Search for Cleo focuses on coastal shacks as new challenge looms

·3-min read

Fears that missing four-year-old Cleo Smith was abducted are intensifying as the gruelling search-effort on the desolate Western Australian coast enters its fourth day.

Police have called off an extensive marine and sea-based search and turned their attention to some remote coastal shacks near where Cleo vanished in the early hours of Saturday morning.

A supplied photo of four-year-old Cleo Smith who was last seen at 1.30am on Saturday. Source: Ellie Smith/Facebook
Four-year-old Cleo Smith was last seen at 1.30am on Saturday. Source: Ellie Smith/Facebook

Officers scoured the seaside cabins for clues on Monday while a police helicopter and drones were deployed as part of an aerial search.

"We are continuing to throw everything we have at this and we will continue until we can provide some answers as to what has happened to Cleo," Inspector Jon Munday told reporters.

"Certainly we are not ruling (abduction) out. We are not going to get blinkered or assume that something has happened. Everything is on the table until we can rule it out."

Police have also been closely examining CCTV in the area and relevant dashcam footage to determine which cars were in the region before and after Cleo disappeared, PerthNow reported.

A aerial view of some coastal shacks near where Cleo disappeared. Source: 9 News
Police are focusing their search on some coastal shacks near where Cleo disappeared. Source: 9 News

‘Grave fears’ as weather turns

A treacherous cold front hampered search efforts on Monday night, as heavy rain and wind bore down.

Inspector Munday said the conditions near the tourist spot are only going to become more challenging.

“Every hour that goes by with a four-year-old out in this environment, there’s obviously limited water supply, it is warm, very limited shelter. It is very, very concerning,” he said.

“That’s why we do hold grave fears for Cleo at this time.”

A family friend has described Cleo as "intellectually advanced" for her young age, saying they don't believe she would have wandered off.

"She is a smart little girl and she would not have wandered," the family friend told PerthNow.

Biological father interviewed

Almost 70 hours have passed since Cleo was last seen by her parents during their camping trip, who woke at 6am to discover she had disappeared.

She was wearing a pink one-piece sleepsuit with a blue and yellow pattern and was in a red and black sleeping bag, which has since been reported missing.

Police have interviewed her biological father who willingly provided a statement, according to 7News.

Daniel Staines spent almost three hours at the Mandurah police station, accompanied by his parents, to help police in their investigation. There is no suggestion he is involved with Cleo's disappearance.

A supplied photo of four-year-old Cleo Smith who was last seen at 1.30am on Saturday.Source: WA Police
Investigators are not ruling anything out in the disappearance of Cleo Smith. Source: WA Police

Donations flood in to help the search

A GoFundMe page set up to help search for the girl has so far raised more than $40,000.

Western Australian man Bill Ket, who created the page, has urged others to skip their morning coffee and donate to the cause instead.

"A well respected family of our community has had a very traumatic experience with the disappearance of their eldest child," Mr Kent wrote.

"The land, sea and air search has been extensive, with everybody involved putting in an amazing effort to help locate Cleo."

Two private local companies, Coral Coast Helicopter Services and Double R, have also joined the search.

"The effort these two small local companies put into this search is amazing, with Justin (Borg) cancelling a paid tour and bringing his larger helicopter up for a full-scale search involving three people in the chopper for the whole day," Mr Kent said.

“If we could all skip our coffees tomorrow or their night out and donate to this cause to help support these small local business’s for their efforts into this search and to help support the family to keep the search going to bring Cleo Home.”

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