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Cleo Smith: Pilot drops bombshell and Blowhole campers quiet in case of missing WA girl

Revelations have emerged missing preschooler Cleo Smith was probably already gone by the time police began their desperate search and that some campers from the site her family stayed at may not be cooperating.

Cleo disappeared from her parents tent while staying at the Blowholes campsite in Western Australia sometime between 1.30am and 6.30am on Saturday, October 16. She was wearing a pink jumpsuit. 

Her parents and emergency services intially thought she had simply wandered off.

But after the first day of search the area chopper pilots knew something more sinister could be at play.  

Justin Borg, who took the desperate call from her parents and sent his Coral Coast Helicopter Services team out to search for the girl, said his team of 'world class' musterers closely scoured the surrounding area before police arrived.

He said missing people are found quickly from the air and that little Cleo's pink jumpsuit would have made finding her simple. 

'When we go and search for somebody, if they are in the area you find them really quick. Especially if you are talking abnormal colours,' he said.

On Friday, the campground search came to a disapointing end with investigators shifting away from the theory that she simply wandered off.

The case is now a suspected abuduction and police have not ruled out the little girl may have been taken interstate.  

Cleo Smith, four, was last seen at about 1.30am on Saturday at the Blowholes campsite on the coast at Macleod, north of Carnarvon, in Western Australia. Police now believe some of the campers who were at the site have failed to come forward and help investigations 

The chopper's initial searches, which lasted hours, began at a height of around 90 metres from the ground.

Then they dropped to just 10 metres from the ground for a much closer examination.

Mr Borg said by the time the service's helicopter went out a second time on a day-long search with authorities, they were already 'pretty sure' she wasn't in the area.

The helicopter pilots who responded within minutes to desperate calls for help said their search probably eliminated the chances Cleo had wandered off. Pictured is Justin Borg of Coral Coast Helicopter Services

Cleo Smith was last seen at the Blowholes campsite near Carnarvon in WA. Her suspected kidnapper could have taken her down a number of different trails which snake off from the main road

Cleo (pictured with her baby sister) was barely one when her stepdad met her mum and 'took her on as his own'

After seven days, investigators are no closer to figuring out what happened to little Cleo.  

Despite the offer of a $1million reward from the WA government, campers who were at the Blowholes camp site where tiny Cleo vanished a week ago have failed to identify themselves, Western Australian police believe.

Police earlier said everyone staying in the area was a person of interest and needed to speak with police so they could be eliminated as suspects. 

Detectives have since confirmed they believe Cleo was abducted from the tent she shared with her mum, stepdad and baby sister Isla between 1.30am and 6am last Saturday. 

Friends of Cleo's family said the smart four-year-old (pictured) 'wouldn't just wander' away from the tent

Search crews have decided to scale back the land investigation at the campsite 

The police officer at the head of the investigation into the four-year-old girl's heartbreaking likely abduction from her tent at the campsite 75 kilometres north of Carnarvon last Saturday morning was sure some campers had not been 'identified' yet.

'I don't want to get into specifics, but certainly we know, there were other people that could've camped on that coastal strip and there's different access points,' said Taskforce Rodia leader Detective-Superintendent Rod Wilde, The West Australian reported.

He said the police were continuing investigations into who those unidentified campers might be.

But he also added he didn't want to give 'false hope' of a fast outcome because of the 'complex' nature of the investigations.  

There are mounting concerns for little Cleo Smith's (pictured with her mum Ellie and partner Jake Gliddon) safety after she went missing at a remote campsite on Saturday morning

A land search was suspended on Tuesday due to wild winds and an intense storm. It started again just hours later 

Some of the initial wild theories included that she had been swept out to sea with the tides, fallen down a 'drop hole' toilet in the ground or fell off a cliff 

Earlier it was revealed search efforts at the campsite where little Cleo was last seen were hampered from the very first moment detectives arrived.

The Blowholes campsite had been torn upside down as Cleo's mum, stepdad and other guests searched for the missing four-year-old on Saturday morning.

By the time police arrived 'about mid-morning', search parties had been out for hours, trampling all over potential clues to her disappearance.

After scouring the campsite and surrounds for six days - including extensive sea and air searches - police were confident that she was no longer in the area.

While they'll continue to check outhouses and shacks nearby for evidence, the land search was scaled back on Friday as the 100-strong taskforce directs efforts to casting a wider net. 

The adult-sized sleeping bag Cleo was sleeping in has also disappeared, police confirmed

How this week's events have unfolded:

FRIDAY

Cleo and her family arrived at Blowholes campsite about 6.30pm on Friday night for a quick weekend trip.

