A new group has joined the search for missing four-year-old Cleo Smith as her heartbroken mother pleads for her baby to come home.
“Bounty hunters” have joined the search for Cleo Smith in the hope of securing the $1m reward for information that brings the missing four-year-old home.
West Australian Police have said they welcome assistance from anyone who can help find Cleo, who vanished 10 days ago from her family’s tent at the Blowholes Campground on the remote coast north of Carnarvon.
After a frantic and extensive search of the water and rugged terrain around the campsite, police now believe Cleo was likely abducted while her mother Ellie Smith, stepfather Jake Gliddon and younger sister Isla were asleep.
A grief-stricken Ms Smith has said she last saw Cleo at 1.30am on Saturday, October 16 when her daughter woke to ask for a drink of water.
On Monday, she issued another heartbroken plea on social media for Cleo to come home, asking: “Where are you, baby?”
On Instagram, Ms Smith wrote “we all need her home” and described her as the “best big sister ever”.
Mr Gliddon also shared an image of the missing poster in his first post on Instagram since Cleo vanished.
Police have said the entrance to the tent nearest to where Cleo was sleeping was found unzipped at a height the young girl could not have reached.
Her sleeping bag was also reported missing.
Deputy police commissioner Col Blanch said on Monday that the official search in the vicinity of the campground had concluded.
He was asked by a reporter whether people searching for Cleo to claim the financial reward were a help or a hindrance to police.
“We do welcome anyone who can help find Cleo. I will ask that people not put themselves in danger or at risk in doing so,” Mr Blanch said.
“We would ask everyone (in the area) to check their sheds, their cars, their old cars, locations that might be abandoned — that’s something that I would encourage.”
In a significant development in the investigation, detectives revealed on Sunday that they had been tipped off about a car seen leaving the area shortly after Cleo was snatched from her family’s tent.
Mr Blanch said on Monday that officers were still trying to track that car down.
The top priority for police was for every person at the campsite on that Saturday morning to come forward to investigators, he said.
Mr Blanch said there had already been an enormous amount of public assistance to police, particularly from locals in Cleo’s hometown of Carnarvon.
“A significant amount of Crime Stoppers reports have been flooding in ever since the $1m reward has come out,” he said.
“I’d say it’s not just because of the reward — the public, particularly in Carnarvon, have really put in a monumental effort to ask for help on the investigation of the disappearance of Cleo.”
Premier Mark McGowan last week announced the WA government would offer the reward and on Monday said he was hoping for a “good outcome” in the case.
“If you’ve got her in your custody, please just give her back to her family,” he said.
Perth MP Patrick Gorman also issued a passionate appeal to the public for information in federal parliament.
“Police do not know where she is … Carnarvon is some 900km north of Perth, but Cleo could now be anywhere,” he said on Monday.
“Wherever you are in Australia, if you know anything, please come forward.”
A candlelight vigil for Cleo was held in her hometown on Sunday night, which Carnarvon Shire President Eddie Smith said was very well attended by members of the close-knit community.
“We look after our own. They’re pretty stoic but this one is hurting. Everyone’s pulling together and trying to help each other as much as possible,” he told NCA NewsWire.
“I’m quite proud of our town and the way they’ve hung in there together.
“If anybody sees or hears anything, please tell the police.”
Police previously said they had spoken to about 20 registered sex offenders who live in the Carnarvon area.
On Monday, it was revealed the missing dangerous sex offenders register — a public database of offenders whose location is unknown to police — was temporarily shut down over the weekend.
A “server error” believed to be linked to a technical issue meant the register was inaccessible on the WA government website, but it was back online by Monday afternoon.
Originally published as Surprising new group joins search for Cleo Smith as her mother asks: ‘Where are you, baby?’