Cleo Smith: Man in custody ‘seen buying nappies at Woolworths’

·4-min read

Neighbours of the man taken into custody after four-year-old girl Cleo Smith was found alive have described him as "quiet" and a bit of "an oddball."

One shocked neighbour recalled an unusual moment he spotted the 36-year-old man — who has no connection to Cleo's family — buying nappies at Woolworths, admitting it was strange as he doesn't have any children. 

"The other day — on Monday - we saw him in Woolworths buying Kimbies [nappies] and that," the Carnarvon resident told Sunrise on Wednesday morning.

"But we didn't click on what he was buying them for."

Man wearing striped shirt talking to a reporter about Cleo Smith rescue.
A neighbour (pictured) said he saw the man buying nappies, admitting it was odd. Source: Seven

Shocked neighbours react to Cleo Smith rescue

Neighbours on the street woke to find police on their street in the early hours of Wednesday morning

Police broke into a home at 12.46am and found Cleo alone in a house.

“One of the officers picked her up into his arms and asked her what's your name? She said ‘My name is Cleo’,” Deputy Commissioner Col Blanch said.

Neighbours described what they saw unfold on the usually quiet street.

"We stood back and waited but after that, we saw someone, on the detective's shoulder," a neighbour said.

"We thought it might be the little girl, which it was. I went closer to the detective's car and I saw her in the back of the car with the detective, he was holding her."

The house where Cleo Smith was found on Wednesday morning. Source: Seven
The house where Cleo Smith was found on Wednesday morning. Source: Seven

Sahntayah McKenzie, who also lives on the street as the man told the Geraldton Guardian that she thought she heard crying one night from the house, but dismissed it as there are lots of children that live nearby.

“I didn’t expect it would happen in this little neighbourhood, a lot of people know each other," she said.

Another resident described the man as "odd."

"He is a very quiet guy, a bit of an oddball… definitely wouldn’t have picked him… it has completely derailed me,” Renee Turner admitted.

“I’d heard whispers… I kind of figured the police might have had an idea of what was going on, because I have never seen such a massive amount of cops here for so long."

Evidence a 'big jigsaw': Commissioner Blanch

Describing the myriad of evidence as a "puzzle," Deputy Commissioner Blanch said once they had the data they used the best intelligence analyst and best detectives to put the pieces together.

WA police confirmed that phone data was "critical" in finding the missing four-year-old.

Deputy Comm Blanch told Today that around the same time that police broke into the locked house, they had spoken to a male who is currently assisting police with their enquiries. 

Cleo Smith holding up an ice cream to camera.
A $1 million reward was offered to help find missing four-year-old Cleo Smith. Source: Instagram

"We had a strategy very early on from day one to collect everything," he said, adding it included "phone data, witness statements, DNA, fingerprints, rubbish along the highways, CCTV."

'We've collected everything," he said. "Everything came forward to help with this."

"We had to find that needle. Now, last night, that needle in the haystack came out and they acted in a heartbeat," he said.

"It's a big jigsaw, you know, everything contributed, certainly phone data helped us and that will come apparent.

"But there were lots of things, that when we put the puzzle together it all led to one place, and that's where we found Cleo."

The 36-year-old man remains in custody and has not been charged.

Cleo reunited with her family

Police had been searching for Cleo Smith since she was reported missing on Saturday, October 16.

The little girl disappeared from her family's tent between 1.30am and 6.30am on October 16 as her mother Ellie Smith, stepfather Jake Gliddon and baby sister Isla were sleeping nearby.

She has been reunited with her family, with Deputy Comm Blanch saying Cleo is "alive and well." She was taken to hospital as a precaution.

Cleo's mother Ellie Smith and stepfather Jake Gliddon made a des[erate appeal to the public to help find their daughter. Source: AAP
Cleo's mother Ellie Smith and stepfather Jake Gliddon made a desperate appeal to the public to help find their daughter. Source: AAP

"I want to thank Cleo's parents, the Western Australian community and the many volunteers," Dept Comm Blanch said.

"And of course, I want to thank my colleagues in the Western Australia Police Force."

Cleo's mother, Ellie Smith shared a post to Instagram relating to the news of her daughter being found safe.

"Our family is whole again," Ms Smith wrote.

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