Cleo Smith search: Mark McGowan announces $1 million reward for information leading to Carnarvon girl’s return

Brianna DuganThe West Australian
VideoA $1 million reward is on offer for information which leads to the return of missing four-year-old Cleo Smith, or the arrest and conviction of anyone involved in her suspicious disappearance.

A $1 million reward is on offer for information which leads to the return of missing four-year-old Cleo Smith, or the arrest and conviction of anyone involved in her suspicious disappearance.

It is the equal biggest reward ever offered in WA.

Premier Mark McGowan made the announcement as the search for Cleo enters its sixth day, with police not giving up hope of finding her alive.

The little girl vanished from her family’s tent at the Blowholes campsite in McLeod north of Carnarvon in the early hours of Saturday morning, sparking a large-scale search which has seen crews already cover 20sqm.

“All Western Australians' thoughts are with Cleo's family during what is an unimaginably difficult time,” Mr McGowan said.

“We're all praying for a positive outcome.

“We want to ensure police have everything they need to solve this case and that's why my Government has no hesitation in supporting police with this reward offer.”

A number of other high profile disappearances and murders have also attracted a $1 million reward, including for information about the murder of 11-year-old Gerard Ross in 1997, the disappearance of 12-year-old Lisa Mott in 1980 and the disappearance of Lisa Govan in 1999.

Police Minister Paul Papalia said Cleo’s disappearance was every parent’s worst nightmare.

“I've been advised every available police resource is being directed into this investigation and I've reassured the Acting Commissioner the Government will support police with any request they make to help solve this crime,” Mr Papalia said.

“I'd hope most people would willingly come forward if they had information that could assist police, but if this reward motivates someone to help police bring Cleo home, then the Government is more than happy to offer it.

“I urge anyone who knows what happened to little Cleo to come forward with the information police need to find her.”

WA Police Inspector Jon Munday said search crews would cast the net wider as they continued to search the vast land surrounding the popular tourist attraction.

Four mounted police were on Thursday scouring ground several kilometres away from where the family was camped.

Army reservists used drones to look for any sign of the 4-year-old.

State Emergency Services volunteers have been searching on foot and on ATVs today, with forensic officers and homicide detectives also involved in the search.

Insp. Munday said Cleo’s distraught mum Ellie and step-dad Jake Gliddon would remain in the region while crews continue to search the region — clinging to hope she will return.

“They don’t want to leave and that is completely understandable... as you can imagine they don’t know what to do, they’re distraught,” he said.

“We will be here until we are satisfied that Cleo is not in this area, we have searched thoroughly all the high probability areas... we are now extended into the further reaches of the places where Cleo could have possibly walked herself.”

It comes as police admit there’s evidence to suggest she was taken from her West Australian campsite.

Police say the Cleo’s sleeping bag is missing and the tent she was staying in when she disappeared was unzipped at a height which the four-year-old could not reach, leading to “grave concerns” for her safety.

Insp. Munday said the tent Cleo and her family were staying in at the Blowholes campsite had several entry points which could be unzipped.

The entry which was found open by Cleo’s mother Ellie was a zipped entrance at the front-facing area of the tent, nearest where Cleo was sleeping.

Seemingly quashing the theory that Cleo could have wandered off, Insp. Munday said the zipper was too high to be reached by the little girl.

“The positioning of that zipper for the flap is one of the circumstances which has caused us to have grave concerns for Cleo’s safety,” he said.

Anyone who was travelling in the area around the time she disappeared is asked to contact police on 131 444.

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