More than two weeks after she disappeared from the tent where she was sleeping with her family, four-year-old Australian girl Cleo Smith was found alive and well on Wednesday morning local time.
A 36-year-old suspect has been arrested. A neighbour saw him on Monday buying diapers, he says.
Just before 1 am on Wednesday, four officers broke into a house in Carnarvon, about 70 kilometres from the campsite where Cleo (4) disappeared on October 16, barely seven minutes from her family’s home in the small coastal community and two minutes from the police station. A high fence surrounds the house.
The police, who had assumed for a while that the girl must have been kidnapped, found Cleo alone in a bedroom in the closed house. Shortly afterwards, a 36-year-old man from Carnarvon was arrested. He is being questioned and is cooperating with the investigation. He has not yet been charged, although that will probably happen today, according to the police.
Police have yet to release any details about the man, just saying he has no link to the family. He only came into view as a suspect on Tuesday after the police said they put together many pieces of information. Police currently believe that he did not plan the kidnapping but that it was an “opportunistic” act. No one else is suspected of involvement.
According to a neighbour of the 36-year-old, everyone in the street is shocked that the child was in their “quiet” neighbour’s house. “Anyone who knows the person staying in that house wouldn’t think it was him. We are shocked,” he told Sunrise TV.
The neighbour does think that the 36-year-old has shown “suspicious” behaviour in recent days by pacing in the street. He also says he saw the man buying disposable diapers at the local supermarket on Monday, even though he is said to have no young children. “We didn’t realize who he was buying it for until now.” Police say they were not aware of that information.