It’s also believed that he acted alone in the abduction.

After he was arrested, it emerged that Kelly appeared to have an obsession with Bratz dolls, and seemed to have a large collection of them.

One of his social media accounts was a Facebook page entirely devoted to the dolls, and it included pictures and videos of him in a room filled with the toys, according to reports from The Sydney Morning Herald. The page has since been deleted.

Terence Darrell Kelly boards a plane after being taken into custody by members of the Special Operations Group (Photo: Tamati Smith/Getty Images)

One post was captioned: “I love taking my dolls for drives arounds [sic] and doing their hair and taking selfies in public.”

Another read: “Nothing beats chilling at home with my Bratz dolls.”

A staff member from Carnarvon Toyworld, a nearby toy shop, told local press outlets that she had sold several dolls to Kelly over the past few years.

She said: “He was in here three or four times a year buying girls’ toys, DIsney princesses and other things like that.”

A Bratz doll, pencils and crayons were amongst the items that were taken by forensic officers from the 36 year olds home.

Local residents described Kelly as a “loner”, with one neighbour telling Australia’s Channel 7 News: “I see him every day taking off in the car like he’s in a rush.”

What did he do?

On Saturday 16 October of 2021, Cleo Smith disappeared from her family’s tent whilst they were camping at the Blowholes campsite.

Initially, it was believed that the four-year-old had simply wandered away from her family in the night, and a huge land and sea search was launched.

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

As the search continued, the Australian authorities offered a reward of $1 million Australian dollars for information regarding the youngster’s whereabouts.

Cleo was reunited with her family after officers recovered her from Kelly’s home (Photo: Tamati Smith/Getty Images)

The police eventually came across a lead which led them to the home of Kelly, situated in Carnarvon, in a town roughly 46 miles from Cleo and her family had been camping when she disappeared.

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

Kelly was arrested after detectives raided his house, where they found Cleo inside a locked room, playing with dolls.

Following his arrest, Kelly was hospitalised twice with self-inflicted injuries he sustained whilst in custody.

When Cleo was reunited with her family, her mum, Ellie Smith, wrote on social media at the time: “Our family is whole again.”

What happened in court?

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.

Officers found Cleo Smith in Kelly’s home, 19 days after she went missing (Photo: Tamati Smith/Getty Images)

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.” 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.