Western Australia (WA) police officers have found missing four-year-old Cleo Smith alive and well in a locked house, more than two weeks after disappearing from her family’s tent at the Quobba Blowholes campsite on Australia’s northwest coast.
Cleo was discovered at about 1 a.m. on Wednesday, local time, alone in a room in a house in Carnarvon, some 75 kilometres (46 miles) south from where she went missing.
“One of the officers picked her up into his arms and asked her ‘What’s your name?'” Deputy Commissioner Col Blanch said.
“She said—’My name is Cleo.'”
A 36-year-old Carnarvon man is in custody and being questioned in relation to the suspected abduction. Police have said he has no connection to Cleo’s family and wasn’t present at the house when Cleo was found.
“Our family is whole again,” Cleo’s mother, Ellie Smith posted on Instagram alongside a photo of Cleo.
Cleo is receiving medical care but is said to be in good physical health.
Relief has swept across the community and police forces after the news broke of Cleo’s safe discovery after “18 long days” of searching “around the clock.”
Acting Commissioner Blanch said in a statement that it was “the outcome we all hoped and prayed for.”
He said it was the result of some incredible police work, and thanked Cleo’s parents, the WA community, volunteers, and officers involved in the search.
A hundred person task force worked day and night for weeks, sifting through thousands of data points, including Crime Stoppers calls, for forensic clues.
Blanch told Perth radio 6PR that he saw seasoned detectives “openly crying with relief.”
“We were literally looking for a needle in a haystack and we found it,” Blanch said.
“When she said ‘my name is Cleo,’ I don’t think there was a dry eye in the house.”
“This really did hit the heart of Western Australians, it went international and to see Cleo rescued this morning, I’m speechless.”
Carnarvon Shire President Eddie Jones said the local community would be “elated, thankful” as they heard the good news.
“It is wonderful,” he told 6PR.
Cleo disappeared on Oct. 16 from her family’s tent at the Blowholes campsite, about 950 kilometres (590 miles) north of Perth.
She was last seen by her mother around 1.30 a.m. that night.
The search for Cleo captured national attention, including in New South Wales where the state’s police commissioner on Wednesday recounted a conversation he had with WA counterpart Chris Dawson after Cleo was found.
“He said when he got the call this morning he broke down and cried,” Mick Fuller told Sydney radio 2GB.
“It’s such an amazing story.”
WA investigators spoke to more than 110 people who were at the campsite when Cleo went missing.
They had also been searching for the driver of a car seen leaving in the campsite in the middle of the night before it was discovered the child was missing.
The state government had offered a $1 million reward for information to find Cleo.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Cleo’s discovery was “wonderful, relieving news.”
“Cleo Smith has been found and is home safe and sound.
“Our prayers answered.
“Thank you to the many police officers involved in finding Cleo and supporting her family,” he wrote on Twitter.
AAP contributed to this report.