How Phone Data And A Needle In A Haystack Piece Of Evidence Led Police To Cleo Smith

Cleo was found just two minutes from police HQ and two miles from her home

  • Officers said a tip-off, a car and phone data helped them locate the missing girl

  • An unnamed 36-year-old man has been arrested and is expected to be charged

  • By Jack Newman For Mailonline

    Published: | Updated:

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    Australian police tracked down missing Cleo Smith thanks to a tip-off and forensic clues, finding her just two miles from her family home where she was hidden right under the noses of investigators.

    The four-year-old, dubbed Australia's Madeleine McCann, had vanished from a campsite on October 16 and was found alone inside the bedroom of a rundown and locked home by relieved detectives at 1am last night, 18 days after her disappearance.

    The house, in rural Canarvon, Western Australia, was just two minutes from police headquarters and 45-miles from the Blowholes campsite where she was staying with her family when she vanished.

    Police said a 'needle in the haystack' clue late on Tuesday night led to Cleo's discovery and a 36-year-old man who has not been named or charged was taken into custody.

    While the force has not yet revealed the exact details that led to Cleo's discovery, they said phone data and a car in the area played a crucial role.   

    Detectives have remained tight-lipped about the suspect but have said he was not known to Cleo's family and is not a registered sex offender. They did reveal that he is 'known to police', but have not elaborated with Detective Rod Wilde, who led the investigation, saying: 'I have to be very careful about that.' 

    Australian police tracked down missing Cleo Smith thanks to a tip-off and forensic clues after finding her just two miles from her family home

    Australian police tracked down missing Cleo Smith thanks to a tip-off and forensic clues after finding her just two miles from her family home

    Cleo Smith was reported missing from Blowholes Campsite on the west coast of Australia at 6.23am on October 16 by mother Ellie who said she awoke to find her daughter gone. Police found the girl 18 days later inside the bedroom of a locked home in Carnarvon, 47 miles from the campsite and two miles from her parents' house

    A 36-year-old man has been arrested in connection with Cleo's disappearance. He has not yet been named, but was pictured being taken to hospital with a bandaged head after apparently being beaten by other inmates in police custody

    A 36-year-old man has been arrested in connection with Cleo's disappearance. He has not yet been named, but was pictured being taken to hospital with a bandaged head after apparently being beaten by other inmates in police custody 

    Cleo disappeared from her family's tent between 1.30am and 6.30am as her mother Ellie Smith, step father Jake Gliddon and baby sister Isla were sleeping nearby. The tent zipper was undone, and the sleeping bag that Cleo was using had also disappeared.

    Western Australia Deputy Police Commissioner Col Blanch said the mammoth search involved a task force of 100 officers and 'thousands of pieces of evidence'.

    Helicopters, drones, dogs and officers were deployed in the countryside and nearby coastline in case she had wandered off but police soon pivoted to the theory that she had been taken.

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    Officers had previously spoken of trying to trace a car seen leaving the Blowholes campsite around 3am the day Cleo vanished. 

    Officers trawled through hours of CCTV footage, combed satellite images, interviewed other campers and even dug through rubbish heaps for any sign of the missing girl before a 'tip off' led them to the Carnarvon house. 

    The man arrested by police in the early hours was later pictured being taken to hospital with a bandage around his head after apparently being beaten by other inmates when taken into custody.

