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Anthony Mundine faces court over Bunnings mask breach allegations: Covid-19 restrictions



Retired boxer Anthony Mundine was back in court on Wednesday over allegations he entered a Bunnings store without a mask.

Retired boxer Anthony Mundine has appeared in court over allegations he breached public health orders by flouting mask rules at a Sydney hardware store.

“The Man” was in July fined for allegedly entering a Bunnings store in southwestern Sydney without wearing a mask and refusing to scan a QR code at the store’s entrance.

Mr Mundine claimed that he had an exemption to not wear a mask and made a purchase before leaving.

Detectives attached to Campsie Police Area Command launched an investigation after they were called to the Bunnings Kingsgrove store on July 20.

Officers then visited a home in South Hurstville where they spoke to Mr Mundine and issued him a $1000 fine for breaking Covid rules.

He was charged with not complying with a noticed direction and his matter was briefly mentioned in Bankstown Local Court on Wednesday.

Mr Mundine did not appear in court and his lawyer John Giang appeared via videolink and was granted a six-week adjournment.

No plea was entered on Mr Mundine’s behalf.

Mr Mundine was fined three times by police during July for allegedly breaching public health orders.

The high-profile and outspoken former athlete was first slapped with a $1000 fine for allegedly flying from Sydney to Ballina on July 9 during the citywide lockdown.

“Officers from Richmond Police District issued a 46-year-old man with a $1000 penalty infringement notice after inquiries revealed he travelled from metropolitan Sydney to Ballina without a reasonable excuse on Wednesday, 7 July, 2021,” NSW Police said in a statement at the time.

The same month Mr Mundine appeared at a Sydney anti-lockdown rally and was issued with a court attendance notice for allegedly breaching the public health order.

Mr Mundine has been outspoken on social media about his anti-vaccination views and has in the past posted links to so-called “freedom” rallies.

“My people don’t get conned in getting the shot,” he wrote on Facebook earlier this year.

“Do your research it’s a death wish.

“F–k the travel for now we fight that sh-t in court it’s all fear mongering.”

Originally published as Anthony Mundine faces court over Bunnings mask breach allegations




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Northern Territory weather: Rain falls on Uluru national park, waterfalls gushing



Rare scenes spotted in the outback have been described as ‘rare and magical’ as tourists flock to see the unique weather event.

A dumping of rain has created a “rare and magical” waterfall scene in the Northern Territory’s Uluru and Kata Tjuta national park overnight.

More than 22mm of rain fell on the popular outback destination, causing rock holes to overflow and gushing waterfalls down the sides of Uluru and Kaṉtju Gorge.

“While that doesn’t sound like much, the annual average rainfall is just under 300mm,” Parks Australia said via the reserve’s Facebook account.

It mentioned locals and tourists had braved the wet conditions to catch a glimpse of the “unique weather event”.

“With a hot summer ahead, the rain is welcome and locals are hoping for more of it over the coming months,” the post continued.

So much water had flowed down to Kaṉtju Gorge that the viewing platform was almost underwater, the post read.

The waterfalls streaming down the gorge also sparked the burrowing frogs to come out of hiding.

“After 22mm of rain overnight, these noisy creatures which sound like sheep are in frog heaven,” the post read.

“For most of the year these frogs are underground, avoiding hot and dry conditions. They emerge after rain to breed, feed and return underground to evade perishing in the harsh weather conditions.

“They call profusely after enough rain has fallen to entice them from their burrows.”

The rain comes amid scorching temperatures in the NT and Queensland in October, with meteorologists reporting a two-degree increase in average temperatures.

According to the Bureau of Meteorology, October was hotter than usual for Australia as a whole, with every state except Victoria noticing significantly warmer-than-average weather.

Queensland experienced its fourth-warmest October ever, with an average increase of 2.12 degrees.

The NT experienced an increase of 2.11 degrees, its third-warmest October on record.

Darwin sweated through its warmest-ever October night on record on the 20th, reaching 26.6C, while Brisbane recorded its hottest October day since 2004, with a top of 36.6C on October 4.

Originally published as Gushing waterfalls as massive dumping of rain falls on Uluru national park




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Cleo Smith found alive: Expert says discovery a ‘miracle’



A leading criminologist has described finding Cleo Smith alive as a ‘miracle’ before weighing in on the key that may have solved the case.

