Police took two hours to block roads after Cleo's disappearance

·4-min read

Police took two hours to set up road blocks after four-year-old Cleo Smith's mother called police to report her as missing on October 16.

Detective Superintendent Rod Wilde, head of the 100-officer strong taskforce investigating Cleo's disappearance fronted the media on Friday to outline the police's response to the initial missing child report.

At 6.23am on October 16, Cleo's mother, Ellie Smith called Triple-0 to report Cleo as missing and Det Supt Wilde said police cars were dispatched from Carnarvon just minutes after the call.

At 7.10am, the first officers from Carnarvon arrived at the Blowholes campsite, the second police vehicle arrived just minutes after, the third police vehicle arriving at around 7.44am.

Cleo Smith was last seen on October 16, at the Blowholes campsite, north of Carnarvon. Source: AAP
Cleo Smith was last seen on October 16, at the Blowholes campsite, north of Carnarvon. Source: AAP

The campsite at Quobba Blowholes is about 70km north of Carnarvon.

The first officers at the scene established a "protected forensic area", by taping off an area of the campsite, including the family's tent at around 7.26am.

Police requested a drone operator from Geraldton attend the scene at around 7.30am.

Friends and family of Ms Smith and her partner Jake Gliddon arrived at the campsite just after 8am, while detectives from Carnarvon searched the family's home for signs of Cleo at around the same time.

At around 8.10am, police requested the SES attend the scene for the search, while a helicopter from a local company was at the scene for the search.

Detectives who searched Cleo's home then began stopping vehicles near the campsite, however a roadblock wasn't established until 8.34am, leaving open the possibility other campers had already left the site.

SES personnel arrived on the scene at around 9.25am, while detectives sat down with Ms Smith and remained with her for the rest of the day.

By 11am, homicide detectives were on the scene, with more arriving in Carnarvon at 3pm.

Pictured is Cleo Smith's mother, Ellie Smith and her partner, Jake Gliddon
Ellie Smith called Triple-0 at 6.23am to report Cleo as missing. Source: AAP

Det Supt Wilde was asked why it took police about two hours to set up roadblocks. He said the first officers on the scene needed to establish what took place, and that they also needed more resources to put the roadblock in place.

"The first officers on the scene did a really good and thorough job," he said. 

"When they had some more resources, there was a roadblock put at the entrance to the turn-off.

"It was treated very seriously from the outset. We were not only conducting a land, sea and air search for the little girl, we were also considering ... there may be criminality. That's why we stood up a team of detectives, not only in Carnarvon but also in Perth."

Other officers at the scene were talking with Cleo's family and taking down any registration details, speaking to other people at the campsite and getting their details.

More than 100 people who were at the Blowholes on the night Cleo disappeared have been interviewed, with police confident they have accounted for the majority of those who may have been present at the vast campsite.

Authorities have investigated more than 200 false sightings of the girl.

Police are still yet to hear from the driver of a car seen leaving the campsite about two hours after Cleo was last seen in her family's tent.

"Certainly it's a priority for us to identify who was in that vehicle," Supt Wilde said.

Detective Superintendent Rod Wilde gave a detailed timeline of what police did after Cleo Smith was reported missing. Source: 9News
Detective Superintendent Rod Wilde gave a detailed timeline of what police did after Cleo Smith was reported missing. Source: 9News

Supt Wilde confirmed the police do not have any suspects at this stage and he condemned those who were spewing vile comments at Cleo's parents online.

"It's terrible, like I said, they [Ms Smith and Mr Gliddon] have been very helpful," he said.

"We're doing everything we can to find out what happened to Cleo. They're holding up but I just ask all members of the public it's not helpful, obviously for anyone to publish anything online."

The apparent lack of answers comes despite the WA government offering a $1 million reward for information leading to Cleo's location.

But Supt Wilde insisted the investigation had not hit a dead-end.

"We've got lots of information, lots of leads that we're following through," he said.

"We're interviewing people, identifying who they are, building a clear picture of who was there and what happened."

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