    Cleo was pictured smiling and waving for the camera from a hospital bed while eating an ice lolly as mother Ellie Smith's hand rested on her leg (bottom right) in the first image of her since she went missing on October 16

    Cleo was pictured smiling and waving for the camera from a hospital bed while eating an ice lolly as mother Ellie Smith's hand rested on her leg (bottom right) in the first image of her since she went missing on October 16 

    Cleo was found inside the bedroom of this locked property in the north of the town of Carnarvon at 1am Wednesday after a 'tip off' to police. Officers said the arrested man was not at home when the raid took place

    Cleo was found inside the bedroom of this locked property in the north of the town of Carnarvon at 1am Wednesday after a 'tip off' to police. Officers said the arrested man was not at home when the raid took place 

    Cleo Smith pictured left with her mother Ellie. The four-year-old was found just before 1am on Wednesday after police smashed their way into a locked Carnarvon home

    Cleo Smith pictured left with her mother Ellie. The four-year-old was found just before 1am on Wednesday after police smashed their way into a locked Carnarvon home

    Neighbours described his as 'a loner' who had been behaving 'weirdly' in recent days, including one who recalled seeing him buying nappies in a nearby supermarket despite not having children.

    Detectives say the man was not at the house when Cleo was found, but was arrested a 'short' distance away. 

    He is not known to Cleo's family and is not a registered sex offender, detective Ron Wilde added, but said he is 'known to police' for other issues, without elaborating. 'I have to be very careful about that,' he said.

    '[Officers] have collected thousands of pieces of evidence, intelligence, data, witness statements,' he told Sunrise on Wednesday morning. 

    'That has a been a hard, hard slog. 

    Investigators, have spent two-and-a-half weeks searching for missing four-year-old Cleo (pictured)

    Pictured: Forensic officers in full protective gear including gas masks as they searched through rubbish in an attempt to find Cleo

    Pictured: Forensic officers in full protective gear including gas masks as they searched through rubbish in an attempt to find Cleo

    'Everything contributed. Certainly phone data helped us. 

    'It will become apparent that when we put the puzzle together it all led us to one place.'

    Police Commissioner Chris Dawson said a tip-off led officers to the Carnarvon house and 'a lot of forensic leads' had pointed in the same direction.

    'There was some information we followed up on,' he told ABC Radio.

    'We had been following a lot of the forensic leads and it led us to a particular house.

    'We mounted our general duties police who did a tremendous job within minutes of arriving [at the house]... declared it a forensic scene and sealed it off which was just really, really good policing.'

    Police officers are seen examining rubbish left near the Blowholes campsite in remote WA

    Police officers are seen examining rubbish left near the Blowholes campsite in remote WA

    Hours before Cleo was found, Wilde said he believed her disappearance was an 'opportunistic' kidnapping by someone who had only been aware of Cleo for a 'short time'. Police have not yet elaborated on whether any of that information turned out to be accurate.

    The early-hours raid came after officers received a tip-off Tuesday night with 'really important information about a car', which they confirmed with phone data and 'a lot of forensic leads'.

    Blanch said Tuesday night's tip was the final piece of the puzzle that allowed detectives to finally track down Cleo.

    'We've collected phone data, witness statements, DNA, fingerprints, rubbish along the highways, CCTV - we've collected everything,' he said.

    'The million dollar reward helped us with collecting even more from the members of the public. Everyone came forward to helping us.

    'There were car movements, there were phone movements, there were antecedents of people, the jigsaw fit the puzzle. We had to find that needle. Last night the needle in the haystack came out and they acted in a heartbeat.' 

    Neighbours interviewed after the raid also recalled other signs that a child was being kept at the property, but said they only realised the connection to Cleo in hindsight. 

    Sahntayah McKenzie recalled hearing a little girl crying one night, but did not think anything of it at the time.

    'Not last night, the night before it... I heard a little girl crying but I wouldn't expect it to be Cleo,' she told the West Australian. 'I didn't expect it would happen in this little neighbourhood, a lot of people know each other.' 

    It's reported that police were tipped off to the address after neighbours spotted the suspect buying nappies.

    One of them told Seven News she became suspicious after seeing the suspect buying Kimbies nappies from a supermarket. 

    'The other day, I think it was Monday, we saw him in Woolworths buying nappies but we didn't click on who it was or what he was buying them for,' she said. 'Until now.'