Finding missing four-year-old Cleo Smith alive was a “miracle” and “highly unusual” according to a leading criminologist.

“I had been expecting the worst,” Dr Xanthe Mallett told Sunrise just hours after Cleo was found at a home in Carnarvon in Western Australia.

“It is highly unusual to find an abducted child alive and well after so long. This is a miracle.”

Cleo went missing from a remote campsite in WA 18 days ago, sparking a wide-scale search and fears she had been abducted.

WA Police Deputy Commissioner Col Blanch released a statement on Wednesday morning announcing the extraordinary development.

He also revealed “phone data” helped lead police to the house where Cleo was found.

“It will become apparent when we put the puzzle together … it all led us to one place,” he told the Today show.

Cleo was found when officers dramatically broke into a locked house in Carnarvon in the early hours of the morning, he said.

Dr Mallett said she wasn’t completely surprised that there was finally a conclusion to the case that had baffled detectives for almost three weeks.

“Strategically, police seemed to be clear on where they were going,” she said.

“I am just incredibly pleased it is a positive outcome.”

She was then asked about the vehicle that was spotted leaving the carpark of the campsite just hours after Cleo was last seen by her parents.

Police said it was likely she was abducted in the dead of the night since the tent zip was opened to a height she could not have reached.

A major focus of the police investigation has a mystery vehicle that was spotted by two people.

They said it turned right off Blowholes Rd onto North West Coastal Highway, heading towards Carnarvon, between 3am and 3.30am the day Cleo disappeared.

“It may be that car that was the key to solving this … it may have been something else,” Dr Mallett said.

“They have looked closely in the local community. We always felt this was something targeted. To me, it made no sense this was a random.

“They have looked very closely at those in the community, those who possibly know Cleo. There will be a link to Cleo and her family. Over the next day or so, will find more about what has happened.”

Search crews combed the coastline near the remote camping ground where Cleo went missing, but efforts proved futile.

Police also examined CCTV footage from businesses and homes that might have captured the car or anything else that might be relevant to the investigation.

They then moved search efforts to Cleo’s parents home, which they searched three times. Police said her parents were not suspects and the move was “standard practice”.

Officers searched the home for several hours before leaving with two evidence bags.

A 36-year-old man is now in custody and being questioned by police after Cleo was found at his home in Carnarvon.

WA Police Commissioner Chris Dawson said the man had no connection to the family.

Originally published as Criminologist describes finding Cleo alive a ‘miracle’ before touching on key evidence




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Cleo Smith miracle: Recovery of missing girl comes just two months after successful search for NSW boy Anthony ‘AJ’ Elfalak



The discovery of Cleo Smith has eerie similarities to toddler ‘AJ’, who was found four days after going missing.

Two months. Two missing children. Two successful searches.

As news of Cleo Smith’s safety reverberates across the nation, echoes of a similarly desperate – and ultimately successful – search are coming back around.

It was just 10 weeks ago that the family of three-year-old Anthony “AJ” Elfalak feared the worst after the non-verbal autistic boy went missing near his home in the NSW Hunter Valley.

But after being lost in rugged bushland for three days, a blurry image taken from a police helicopter showed him drinking muddy water at a creek on September 6.

The boy’s reunion with his family triggered a wave of emotional scenes as family members threw their hands in the air, screaming and crying from happiness and relief.

“Thank you for everyone. Thank you for the government. Thank you for the police. Thank you very much,” AJ‘s mum Kelly told Nine News at the time.

Australians were similarly united in joy after waking to the news on Wednesday that Cleo Smith had been recovered “alive and well” from a locked house in Carnarvon, having been missing for 18 days.

Detectives found Cleo in the early hours of the morning, about 70km from the campsite at the Quobba Blowholes where the four-year-old disappeared.

“A police team broke their way into a locked house in Carnarvon about 1am (Perth time). They found little Cleo in one of the rooms,” Deputy Commissioner Col Blanch said in a statement.

“One of the officers picked her up into his arms and asked her ‘what’s your name?’ She said, ‘My name is Cleo’.”

Cleo was reunited with her parents a short time later, with her mother Ellie acknowledging her recovery by sharing a photo of Cleo on Instagram.

“Our family is whole again,” she wrote.

