Cleo Smith: Western Australia Police looking at 'worst-case scenario' in disappearance of 4-year-old girl

Western Australia Police are now planning for the "worst-case scenario" in the disappearance of Cleo Smith, a four-year-old girl who went missing from her family's tent during the early hours of Saturday morning.

New details have emerged about the night Cleo went missing, with police telling local media there had been "a lot of people" circulating the remote Blowholes campsite at the time of her disappearance.

Cleo was last seen at roughly 1:30am on Saturday (local time) near the campsite in Macleod, about 70 kilometres north of Carnarvon in Western Australia.

Her distraught parents have since revealed that the four-year-old had been sleeping just metres away from her baby sister's cot before her disappearance. Cleo's mother, Ellie Smith, told local media she had woken up at around 6am to see the zipper of the family's tent nearly completely open. Her daughter, who had been sleeping in a separate room of the tent, was nowhere to be seen.

The parents are now preparing themselves for the worst-case scenario, with Inspector Jon Munday saying the child could "be anywhere by now".

"We can't rule out the fact that Cleo may be still in the area, we can't rule out the fact she's left the area and if she's left the area that is probably our worst case scenario because that really paints a sinister picture with what's happened," he said, as reported by

"It is a race against time. We're just trying to find answers."

The entire area has been declared a potential crime scene. The campground has been closed and investigators are urging anyone who was in the vicinity of Blowholes Campsite, visited the campsite, or stayed overnight at the campsite on Friday, October 15 to come forward.

The case is a "mystery we're trying to unravel", said Munday. He confirmed "quite a lot of people" had been staying at Blowholes on Friday night.

"We're tracking and tracing all of those people at the moment, but there's also nothing to indicate that there's any cause for the wider community to be alarmed," he said.

The hunt for Cleo has seen police search a number of shacks along the coastline close to the campsite, which are occupied by long-term residents.

Assistant Commissioner for Regional Western Australia Police, Darryl Gaunt, told 6PR Radio on Wednesday that the beach shacks have now been thoroughly searched, as well as the infrastructure in the surrounding area. Some of the shacks would be revisited for further searches, he added.

Speaking to PerthNow earlier this week, a police source described the area as a "destination" - "not a place you'd just pass through".

"You'd have to have [a] reason to go there," the source said. 

Both Smith and her partner, Jake Gliddon, are adamant Cleo would not have left the tent independently.

Speaking publicly about the four-year-old's disappearance for the first time on Tuesday, Smith said her daughter would not have wandered off alone. 

The last time she saw Cleo was at roughly 1:30am on Saturday when the child woke up and asked for some water. She then went back to bed in the adjacent room.

Describing the moment she realised her daughter was missing, Smith said she woke to her youngest child, Isla, wanting a bottle. As she passed the divider, she realised the zipper was open - and Cleo, including her red-and-black sleeping bag, were gone.

Smith and Gliddon began desperately searching for their daughter, checking the surrounding area before getting in the car and driving further afield. As she and Gliddon both grew up nearby, she said they are very familiar with the area and visited a number of spots they went to as children. They then called the police.

"We haven't really slept. We've had so much family help us and support us," Smith said emotionally.

"Everyone asks us, 'what do you need', and really all we need is our little girl home… we're going to find her. We have to."

Smith said she has considered "probably a million" possibilities of what could have happened to Cleo, who she described as beautiful, delicate and funny, with "the biggest heart". She said she has "no idea" what has happened to her daughter.

Ellie Smith and Jake Gliddon.
Ellie Smith and Jake Gliddon. Photo credit: Western Australia Police

Extreme weather hindered the hunt for Cleo on Tuesday, with efforts temporarily suspended. Mounted section officers later joined the search, which is already being assisted by volunteers, State Emergency Safety (SES) personnel, drones, aircraft, expert trackers and crime squad detectives.

"Our thoughts are with Cleo's family during what is undoubtedly an extremely difficult time for them and for everyone involved," Premier Mark McGowan told local media.

"To Cleo's family and on behalf of West Australians, we are thinking of you at this difficult time."

Speaking to 6PR Radio on Wednesday, Assistant Commissioner Gaunt said although a criminal investigation has been running parallel to the search-and-rescue operation, police are not exclusively treating Cleo's disappearance as an abduction, and are not yet ruling out other possibilities.

A GoFundMe page has been set up by local man Bill Kent to help Cleo's family and the search efforts, so far raising more than $48,000.