    Cleo had been sleeping in a tent alongside mother Ellie at a campsite the family often visited on the Western Australia coast when she vanished along with her sleeping bag some time in the early hours of October 16

    Cleo had been sleeping in a tent alongside mother Ellie at a campsite the family often visited on the Western Australia coast when she vanished along with her sleeping bag some time in the early hours of October 16 

    Police said Cleo (pictured with mum Ellie and stepfather Jake) shouted 'mummy!' while being reunited with her parents, and that all three of them shared hugs and kisses

    Police said Cleo (pictured with mum Ellie and stepfather Jake) shouted 'mummy!' while being reunited with her parents, and that all three of them shared hugs and kisses 

    Another neighbour told Nine he had spotted the arrested man behaving bizarrely in recent days, driving at speed through the streets with his dogs in the front seat of his car.

    'He's been acting a bit strange lately,' Henry Dodd told Nine News. 'He will get in his car, drive that fast. 

    'He doesn't have his dogs at the front [normally], he has his dogs out the back, but through this week he had his dogs out the front and he has been acting weird.'

    Henry Dodd said police spent several hours driving up and down the street before breaking into the home.

    Neighbours described the man as 'quiet' and said they wouldn't expect him to be involved.

    Moments after her discovery, bodycam footage shows police carrying the tired-eyed girl into the garden of the house before a detective asks whether she is OK. 

    When Cleo smiles and nods, he tells her: 'We're going to take you to see your mummy and daddy, OK?'

    Cleo's mum Ellie Smith broke her silence on Wednesday morning, sharing a series of love heart emojis on Instagram after her daughter was found alive and well

    Cleo's mum Ellie Smith broke her silence on Wednesday morning, sharing a series of love heart emojis on Instagram after her daughter was found alive and well

    This is the moment that four-year-old Cleo Smith was found alive by detectives inside a locked house in the town of Canarvon, Western Australia, 18 days after going missing while on a family camping trip

    This is the moment that four-year-old Cleo Smith was found alive by detectives inside a locked house in the town of Canarvon, Western Australia, 18 days after going missing while on a family camping trip

    She is now safe and recovering in the company of her parents - having been pictured smiling from a hospital bed while eating an ice lolly, waving to the camera as her mother's hand rests on her leg. 

    Wilde said Cleo is 'physically OK' after being checked by doctors.  

    Mother Ellie then took to social media to express her relief, posting a picture of her daughter with the caption underneath: 'Our family is whole again.' 

    Speaking about the moment Cleo was found, Blaine said: 'It was a shock to start with, quickly followed by elation. That could have been any one of the team, but it turned out I was one of four guys that were fortunate enough to go through that door and make that rescue.

    'We had always hoped for that outcome, but were not prepared for it. It was absolutely fantastic to see her sitting there in the way that she was. It was incredible.'

    'I wanted to be sure it was her. I said, 'What is your name?' She didn't answer, I asked three times, and then she looked at me and said, 'My name is Cleo.'

    'And that was it. Then we turned around and walked out of the house. Not long after that we got into the car and the officer called Cleo's parents. It was a wonderful feeling to make that call.'

    Police used battering rams and crowbars to break their way into the Carnarvon house, located on the outskirts of town in a suburb called Brockman, with neighbours telling Daily Mail Australia they were first alerted to the commotion when flood lights lit up their cul-de-sac in the middle of Tuesday night. 

    'My nephews went up to see what was going on and then they saw cops leading out the little white girl,' a neighbour said. 

    He added that he has known the owner of the property for more than a decade, describing him as 'a loner' who 'kept to himself' and was not the type to stop and talk to others who lived on the street.

    He last saw the man just three days after Cleo disappeared. 'His grandmother raised him... but after she died a year or so ago, nobody went over to [speak] to him,' the man said.

    'He got a new car after… he used to park it in the driveway and then close the gate, every day, always went and put the car in the same spot and closed the gate.'

    Former friends added that the man had not long been released from jail, though did not say what he was in prison for. Police said only that he was 'known' to them and was not a registered sex offender.