A 36-year-old Carnarvon man with no connection to the family has been taken into custody and is being questioned over the incident.

The seemingly fruitless effort to locate the missing girl involved hundreds of police officers searching vast swathes of the countryside and hundreds of kilometres of roadside bins for evidence, with thousands of calls coming in to CrimeStoppers during the nearly three-week ordeal.

Similarly, the recovery of AJ back in September involved a co-ordinated multi-agency response, with assistance from trail bike officers, police rescue, the dog unit, police divers and PolAir.

Police were assisted by NSW Ambulance, State Emergency Service, Rural Fire Service, and the Volunteer Rescue Association, while more than 100 emergency service workers and volunteers also helped with the search.

Meanwhile, 14-year-old William Callaghan was returned to his family in July last year after spending two nights lost in freezing temperatures at Mount Disappointment north of Melbourne.

The boy, who has non-verbal autism, was found by volunteers and spent a short time in hospital before being released.

Originally published as Miracle Cleo Smith news comes just two months after successful search for missing NSW boy Anthony ‘AJ’ Elfalak




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Cleo Smith miracle: Recovery of missing girl comes just two months after successful search for NSW boy Anthony ‘AJ’ Elfalak



The discovery of Cleo Smith has eerie similarities to toddler ‘AJ’ who was found four days after going missing.

Two months. Two missing children. Two successful searches.

As news of Cleo Smith’s safety reverberates across the nation, echoes of a similarly desperate – and ultimately successful – search are coming back into focus.

It was just 10 weeks ago that the family of three-year-old Anthony “AJ” Elfalak feared the worst after the non-verbal autistic boy went missing near his home in the NSW Hunter Valley.

But after being lost in rugged bushland for three days, a blurry image taken from a police helicopter showed him drinking muddy water at a creek on September 6.

His mother Kelly said she firmly believed saints, angels and the Virgin Mary played a role in keeping the boy safe.

“We’re a religious family … I always say that the Virgin Mary and all the saints and the angels are with my kids every day,” she saidafter the incident.

“The Virgin Mary is always with us and I knew she was always with AJ.

Australians were similarly thanking the heavens after waking to the news on Wednesday that Cleo Smith had been recovered “alive and well” from a locked house in Carnarvon, having been missing for 18 days.

Originally published as Miracle Cleo Smith news comes just two months after successful search for missing NSW boy Anthony ‘AJ’ Elfalak




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WA: Police suspect alleged abduction of Cleo Smith was opportunistic



As the desperate search for Cleo Smith enters day 17, the lead detective on the case has revealed some new details.

Detectives believe it is “more than likely” that four-year-old Cleo Smith was abducted in an “opportunistic type event”.

Cleo disappeared from the family tent at the Quobba Blowholes campground, in Macleod near Carnarvon in Western Australia’s north, on October 16.

As the search for the young girl entered day 17 on Tuesday, lead investigator Detective Superintendent Rod Wilde said it was likely Cleo was targeted in a short period.

“It’s more than likely an opportunistic type event,” he told 6PR radio.

“We know they got there … on the Friday night. It was getting dark and so there would have been limited opportunity for people to observe Cleo at that time.”

Cleo woke up at 1.30am, was given some water and went back to sleep, then her mother Ellie Smith realised she was missing about 6am.

Superintendent Wilde said police were examining how someone could take Cleo from the tent without attracting attention.

“That’s what we’re trying to resolve, that’s what were trying to understand,” he said.

“We’re doing a lot of work forensically … we’ve had over 1000 calls to Crime Stoppers.”

Superintendent Wilde said police confirmed Cleo was at the campsite via video footage on a parent’s phone that had a geolocation tag, as well as audio of her voice on CCTV at a nearby shack.

“We’ve got that CCTV but there’s also some video footage that we’ve retrieved off the parent’s phone that puts the fact that the family was there and Cleo was at the campsite,” he said.

“We’ve got some independent forensic material that corroborates that fact.”

Superintendent Wilde also said police had spoken to more than 110 people at the campsite but still wanted “less than a handful” of others to provide information.

“We still believe there may be a couple more that haven’t come forward for various reasons — they may have been camping further away,” he said.

“We are keen for those persons to come forward so we can speak to them. It may be that they witnessed something that may assist us.”

Superintendent Wilde said police were looking at all angles, including people close to the family, but again stressed Ms Smith and Cleo’s stepfather Jake Gliddon were not suspects.

