A criminologist has explained why police are forensically examining Cleo Smith’s home as the girl remains missing for almost two weeks.
Associate Professor Xanthe Mallett, from Newcastle University, told Sunrise on Thursday police might be looking for “signs of injuries or struggles” at the missing four-year-old’s home.
Police have been seen regularly returning to the home at Carnarvon, dusting fences and looking at windows since Cleo disappeared from the Blowholes campsite in Western Australia on October 16.
They examined the home for a third time on Wednesday before returning to the campsite to collect ash samples from camp fires, the Geraldton Guardian reported.
“Really they are covering their bases to make sure they have all the information going forward,” Dr Mallett told the program.
She pointed out the family have been ruled out as suspects. Dr Mallett told Yahoo News Australia "the family will always be looked at" or whomever was the last person to see the missing person or persons in question.
"The police will look at extended family/friends, potentially anyone who may have had an interest in Cleo," she said.
"This is totally normal, and only one of multiple lines of inquiry that will be running simultaneously."
Dr Mallett told Sunrise 13 days “is a really long time” in a missing child investigation.
— Sunrise (@sunriseon7) October 27, 2021
“Obviously she could be anywhere in the country,” she said.
“It is a significant worry and everyday that passes, obviously it’s getting more and more concerning for her safety.”
Dr Mallett said this is why a $1 million reward was offered so early in the investigation.
Is Cleo Smith still alive?
Dr Mallett told Yahoo News Australia the likelihood on whether Cleo is found safe depends on who took her and why.
"Generally speaking, in cases of familial abduction such as a custody dispute, which this does not look like, it is common for a child to be returned unharmed," Dr Mallett said.
"However, if a predator took her, as sadly seems most likely, then the chances of her being found unharmed are significantly diminished."
Not much is known about the investigation in terms of leads or suspects. Police did say they have spoken to a number of sex offenders in the area.
The zipper to her tent was found open and her sleeping bag is also missing.
Dr Mallett said police are keeping the process of their investigation "very close".
"They are sharing what they can, when they can, with the public, with a view to progressing their investigation," she said.
"They are being very strategic, which is exactly as it should be."
Western Australia's Acting Police Commissioner Col Blanch said it is a priority that police speak to everyone who was at the campsite.
"We need to speak to every single person that was there and we haven't yet done so,” Act Comm Branch said on Monday.
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