Cleo Smith search: WA’s top cop says operation reaching ‘critical phase’

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Sarah StegerThe West Australian
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WA’s most senior police officer says the search for missing four-year-old Cleo Smith has reached a “critical” stage.

Police Commissioner Chris Dawson assured the little girl’s family authorities were “throwing everything we can” at the investigation but admitted with day five of the major rescue operation almost over, things were becoming dire.

“It’s very concerning. It's now five days since Cleo was last seen,” he said.

“It is a very serious concern. It's very tough terrain up there, and the climate of course has not been particularly good there either in the last 48 hours.

“It’s very, very concerning situation in a very challenging environment.

“This is really a critical stage in the search phase.”

It is why the search radius has today been broadened, in conjunction with yesterday’s arrival of addition police, State Emergency Services, ranger and Australian Defence Force personnel.

It comes as Mr Dawson revealed the size of the search area officers were covering was based on health advice.

“We take advice from health practitioners in terms of survivability if Cleo had been on foot, but we don’t limit it to just that,” he said.

“We also have broadened it out to any vehicles and transport in and around the area in case there’s a possibility that she may have been taken in a vehicle so we’re not ruling anything out. “

Mr Dawson said police had been stopping vehicles leaving WA, in case Cleo was indeed abducted.

“We’ve got a lot of assets and information in and around that area, and we’ve been stopping, searching,” he said.

“People have been cooperative, accepting that we’re really in a critical phase here.”

Speaking from a press conference in Perth this afternoon, Mr Dawson said: “We are putting in everything we can to try and find the answer and the answer is that we find Cleo.”

“We need to find a Cleo. Cleo is somewhere and we need to find out where,” he said.

“We are not going to stop until we're satisfied we’ve searched thoroughly in and around the Blowholes.

“And no stone will be left unturned.”

He stressed investigators would not be “narrow-minded in theorising” what happened to Cleo early Saturday morning, when she vanished without a trace from her family’s tent at the Blowholes 70km north of Carnarvon.

“I ask the community and the media not to speculate on how she disappeared,” Mr Dawson said.

“We’re not going to be narrow-minded in theorising here, we are considering everything.

“So while we have homicide detectives there we clearly are not ruling anything in or out, we’re gathering lots of information.”

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