Cleo's mum Ellie used to visit regularly when she was a child and later confirmed her four-year-old was familiar with the area.

Her stepdad Jake Gliddon got straight to work setting up their two-bedroom tent, two mattresses and baby Isla's cot, which was in a room with Cleo.

The family ate dinner together and Cleo was in bed no later than 8pm, her mum later revealed.

While nobody else physically saw Cleo at the campsite, Superintendent Rod Wilde, who is in charge of the taskforce, said police determined she was definitely there via CCTV footage from a nearby shack.

It is not known if that camera caught any other movements during the timeframe Cleo disappeared.   

Body language experts have weighed in on the interview analysing the gestures, tone of voice and facial expressions of the couple 

SATURDAY

The family were all asleep in the tent when Cleo stirred about 1.30am to ask her mum for a sip of water. Ms Smith quickly settled the four-year-old and, after her drink, she went straight back to sleep.

She didn't wake again until about 6am, when a restless Isla woke up for her bottle. As soon as Ms Smith entered the section of the tent where Isla and Cleo were sleeping, she realised her eldest daughter was gone.

The red and grey sleeping bag that Cleo had been sleeping in was also missing, while Isla was unmoved in her cot next to the mattress.

She woke Mr Gliddon up, telling him 'Cleo's gone' and together they alerted nearby campers and the search began.

First, they checked around the tent and Ms Smith then checked anywhere she used to play as a kid, hopeful that Cleo was hiding. In the back of her mind, she knew it was unlikely. Cleo never wandered and would not have left the tent of her own accord, the distraught mother later confirmed.

Police didn't arrive on the scene until mid-morning. It's unclear exactly what time they were called, but by the time they arrived a full scale search was already underway.

Some campers had sent personal drones up to the skies while others were searching on their motorbikes. Ms Smith and Mr Gliddon had taken their car out to look as well. 

SUNDAY

Ms Smith revealed on Facebook that Cleo was missing in a distraught and lengthy post. 

Meanwhile, the search at the campsite continued as Inspector Jon Munday said cars leaving the campground were being searched for the child.

'We are trying to paint the picture of who was around here during the window of opportunity between the early hours of Saturday morning and 6am Saturday and what leads that could give us,' he said.  

A GoFundMe was set up to cover the costs of private helicopters which had cancelled bookings to help in the search for Cleo. 

Cleo's stepdad Jake Gliddon was frantic, according to a camper on the scene who assisted with the search

MONDAY

Homicide detectives were brought in to assist with the land search for Cleo on Monday as wild theories emerged online about what happened.

Her biological father Daniel Staines spent nearly three hours in Mandurah Police Station on Monday, 1,000km south from where Cleo disappeared, after voluntarily coming in to give a statement.

He was almost immediately ruled out of having any involvement in Cleo's disappearance. 

Some of the initial wild theories included that she had been swept out to sea with the tides, fallen down a 'drop hole' toilet in the ground or fell off a cliff.

Several people claiming to be mediums came forward to claim Cleo had been abducted. One woman insisted a 'green rusty tin door' is crucial to finding the four-year-old after seeing it in a vision.

'May I please have a map ASAP,' the woman who claims to be a professional medium said on social media.

'Green rusty garage tin door needs looking into.' 

Meanwhile, police have received information from people 'from around the world' adding police are treating the little girl's disappearance as a 'search and rescue mission'

Cleo's mother Ellie Smith revealed yesterday that Cleo had been sleeping in a separate area of the tent, with her baby sister Isla just metres away

TUESDAY 

The search in and around Blowholes campsite was temporarily suspended due to wild weather in the area, causing further concerns about Cleo's safety if she had wandered off in the area.

But by Tuesday afternoon, Cleo's mum and stepdad provided an update that offered the first indication that it was more likely than not that the four-year-old had been abducted.

The zipper leading to Cleo's room in the tent was completely opened from the top, which she wouldn't have been able to reach.  

Body language expert David Stephens from Critical Insights said the couple appeared to be trying to keep it together during the interview.

He said the gesture, tone of voice and facial expressions seen during the interview indicated truth-telling while mirroring the couple's sadness and distress. 

Ms Smith's voice faltered as she relayed the moment she unzipped the tent to discover her four-year-old was missing. 

'Her gestures and illustrators, of which there are several, broadly match what she is saying, which is a good indication that she is being truthful,' he said.  

'The pitch of her voice, her tone and facial expressions generally match what she is saying verbally, which indicates distress and sadness.'

