ActivePaper Archive PEOPLE AT THE CENTRE OF THE CASE THAT’S ROCKED THE NATION - The West Australian , 10/30/2021



John Flint and Troy Ruyter take a look at the individuals who have become the unwitting public faces of the desperate search for Cleo Smith


As the Assistant District Officer for the Mid West-Gascoyne region, Insp. Munday led the initial police response to Cleo’s disappearance. He oversaw the extensive land, air and sea search for her when it was hoped she had simply wandered off. As the likelihood of something more sinister has come to the fore, Insp. Munday has made repeated appeals for help in the case.


The Premier has made a personal plea to Cleo’s abductor to “please give her back to her parents”. “If you’ve got her in your custody, please just give her back to her family,” he said on Monday. Mr McGowan has also announced a $1 million reward for information that leads to the return of the four-year-old or the arrest and conviction of anyone involved in her suspicious disappearance.


The Police Minister has vowed to give officers every resource they need to help bring Cleo home or give her family justice. He confirmed everything was being thrown at the investigation. “Police will get whatever they require to resolve the matter. Nothing is off the table,” Mr Papalia said.


The seasoned detective leads Taskforce Rodia, the team of more than 100 officers working around the clock to solve Cleo’s mystery disappearance. Before his most recent assignment, Det-Supt Wilde led Taskforce Ravello — the investigation launched in December to investigate the fatal shooting of former Rebels boss Nick Martin. He also oversaw the fresh police investigation of the 1997 abduction and murder of Gerard Ross in Rockingham. Supt Wilde arrived in Carnarvon on Thursday, joining senior colleagues already on the ground.


With Chris Dawson in charge of the State’s vaccine rollout, the Acting Police Commissioner has fronted some of the press conferences updating the public on developments. Mr Blanch has repeatedly stressed the co-operation of Cleo’s parents. “The parents have been nothing but helpful,” he said. “We’ve worked very closely with them, they’ve let us into their home, they’ve let us into their cars, their phones, everything.”


The four-year-old whose disappearance from her family’s tent at the Blowholes camp site has sparked a frantic search and left a nation with their hearts in their throats. Her friends from St Mary Star of the Sea Catholic school and the local community have held vigils for the blonde, hazel-eyed little girl, praying for her safe return. The rest of Australia is praying for the same thing.


Cleo’s heartbroken mum lives in the coastal town of Carnarvon, where she grew up. She works in a local beauty salon and is mother to Cleo and seven-month-old Isla. Ms Smith spent much of her childhood taking camping trips with her family and she is very familiar with the Blowholes wilderness campground, having stayed there many times.


Cleo’s stepfather lives with Ms Smith in the Gascoyne town. Mr Gliddon, the biological father of Cleo’s baby sister Isla, is an avid sea angler and quad bike rider. Despite their anguish, Mr Gliddon and Ms Smith have been fully co-operating with detectives.


The camp site’s caretaker has lived in a shack at the Blowholes for years. Knowing the area like the back of his hand, he was quick to join the search and believed early on that Cleo had been kidnapped. “A four-year-old kid picking up a sleeping bag, opening a tent and walking away early in the morning — not much of a chance of that happening,” Mr Kilgallon said. He said he is praying for the safe return of little Cleo and hopes money is not the driving factor for someone to come forward.


Cleo’s biological father lives in Mandurah. He was interviewed by police early in the investigation as part of routine inquiries. It is understood he was asked to provide a statement to police and did so willingly. There is no suggestion he was involved in Cleo’s disappearance.