    CLEO DISAPPEARANCE  TIMELINE

     By Olivia Day for Daily Mail Australia

    Friday, October 15

    Cleo along with her mother Ellie Smith, her partner Jake Gliddon and her little sister Isla Mae arrive at the Blowholes campsite around 6:30pm.

    They had a 'quiet' night and arrived at sunset.

    Saturday, October 16

    1:30am: Parents' last sighting of Cleo in the tent she shared with her parents and baby sister when the four-year-old asks for some water.

    6.23am: Ellie calls 000 to report her eldest daughter missing as she continues to search the camp ground.

    6.30am: The first two officers are dispatched from Carnarvon police station. They travel to Blowholes as a matter of priority, with sirens and lights.

    6.41am: A second police car with another two officers is sent to Blowholes, also with lights and sirens.

    7.10am: The first police car arrives. The second is only minutes behind.

    7.26am: Police on the scene establish a protected forensic area which is taped off to the public, surrounding the family tent where Cleo was last seen.

    7.33am: A drone operator is called upon to search from the skies.

    7.44am: A third police car is dispatched to the Blowholes.

    8am: Family and friends of Cleo's parents begin to arrive to help with the ground search.

    Another group of detectives briefly searches Cleo's home to make sure she's not there.

    They then head to Blowholes and begin stopping cars coming into and leaving the area.

    8.09am: A helicopter from a local company arrived at the scene and started searching as police request an SES team attend the Blowholes search.

    8.24am: Police air-wing and volunteer marine searchers are called in to assist with the search.

    8.34am: Roadblocks are set up at the entrance of Blowholes as detectives gather the names, registration details and addresses of people coming and going. Police search cars.

    9.25am: Nine SES personel arrive at the Blowholes to assist with the search.

    Investigators, bounty hunters and officers from the Australian Federal Police have spent two-and-a-half weeks searching for missing four-year-old Cleo (pictured)

    Investigators, bounty hunters and officers from the Australian Federal Police have spent two-and-a-half weeks searching for missing four-year-old Cleo (pictured)

    9.30am: Detectives sit down with a distressed Ellie and remain by her side for the rest of the day while other search crews hunt for Cleo.

    11am: Homicide detectives from the Major Crime Division are called and begin travelling from Perth to assist with the search.

    1pm: More homicide detectives and search experts are flown in from Perth.

    3pm: Officers and search experts arrive in Carnarvon to offer their expertise.

    Sunday, October 17

    Ms Smith takes to social media to plead for help finding her missing daughter.

    A Facebook post uploaded at 1:45am on Sunday which said: 'It's been over 24 hours since I last seen the sparkle in my little girl's eyes.

    'Please help me find her!

    'If you hear or see anything at all please call the police!'

    Police suggest Cleo may have been abducted.

    Monday, October 18

    Police release an image of the red and grey sleeping bag missing from Cleo's tent.

    Cleo's biological father is interviewed by police in Mandurah and is asked to provide a statement, which he does so willingly.

    WA Police with the help of SES members, volunteers and aircraft continue the land hunt for Cleo, with officers searching nearby shacks and vehicles in the area.

    Tuesday, October 19

    Cleo's mother Ellie Smith and her partner Jake Gliddon front the media for the first time and describe the terrifying moment they realised the little girl was missing.

    Ms Smith says her four-year-old would never have left the tent by herself.

    Police release new images of Cleo and the pink and blue one-piece she was wearing the night she went missing to aid the investigation.

    Investigators urge anyone who was at the campsite or in the vicinity on October 15 to get in contact with police. 

    Wednesday, October 20

    Police reveal the zip of the family tent, which was found hanging wide open by her mother at 6am on Saturday morning, was too high for Cleo to reach.

    Officers say they 'haven't ruled out' reports from campers who heard the sound of screeching tyres in the early hours of Saturday morning.

