Police in Western Australia have charged a 36-year-old man in relation to the disappearance of 4-year-old Cleo Smith, who went missing from a campsite on October 16 and was finally found this week after a highly publicized search.
The man, who was identified by Australia’s public broadcaster as Terence Kelly, was charged with various offenses including “forcibly taking a child under 16.”
He appeared in Carnavon court on Thursday afternoon, according to a police statement.
Cleo Smith was found by police in the early hours of Wednesday morning in a locked house in Carnarvon, a town in the state of Western Australia, some 30 miles from the campsite where she was apparently abducted close to three weeks ago.
Her whereabouts had gripped Australia for several days as concern grew over her welfare. Police said Cleo was found in a room in the house with the lights on, awake and playing with toys; they are yet to interview the girl, but specialists have arrived in Carnarvon from Perth to do so.
“One of the officers picked her up into his arms and asked her, ‘What’s your name?’ She said: ‘My name is Cleo,’” Deputy Commissioner Col Blanch said in a statement.
Police also released audio of the moment she was found, in which Cleo confirms her name to officers. Another video shows her nodding as officers escort her away from the site.
Before charging the suspect, police said they believed he acted alone and “spontaneously.” The man was arrested on Wednesday and had been taken to hospital after self-harming while in police custody, Western Australia Police said.
Speaking to Perth radio station 6PR, Detective Superintendent Rod Wilde described the suspect’s injuries as “not life threatening.” He subsequently returned to a police station in Carnarvon and was cooperating with inquiries, Wilde told a later news conference.
On Thursday, Western Australia Premier Mark McGowan said he met with Cleo and her family, describing her as “very well adjusted, considering (her ordeal).”
“She has done a bit of sleeping and a lot of eating, a lot of lying around and cuddling,” McGowan said.
Detective Superintendent Wilde said Cleo had also been checked out at the hospital, and “physically she is OK.”
Cleo’s mother Ellie Smith celebrated her return on Instagram on Wednesday, writing “our family is whole again,” alongside a smiling picture of her young daughter.