“We keep an open mind with things, but certainly there’s no evidence to suggest that they are suspects or had any involvement in Cleo’s disappearance,” he said.

“We cast the net far and wide, and we look at all of those possibilities … certainly people close to the family (and) all of the people that were in the vicinity.”

He said it was a painstaking process to go through everything.

Acting Police Commissioner Col Blanch told ABC radio that the working theory was that Cleo was likely still in WA.

“We’ve tracked down people that we didn’t know, we’ve found them and we have eliminated them, and that’s our focus at the moment — eliminate as many people as possible,” he said.

Mr Blanch said the forensic work included mapping every inch of the area, using drones and satellite technology.

“Now we’re in a stage where we need to forensically go over that ground inch by inch to see what disturbances might be in nearby areas for any sort of evidence that might give an inkling as to what happened,” he said.

“It could be tyre tracks, it could be the sleeping bag — it could be anything.”

He said police were scouring through a heap of data, including phone tower evidence.

Police said on Monday that they were leaving “no stone unturned”, revealing officers had collected more than 50 cubic metres of rubbish from roadside bins as far north as Minilya and as far south as Geraldton.

A major focus of the police investigation has been centred on a mystery vehicle seen by two people turning right off Blowholes Rd onto North West Coastal Hwy, heading towards Carnarvon, between 3am and 3.30am the day Cleo disappeared.

Police have repeatedly indicated the person may not be a suspect but may have relevant information.

A $1m reward has been offered by the state government for information that solves Cleo’s disappearance.

Anyone with information is urged to contact Crime Stoppers.

Originally published as Police suspect the alleged abduction of Cleo Smith was opportunistic




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WA Premier: Online trolls warned to stop comments about Cleo Smith’s parents



Online trolls saying the most ‘horrible and shocking things’ about the parents of missing girl Cleo Smith have been urged to ‘go back to a sense of decency’.

West Australian Premier Mark McGowan has hit out at online trolls who have accused Cleo Smith’s parents of being involved in the four-year-old girl’s disappearance despite police repeatedly saying they are not suspects.

Police suspect Cleo was abducted from the family tent at the Quobba Blowholes campground, in Macleod near Carnarvon in WA’s north, on October 16.

Mr McGowan, who along with his young family has recently copped threats from anti-vaxxers over his Covid-19 vaccine mandate, said he could sympathise with Cleo’s parents after they were subjected to abuse online.

“They’re going through a huge amount of angst and pain and suffering — they don’t need this,” he told reporters on Sunday.

“I just don’t get why some people get all this courage when they get a keyboard, and they say the most horrible and shocking things that they would never say otherwise.

“I just urge them to stop. This social media world where people are just emboldened to say shocking and horrible things is awful.

“I just urge people to go back to a sense of decency and civility towards one another, particularly (towards) people who are suffering.”

Police have repeatedly said Cleo’s mother Ellie Smith, stepfather Jake Gliddon and biological father Daniel Staines are not suspects in the case.

When asked about the online trolls on Friday, lead investigator Detective Superintendent Rod Wilde said it was terrible.

“They (the parents) have been very helpful. We’re doing everything we can to find out what happened to Cleo,” he told reporters.

“They’re holding up, but I just ask all members of the public, it’s not helpful for anyone to publish anything online.”

Cleo was last seen about 1.30am on that fateful day when she woke to ask for water.

About 6am, when Ms Smith and Mr Gliddon woke up, they discovered Cleo and her sleeping bag were missing, prompting a large scale search.

After authorities and volunteers found no trace of Cleo, police said she was likely abducted, revealing a tent zip was opened to a height the young girl could not have reached.

A desperate nationwide search for Cleo has so far resulted in no suspects, despite police looking into known paedophiles in the area and exploring other avenues of investigation.

Police have also repeatedly searched the family home, collected CCTV and dashcam footage, spoken to campers in the area and made repeated public appeals for information.

Detectives have also been keen to find the driver of a vehicle seen by two people turning right off Blowholes Rd onto North West Coastal Hwy, heading towards Carnarvon, between 3am and 3.30am the day Cleo disappeared.

Police have repeatedly indicated the person may not be a suspect but may have relevant information.