    Deputy Police Commissioner Daryl Gaunt confirms officers are investigating the whereabouts of 20 registered sex offenders in the Carnarvon area.

    Thursday, October 21

    The WA Government offers a $1million reward for information that leads to Cleo's location announced by WA Premier Mark McGowan.

    'All Western Australians' thoughts are with Cleo's family during what is an unimaginably difficult time,' Mr McGowan said.

    'We're all praying for a positive outcome.'

    The speed of the reward being issued - within days of her disappearance - was unprecedented.

    Pictured: Police are seen examining rubbish left near the Blowholes campsite in remote WA

    Pictured: Police are seen examining rubbish left near the Blowholes campsite in remote WA 

    Monday, October 25

    WA Police confirm Cleo was definitely at the camp site - on CCTV footage on a camera installed inside a beach shack just 20 metres from the family tent she disappeared from. 

    Tuesday, October 26

    Forensic officers and detectives spent much of the day at her home in Carnarvon, 900km north of Perth, on Tuesday and left with two bags of evidence.

    Although investigators had been to the home before, this was the first time they thoroughly searched inside with a forensics team.

    Acting WA Police Commissioner Col Blanch said the search of the family home was 'standard practice' and did not indicate they were suspects in Cleo's disappearance.

    Wednesday, October 27

    WA Police forensics officers return to the Blowholes campground and are seen collecting soil samples from a number of campfires near shacks in the area.

    The federal government announce Australian Federal Police officers had been drafted in to support forensic and intelligence efforts.

    Friday, October 29

    Police return to the Blowholes camp to analyse the area with drones.

    Detective Superintendent Rod Wilde returns to the Blowholes campsite to join the search for Cleo as the search hit the two-week mark.

    He confirms national and international agencies are engaged in the search for Cleo.

    Sunday, October 31

    Detectives go door-knocking at a number of homes along the North West Coastal Highway in the North Plantations, 5km from Cleo's hometown on Sunday.

    Monday, November 1

    Detectives sort through mounds of rubbish from roadside bins located hundreds of kilometres away from the campsite she vanished from.

    The material was transported to Perth, where forensic officers and recruits sorted through hundreds of bags in search of items that may have helped them find Cleo.

    Officers issue a plea for dash cam and CCTV footage from within a 1000km radius of where the four-year-old disappeared.

    Police renew an appeal for more businesses in Carnarvon to provide footage and go door to door in an industrial area on the outskirts of the town.

    Her elated mother, Ellie, (pictured, with Cleo, her partner and younger daughter) broke her silence the morning Cleo was found, sharing a series of love heart emojis on Instagram

    Her elated mother, Ellie, (pictured, with Cleo, her partner and younger daughter) broke her silence the morning Cleo was found, sharing a series of love heart emojis on Instagram 

    Wednesday, November 3

    After two-and-a-half weeks of searching Cleo Smith is found alive and well in the early hours of November 3.

    WA Police Deputy Commissioner Col Blanch confirmed just before 7am AEST that little Cleo is alive and well and had been reunited with her relieved parents.

    'One of the officers picked her up into his arms and asked her 'what's your name?' he said. 'She said: 'My name is Cleo'.'

    Ellie Smith posted to social media: 'Our family is whole again'.

    A Carnarvon man is currently in custody and being questioned by detectives.

    On October 19, Ellie Smith (pictured) and her partner Jake Gliddon fronted the media for the first time and begged the public to report any information 'big or small'

    On October 19, Ellie Smith (pictured) and her partner Jake Gliddon fronted the media for the first time and begged the public to report any information 'big or small'

    Source : https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-10160267/How-phone-data-needle-haystack-piece-evidence-led-police-Cleo-Smith.html

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    How phone data and a needle in a haystack piece of evidence led police to Cleo Smith - and the unanswered questions detectives are not shedding any light on

    Source:Daily Mail

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    Source:Metro

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    Source:News.com.au

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