ActivePaper Archive Searching ‘every nook & cranny’ - The West Australian , 10/31/2021

Searching ‘every nook & cranny’

Shack owners’ first interview

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The shack owners who helped police in their search for Cleo Smith by handing over crucial CCTV evidence that captured the little girl’s voice have described the harrowing hours after she first went missing.

Dave Sadecky and his wife Leisa spent Saturday morning at a beach not far from the campground where it’s feared the sleeping four-year-old was snatched from her tent in the dead of night.

When the couple finally returned to phone reception, Mr Sadecky found he had received 20 phone calls and panicked messages as word of Cleo’s mysterious disappearance spread.

The life-long Carnarvon residents wasted no time in jumping on quad bikes and joining the desperate search, flanked by helicopters overhead in scenes Mr Sadecky described as being “like a Mad Max film”.

The couple left Miaboolya Beach — one hour south of Quobba Point by car — and spent the next two hours scouring the coastline between the two spots. At that point, they believed they were searching for a lost little girl who had wandered away from her family — no one could yet contemplate the horrifying prospect that Cleo had been abducted.

The search party made up of Cleo’s family and other campers was bolstered by SES volunteers at 9.30am. Drones whirred overhead, searching for any trace of the bubbly little girl.

“I didn’t know the ins and outs of what was going on but everyone was panicked,” Mr Sadecky said.

“People dropped everything and came to help . . . they were everywhere on Saturday like ants — it’s not a normal sight.”

They spent more than 10 hours searching “every nook and cranny” as part of the operation — only pausing to hand surveillance footage to police.

It was Mr Sadecky’s CCTV footage that gave police the assurance the bright-eyed girl had arrived with her family at the camp site on the Friday night, before Cleo’s parents tucked her into bed.

Mr Sadecky said it was a scene of heightened emotions as searchers feared the worst with every passing hour.

“Everyone was emotional, people were clearly stressed and anxious but wanted to help,” he said.

“We’ve never had anything like this happen before. We’re there every other weekend, we’re kicking ourselves we weren’t there that night.”

He said the tragic incident would leave an indelible stain on the picturesque location, adored by tourists and locals for its safe, no-fuss lifestyle and stunning scenery.

“It will definitely be tainted,” Mr Sadecky said. “It’s changed the view of it already.”

The pair have been visiting the campground since they were young and said it was an “old-school community” which “always looked out for each other”.

“People would leave their doors unlocked . . . kids run from camp to camp and say, ‘Hello’,” Mr Sadecky said. “It’s a familyorientated place to be and its own community. You know when someone’s not meant to be here.”