Fortress WA will have to lower its drawbridge to the eastern states if police want to enlist the help of cadaver dogs and their handlers from NSW or Queensland in the hunt for clues to the whereabouts of Cleo Smith.
Taskforce Rodia detectives haven’t given up hope of finding Cleo alive, but have to contemplate all eventualities.
Officer-in-charge Detective Superintendent Rod Wilde has revealed drafting dogs into the search was “something that we may consider.”
WA Police doesn’t have any cadaver dogs in its canine ranks. “But we do have access to other Australian police jurisdictions resources, if and when required,” a police spokesman said.
NSW and Queensland Police both have Human Remains Detection Specialist dogs.
Det-Supt Wilde said his team of about 100 officers were “painstakingly” going through all the information gathered so far.
Frustratingly, they’d still not identified everyone who’d been at the Blowholes camping grounds when Cleo was suspected to have been abducted.
“We have identified and spoken to over 110 people that were there on that evening. We still believe there may be a couple more that haven’t come forward,” he told 6PR.
“Obviously, we would be keen for those persons to come forward so we can speak to them.
“Maybe they hold some information that could be critical to the investigation.” Only by speaking to everyone can they “piece together what actually happened that night.”
“We’ve spoken to everyone (in the immediate vicinity of the tent), but there’s nothing that has come out of that so far,” he added.
The senior detective acknowledged the case was unusual, given the risks an and effort an offender would have gone to approach the tent, unzip it, steal Cleo inside her sleeping bag and get away, without disturbing her sleeping parents or anyone else nearby.
“That’s what we’re trying to understand,” he said. The Taskforce chief also agreed that there was only a small window of time for someone to see Cleo before she was tucked into her sleeping bag.
He believed it was “more than likely an opportunistic type event.” “It was getting dark so there would have been limited opportunity for people to observe Cleo at that time.”
Det-Supt Wilde shared more details about family’s activities after they arrived at the site around 6pm on October 15.
“They pitched the tent, had some dinner, then the kids being young went to sleep around eight o’clock,” he said. Cleo’s mum and stepdad sat around a campfire, next to the tent, before retiring for the night.
We’re doing a lot of work forensically
They hadn’t socialised with anyone else, he said. Ellie Smith saw her four-year-old daughter for the last time at about 1.30am when Cleo had woken up and asked for a drink of water.
Det-Supt Wilde re-iterated there was “no evidence to suggest that (the parents) are suspects or had any involvement in Cleo’s disappearance.”
Video footage off one of the parent’s phones had confirmed Cleo’s presence at the campsite that evening, he added.
Detectives were casting the net “far and wide” for possible suspects”
“We’re doing a lot of work forensically … The team’s really busy,” he said. “There’s a lot of work in front of us, but we’re making progress.”
He thanked the public for 1000-plus calls with information. Crucially, he still needed the public’s help to identify the occupants of a car that was sighted turning south off Blowholes Road onto the Northwest Coastal Highway towards Carnarvon between 3am and 3.30am on October 16.
“It is of interest to us,” he said. “If anyone knows the person or people that were in that vehicle, if they could phone that information through to Crimestoppers that would be of great assistance. It may be that they were just innocently on that road. We just need to speak to them to establish exactly what they were doing there at that time.”
The car was observed at the turn-off by the occupants of another vehicle that was heading north on the highway. They were unable to discern the make or colour of the mystery car.