Superintendent Wilde previously revealed there had been more than 200 possible sightings of Cleo reported to police since she vanished but all had proved “unfruitful”.

A $1m reward has been offered by the state government for information that solves the girl’s mystery disappearance.

A GoFundMe page to support the search efforts and Cleo’s family has raised more than $86,000.

Anyone with information is urged to contact Crime Stoppers.

Originally published as WA Premier warns online trolls to back off with ‘shocking’ comments about Cleo Smith’s parents




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Melbourne, Adelaide weather: Power outage, train delays after massive Victoria storm



Wild weather has lashed several states, bringing golf ball-sized hail, falling trees and winds that tore a large window from an apartment block.

Strong winds are believed to have torn a large window pane out of a Sydney apartment on Friday afternoon, following a morning of weather-induced havoc in Melbourne.

NSW Fire and Rescue was called about 4.30pm to the unit block on Sutherland St, Paddington where a window was dangling from one of the apartments.

Firefighters went up through the elevator and pulled it back into the apartment using ropes.

Winds reached up to 87km/h in Sydney’s south about 3.30pm and 78km/h on Sydney Harbour just after 6pm.

Sydneysiders sweltered through their warmest day since January, with the mercury climbing to 34.3 degrees at the airport – which was the hottest part of the city – by about 1pm.

Earlier, Victorians battened down the hatches, as strong winds of up to 110km/h – well over what is considered gale-force – swept across the state, ripping roofs off houses, tearing trees from the ground and even flipping a truck over on a major Melbourne road.

Footage captured the moment a roof was torn off a Port Melbourne apartment block and large chunks of styrofoam careened past someone’s window during the chaos.

Thousands of homes across Victoria and South Australia remain without power on Friday after severe wind, hail and heavy rain ripped through neighbourhoods, leaving a trail of destruction.

Melbourne residents woke to severe wind and rain, with motorists warned traffic lights were out across the city, while fallen trees were blocking roads and also the Glen Waverley train line.

Photos showed trees that had been uprooted during the extreme morning blast.

High winds began to ease late in the morning in Melbourne, but thousands of residents were still struggling with power outages.

There were at least 50,000 AusNet customers in Victoria’s east without power.

“And I thought there were only four horsemen of the apocalypse,” wrote Melbourne-based comedian and actor Magda Szubanski.

“This is getting scary. Take care people.”

In Melbourne, motorists have been told to drive with extreme caution.

V/Line, which operates regional passenger train and coach services, warned that, “due to extreme weather conditions across the state, train services will be held in place until tracks can be cleared from debris.

“Coaches have been deployed across the network to assist with travel. Additional information will be made available once confirmed.”

A number of Covid-19 vaccination sites have also been temporarily closed amid the wild weather.

The Bureau reported more than 500,000 lightning strikes have hit South Australia, Victoria and southern NSW over the past 24 hours, as a deep low pressure system moves towards Bass Strait.

Hobart copped 40mm overnight and several areas of Tasmania are on floodwatch.

Two teenagers had to be rescued near the central Tasmanian community of Campbell Town on Thursday night, with police and rescue services using a boat to free the girls trapped in flood waters from the Elizabeth River.

Elsewhere, a huge damage bill is expected for Adelaide and surrounding regions after golf ball-sized hail pelted the suburbs on Thursday, and severe wind triggered thousands of calls for assistance to the State Emergency Service.

The weather was so intense that the Bureau of Meteorology Adelaide office had to be evacuated.

Many South Australian homes remained without power on Friday morning, with authorities working to clear trees that fell overnight.

“Batten down the hatches. I have thousands of dollars’ damage to my house and a couple of cars with damage, including my poor son’s, which is probably a write off,” wrote Penny Artis on Facebook.

That intense system has moved east, and on Friday morning was bearing down on Victoria, bringing torrential rain, damaging wind, and cutting power to thousands of homes.

The state’s west and northwest appeared to be particularly affected by outages.

“It was spectacular last night, watching the light show, which went on for hours and hours,” wrote Caroline Jane Knight.

“But it was so loud, all night, I’ve hardly slept at all. No power this morning, the wind storm is still going.

“Just went out to find a coffee and half the roads are blocked by fallen branches, we’ve gone miles to get to a coffee shop with power.”