While Ms Smith fought back tears, Mr Gliddon sat quietly by her side. 

Mr Gliddon was frantic when he realised Cleo was missing, according to a camper on the scene who assisted with the search.

He started dating Ms Smith two-and-a-half years ago, when Cleo was barely one. It's understood he has raised Cleo as his own ever since. 

A close friend of the couple said Mr Gliddon 'absolutely adores Cleo [and] took her on as his own not long after she was born'.

'He may be a stepfather but those kids mean the world to him... He's a great dad.'      

WEDNESDAY

Detectives revealed up to 20 sex offenders live near the campsite where Cleo was last seen.

Assistant WA Police Commissioner Darryl Gaunt said detectives have been making inquiries about their whereabouts but officers believe that none were involved.

They also confirmed they are investigating nearby campers' claims they heard the sound of 'screeching' tyres in the early hours of the morning.  

THURSDAY

Thursday was the most significant day in the search for Cleo thus far.

After her mum issued yet another public plea, WA Premier Mark McGowan called a midday press conference in which it was revealed police believe Cleo was abducted.

A $1million reward was offered for any information leading to the arrest and conviction of anybody involved in Cleo's disappearance.

Following an extensive land, sea and air search, police admitted they 'imagined' that if Cleo was in the area she would have already been located.

'That leads us to believe she was taken,' deputy police commissioner Col Blanch said.

Mr Blanch also let slip that they'd been searching the campsite 'for a body'. But throughout the rest of the conference, authorities maintained they hoped to find Cleo alive and vowed to work 'around the clock' to bring her home.  

The search at the campsite shifted away from looking for the little girl in 'high probability' areas to places that Cleo could have walked herself. 

Ms Smith, who is a local in the area and has frequented the Blowholes Campground many times said she looked for Cleo in places she would have hid as a child.  

Investigators also plan to revisit nearby shacks along the coastline. 

Criminal psychologist gives a profile of the monster who could have taken little Cleo 

Criminal psychologist Tim Watson-Munro, who has spent the past four decades analysing the minds of some of the worst criminals of our times: terrorists, mass murderers, sex offenders and torturers of children, said the real danger about these people is how easily they blend in.

'The problem with a person like this is it could be anyone,' he said.

'It's someone who can blend into a suburban lifestyle, he could be a father, he could be involved in community or sporting clubs.

'If you met the offender he may appear very normal.

'This is the danger about these people - their ordinariness. They can blend in very easily and generally they are well presented.'

Dr Watson-Munro said the kidnapper is most likely to be a 'calculated' man and a textbook psychopath driven by a sickening desire for 'power and control'.

Criminal psychologist Tim Watson-Munro (pictured) has spent the past four decades analysing the minds of some of the worst criminals of our times: terrorists, mass murderers, sex offenders and torturers of children

'We are talking about someone who is bad but not mad,' he said.

'To do something like that without any anxiety suggests they are psychopathic in their disposition because psychopaths have a very high threshold for anxiety.

'Things that would make a normal person's blood turn cold doesn't bother them.'

Someone who could sneak into a tent and abduct a child in her sleeping bag as her parents lay next to her 'is not somebody who is prone to nervousness'.

Police now believe an abduction took place because the zipper of the tent was found undone in the morning, even though Cleo is too short to reach it.

It can be the case that child predators and sex offenders are dishevelled, affected by drugs and alcohol or have below average intelligence, but in this case Dr Watson-Munro says 'it's very unlikely'.

'In order to plan a crime like this you have to be at least average intelligence to get away with it. We are not looking at some bumbling imbecile,' he said.

'They are capable of forward planning both in terms of abducting the child and allowing themselves plenty of opportunity to get far away.'

FRIDAY

The land, sea and air search for little Cleo was scaled back on Friday as investigators dedicated more of their time to the abduction theory.

'Given the information now that we've gleaned from the scene, the fact that the search has gone on for this period of time and we haven't been able to locate her... it leads us to believe that she was taken from the tent,' Detective Superintendent Rob Wilde said. 

Nothing has been ruled out, including the possibility that Cleo may have been taken by someone known to her. 

Cleo's parents are keeping a lone gut-wrenching vigil at the campsite where the four-year-old was likely abducted six days ago. 

Police have blocked public access to the tourist attraction, which has been declared a crime scene, meaning only Cleo's parents and search workers are still left behind at the campsite.    

When speaking about the grief Cleo's parents are feeling, Mr Wilde said it 'doesn't get any worse'. 

'We know that. We really feel for the parents,' he said.