Cleo Smith: Girl, 4, missing since mid-October, found alive and well in Australia

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By Josephine Joly  with AFP
Cleo recovering from her ordeal in hospital
Cleo recovering from her ordeal in hospital   -   Copyright  CREDIT: WESTERN AUSTRALIAN POLICE FORCE

A four-year-old girl who went missing during a camping trip with her parents 18 days ago has been found alive and well, say police in Australia.

Cleo Smith disappeared with her sleeping bag from the family's tent she had been sharing with her sister at the remote Blowholes campsite, about 1,000 kilometres north of Perth, sparking a frantic air, sea, and ground search that most feared would end in tragedy.

Police last month had offered $1 million AUD (€642,301) for information leading to Cleo's recovery after she was abducted on October 16.

Her disappearance both horrified and captivated the nation, as her plight and that of her family has been mainstream news across Australia.

The young girl was found when police officers forced their way into a locked house in Carnarvon after a sudden tip-off, Deputy Commissioner Col Blanch said in an emotional video.

"They found little Cleo in one of the rooms," Blanch said. He added that Cleo was reunited with her parents a short time later.

"This is the outcome we all hoped and prayed for. It’s the outcome we’ve achieved because of some incredible police work. I want to thank Cleo’s parents, the Western Australian community and the many volunteers."

Detective Senior Sergeant Cameron Blaine, one of the four police officers who found Cleo, said: "I asked her what her name was. One of the guys jumped in in front of me and picked her up, and I just wanted to be absolutely sure that, you know, she certainly looked like Cleo, I wanted to be absolutely sure it was her. So I asked 'What's your name?' and she didn't answer and I said 'What's your name?' and she didn't answer again. And I asked her a third time and she looked at me and said 'My name is Cleo',"

Police revealed that a 36-year-old man with no connections to the Smith family had been arrested and was being questioned by detectives.

The house where the girl was found was only six minutes by car from her family home in Carnarvon, according to media reports.

On Wednesday, police released a picture of Cleo smiling and waving while eating a popsicle in a bed in a hospital where she had been taken for medical checks.