“Thank God he’s gone.”
That was the reaction of one senior police officer as Terence Darrell Kelly – the man accused of abducting little Cleo Smith – flew out of Carnarvon on Friday.
What preceded that take-off was three weeks spanning one of most intensive and emotional police investigations in WA Police history.
And what immediately led up to Mr Kelly being led in shackles onto a chartered Cessna plane by four highly-trained Special Operations Group officers was an intense – and at times chaotic – scene.
Gathered media, waiting for glimpse of the man who allegedly snatched the little girl from her family tent and then held her captive for 18 days, set off in pursuit of the car carrying Kelly onto the runway.
With cars speeding, dust flying and onlookers watching, Mr Kelly was driven onto the tarmac and walked slowly onto the charter flight, with his wrists and ankles chained.
Those precautions were necessary because of the 36-year-old’s behaviour since being taken into custody early on Wednesday morning.
He had harmed himself twice in his holding cell — bashing his head against the wall — which required two trips to hospital.
A short but belligerent appearance in court, where Mr Kelly abused journalists, was followed by more erratic behaviour in the cell on Thursday night.
This time however, the cell Mr Kelly was being held in was padded. With concerns about the possibility of an erratic passenger in a small plane, the decision was taken to take no chances, and employ the SOG — whose training includes response to major incidents, and high security escorts.
The plan to move Mr Kelly had been carefully co-ordinated — with the plane stationary on the tarmac and senior officers — until it appeared to change last minute.
With the convoy on the move, and the charter plane also moving, a random fuel truck making a delivery to the small airport inserted itself unwittingly into the middle of the two-minute drive.
Camera operators, photographers and journalists sprinted to an area to try to get a photograph of the man at the centre of a worldwide mystery.
And those pictures showed Mr Kelly barefoot, in dark shorts and a white shirt shuffling towards the plan — at one point appearing to wink towards a camera.
Watching him onto the plane was Det-Sen. Sgt Cameron Blaine, who has been in the limelight of the investigation since he led four officers into the Carnarvon home where Cleo was found.
Hours later, he was on a plane himself, flying home to his own family in Perth.
But before that, he paid a last visit to the home of the little girl who told him her name was Cleo just a few days ago.
His message to them was that while he would not be in town, he would be with in spirit — and that he and his team would continue “walking with them through the process”.
After being processed and then walking onto his flight, one hour and 39 minutes later Mr Kelly was landing at Jandakot, and then driven off to his new home, which a Department of Justice spokesman said would be maximum security.
That facility is Casuarina Prison, which has a Special Handling Unit for prisoners who present a heightened security risk, a Special Protection Unit for prisoners who are at special risk from the mainstream prisoner population, and a Crisis Care Unit for prisoners at risk of self-harm.
Casuarina also home to some of WA’s worst criminals of the past 30 years, including Claremont killer Bradley Robert Edwards, the former soldier who killed Rebels boss Nick Martin in a sniper-style assassination, child rapist and killer Dante Arthurs, and Postcard Bandit Brenden Abbott.
They now have another, accused over what Magistrate Ben White has already described as a “notorious” case.
Mr Kelly has immediately become one of WA’s highest profile prisoner, after his remarkable arrest over the abduction of the four-year-old from the Blowholes campsite on October 16.
Police Commissioner Chris Dawson said the transfer was a normal process, despite a very abnormal case. “The person that has been charged over this situation has been remanded in custody for four weeks — and he will be transferred to a facility with corrective services,” Mr Dawson said.
“A person in that situation would not remain in Carnarvon anyway – and we would put in extra security measures for obvious reasons.”
That case will return to court in December.
Until then, detectives will continue to piece together the case against Mr Kelly – which includes a charge of child snatching, which carries a maximum sentence of seven years.