Police were searching for a “needle in a haystack” when a miracle unfolded early Wednesday morning: they found a missing 4-year-old girl alive and well who had vanished 18 days earlier.
Cleo Smith went missing in Australia on Oct. 16, while camping with her family. The child’s disappearance from a tent sent authorities desperately searching the campgrounds and surrounding areas as her anxious family waited for answers, CNN reported.
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This week, authorities finally had a phenomenal breakthrough.
Evidence led to a specific home not far from the family residence, where they found the child alone in one of the rooms. It’s unclear what Cleo went through during captivity, but police say she is faring as well as can be expected.
When an officer asked the child her name and she responded, “My name is Cleo,” emotions and relief ran wild. Watch the harrowing rescue moment:
The moment Cleo was rescued 👏 pic.twitter.com/arusYi9kCa— WA Police Force (@WA_Police) November 3, 2021
Deputy Police Commissioner Col Blanch said in an interview with 6PR radio that detectives were desperately hoping to find Cleo before the rescue on Wednesday and that the miracle success left them deeply emotional.
“When she said ‘My name is Cleo,’ I don’t think there was a dry eye in the house,” Blanch said. “I have seen seasoned detectives openly crying with relief. I am speechless which is very rare.”
Western Australia state Police Commissioner Chris Dawson told The Associated Press that body camera footage revealing Cleo’s rescue left him in awe, especially considering most cases end in a more tragic way.
“It’s a really joyous occasion,” he said. “We don’t always get these sort of outcomes, and while we were very, very concerned, we didn’t lose hope.”
The miracle we all hoped for. ❤️ pic.twitter.com/zOd5WDTA1A— WA Police Force (@WA_Police) November 3, 2021
A photo shared to the Western Australia Police Force’s Twitter account shows a smiling Cleo waving to the camera along with an incredible caption that reads, “The miracle we all hoped for.”
Police have a 36-year-old man in custody who was not inside the home at the time of the rescue. Prior to saving the girl, authorities said over 200 Cleo sightings had been reported.
Cleo’s mother, Ellie Smith, is relieved. She posted a touching message to Instagram in the wake of the rescue: “Our family is whole again.” Celebrities also reacted with elation as the world celebrated Cleo’s return to her family.
The girl’s rescue follows authorities’ search of land and sea, as they initially pondered whether she had wandered off — or if something more sinister unfolded. Over time, facts on the ground led them to conclude she was abducted.
Pray for Cleo and her family as they deal with recent events and move forward together as a family.
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