'My name is Cleo': Four-year-old Australian girl found alive after 18-day hunt

AFP
A four-year-old Australian girl abducted from a campsite 18 days ago was discovered "alive and well" during a raid on a locked house yesterday.
AFP

A four-year-old Australian girl abducted from a campsite 18 days ago was discovered "alive and well" during a raid on a locked house yesterday, telling her shocked and elated rescuers: "My name is Cleo."

Cleo Smith disappeared from her family's tent in remote Western Australia last month, sparking a frantic air, sea and ground search involving 100 officers and scores of volunteers.

Many feared the search would end in tragedy, but after a night raid on a home in the coastal town of Carnarvon – just a short drive from where she disappeared – police announced the little girl had been found alone, but alive.

"One of the guys jumped in front of me and picked her up," said detective Cameron Blaine, one of the four rescuers who entered the house at 1am.

Blaine said that after the initial shock he asked the little girl her name three times before receiving her electrifying response: "My name is Cleo."

Police admitted "seasoned detectives" were "openly crying with relief" at the discovery and when Cleo was reunited with her parents at a hospital a short time later.

Her mother Ellie took to social media to express her relief. "Our family is whole again," she posted on Instagram under a photo of Cleo.

Police later released an image of the beaming youngster on a hospital bed holding an ice pop, waving and smiling. Officers said she was in good spirits and bouncing around like "a little energizer bunny."

"It's very rare. It's something we all hoped in our hearts, and it's come true," police deputy commissioner Col Blanch said.

A 36-year-old local man has been detained and is said to be assisting with enquiries. He was expected to be charged later.

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