Gusts of 143km/h were reported at Mount William in the Grampians National Park – nearly double what is considered “gale force” – while a severe weather warning was active for the western and central Victorian coasts, Greater Melbourne, Gippsland and the Mornington Peninsula.

The Bureau of Meteorology said the danger was likely to shift towards northern NSW and Queensland this afternoon.

“It’s about Victoria and Tassie this morning, but things are already shifting,” said senior meteorologist Jonathan How.

Mr How said the steamy temperatures experienced across northeast NSW and southern Queensland of up to 36 degrees would be hosed down by a potential supercell thunderstorm on Friday afternoon.

“There’s also the possibility of tornadoes; we can’t rule that out,” Mr How said.

The system will linger over Brisbane and the Gold Coast into Saturday before easing on Sunday.

Originally published as Wild winds rip window from apartment in Sydney after a morning of havoc in Melbourne





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Cleo Smith: Mystery driver still unidentified in investigation into missing girl



Detectives investigating the disappearance of Cleo Smith are growing more concerned about a mystery driver.

Police are yet to identify the driver of a vehicle seen in the middle of the night near the campsite where four-year-old Cleo Smith vanished almost two weeks ago.

Lead investigator Detective Superintendent Rod Wilde also confirmed police did not have any suspects “at this stage” in the mysterious case.

Police suspect Cleo was abducted from the family tent at the Blowholes campground in Macleod, near Carnarvon in Western Australia’s north, on October 16, and have been collecting CCTV and dashcam footage ever since in a bid to find her.

For the past week, detectives have been keen to find the driver of a vehicle seen by two people turning right off Blowholes Rd onto North West Coastal Hwy, heading towards Carnarvon, between 3am and 3.30am the day Cleo disappeared.

Police have repeatedly indicated the person may not be a suspect but may have relevant information.

Asked on Friday whether police were growing more concerned about the car given so much time has passed without the person coming forward, Superintendent Wilde said: “It’s a priority for us to identify who was in that vehicle so we’d like that person to come forward … we haven’t identified that vehicle yet and we’d like to do so.”

Superintendent Wilde also provided a timeline of that fateful day, starting with the call from Cleo’s distressed mother Ellie Smith at 6.23am.

The key times included:

  • Just before 6.30am the first car with two officers was sent to the scene under priority two, with lights and sirens going, arriving at 7.10am;
  • 6.41am a second vehicle was sent, followed by a third at 7.44am;
  • 7.26am a protected forensic area was set up at the scene;
  • 7.33am police requested a drone operator attend;
  • 8am some family and friends arrived to help with the search. Meanwhile, detectives visited the family home, then went to the Blowholes and began stopping vehicles close to the search area;
  • 8.09am a local company helicopter arrived to help with the search;
  • 8.11am SES team requested and they arrived just over an hour later;
  • 8.24am Inspector Jon Munday arranged to leave Geraldton to take command in Carnarvon. Police air wing and volunteer search and rescue were also contacted;
  • 8.34am police set up a roadblock at the Blowholes;
  • 9.30am detectives sat with Ms Smith and remained with her all day; and
  • 11am homicide detectives were deployed.

Asked why police did not lock down the campsite immediately when officers arrived at the scene, Superintendent Wilde said: “Obviously, the first police getting there had to establish what’s actually taken place.”

He further added: “It’s a large area … they did a great job by establishing a protective forensic area, containing the tent and all the evidence that may be contained within that immediately, so the first officers at the scene did a really good and thorough job.”

Asked why the marine search was called off early, he said police relied on experts regarding the terrain and water conditions.

A $1m reward has been offered by the state government for information that solves the girl’s mystery disappearance.

Superintendent Wilde previously revealed there had been more than 200 possible sightings of Cleo reported to police since she vanished but all had proved “unfruitful”.

He said on Friday that Cleo’s sleeping bag also remained missing despite some calls from the public.

Ms Smith and Cleo’s stepfather Jake Gliddon have vehemently denied having any involvement in her disappearance.

Police have also repeatedly said they are not suspects, nor is Cleo’s father.

But that has not stopped some internet trolls from accusing them.

“That’s terrible,” Superintendent Wilde said when asked about the online abuse on Friday.

“They have been very helpful. We’re doing everything we can to find out what happened to Cleo.

“They’re holding up, but I just ask all members of the public, it’s not helpful for anyone to publish anything online.”

Forensic officers have searched the family home three times and collected evidence in bags.

They have also returned to the campsite to collect ashes from old camp fires.

A GoFundMe page to support the search efforts and Cleo’s family has raised more than $85,000.

“We are thinking of you and beautiful Cleo all the way from London, England,” one donor wrote.

“We pray and wish her home soon safe and well xx from one mummy to another.”

Anyone with information is urged to contact Crime Stoppers.

Originally published as Police continue to search for mystery driver during the probe into the disappearance of Cleo Smith




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WA: ‘Spy plane’ used in search for missing girl Cleo Smith



The WA police commissioner has been quizzed on suggestions a ‘spy plane’ was used during the search for missing girl Cleo Smith.

Western Australia’s police commissioner has brushed off suggestions a “spy plane” has been used in the search for suspected abduction victim Cleo Smith, as officers returned to her last known location to collect campfire ashes.

Earlier this week, the Prime Minister revealed the Australian Federal Police were using “very advanced capabilities” that were “leading edge” and it has since been reported by 7 News that it involves a reconnaissance spy plane.

WA Police Commissioner Chris Dawson was asked about it during a press conference on Thursday, with a reporter querying the use of a plane almost two weeks after Cleo vanished.

“Obviously it’s a big police operation and in any such operation of this scale we reach out to police forces, not only across Australia, but indeed across the world,” Mr Dawson said.

“The AFP will, like others, assist us with whatever they can. We will accept any opportunity to expand any capability.”

Mr Dawson said he would not go into the specifics about the AFP’s particular involvement.

“We welcome any assistance from any police force around the world,” he said.

Asked again directly if it was a “spy plane or something like that”, Mr Dawson replied: “I won’t go into specifics.”

The AFP refused to comment when NCA NewsWire asked about it.

Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews on Wednesday told federal parliament that the AFP and federal agencies were supporting the work of the WA Police Force.

“Our thoughts are with the family and I can assure them that the advanced capabilities of federal law enforcement are being deployed to aid local efforts to find Cleo,” she said.

“Australians can be certain we will continue to equip our law enforcement and intelligence agencies with the tools and resources they need to combat this very serious crime, especially crimes against children.”

Late on Wednesday, police returned to the Blowholes campground in Macleod, where it is suspected Cleo was taken from the family tent on October 16, to collect ash samples from former campfires.

Officers also spent Thursday morning in Carnarvon’s light industrial area obtaining CCTV footage from businesses.

It comes after a report from two people who said they saw a car turn right off Blowholes Rd onto North West Coastal Hwy, heading towards Carnarvon, between 3am and 3.30am the day Cleo vanished.

Police have been seeking CCTV and dashcam footage from people since Cleo’s disappearance.

Lead investigator Detective Superintendent Rod Wilde landed in Carnarvon on Thursday morning.

Asked if the case could be solved, he said: “We’re really confident.”

Cleo’s mother Ellie Smith and stepfather Jake Gliddon have vehemently denied having any involvement in the young girl’s disappearance.

“No way – we love our daughter and want her home,” Ms Smith told Seven’s Flashpoint program this week.

“There is no way that either myself or Jake could’ve done anything to hurt our daughter.

“She’s been taken from our family, from somewhere she’s meant to feel safe.”

Police have also said the couple are not suspects, nor is Cleo’s father.

Forensic officers have searched the family home three times and collected evidence in bags.

Police said the family had been helpful throughout the investigation and understood it was routine practice.

In a new Instagram post on Thursday, Ms Smith wrote: “If you know anything please call the police! We want our baby home.”

Ms Smith also posted a missing poster, promoting the state government’s $1m reward for information.

Bounty hunters have reportedly joined the search for Cleo in a bid to secure the reward, prompting a warning from police for people to stay safe.

“I think people — whether it’s for the money or whether it’s just to do the right thing and help find Cleo — people are up there trying to find what happened,” Acting Police Commissioner Col Blanch said on Wednesday.

“There’s still a lot of land up there to cover. I just ask that people don’t put themselves in any danger in doing so.”

A GoFundMe page to support the search efforts and Cleo’s family has raised more than $83,000.

Anyone with information is urged to contact Crime Stoppers.

Originally published as WA Police refuse to confirm reports a federal ‘spy plane’ has been used in the search for Cleo Smith




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