A whip-smart four-year-old who vanished from a tent in the early hours of Saturday morning “would not have wandered off,” according to family friends.
Cleo Smith was last seen at about 1.30am on Saturday in the tent her family was sharing at the Blowholes camp site in Macleod, about 70km north of Carnarvon.
Cleo’s mum Ellie Smith and partner Jake Gliddon had put her to bed on Friday night before “interacting” with her again at 1.30am.
But when they woke about 6.30am, she was gone.
A large-scale land, air and sea search has since failed to find any trace of Cleo, who has made repeat visits to the Blowholes — 960km north of Perth — with her mum since she was a baby.
Police now hold “grave fears” for her safety amid growing concerns she has been abducted and all officers around the State are on alert to find the missing toddler.
Homicide detectives and forensics experts from Perth were “going a million miles an hour” to find the child or identify her possible kidnapper.
On Monday afternoon police released an image of her red and black Wanderer sleeping bag and confirmed they were combing a number of “shacks” along the coastline at the camp site.
Police have also been examining CCTV and dashcam footage in a bid to determine which cars had been in the region before and after Cleo disappeared.
Even a tourism helicopter business joined the frantic search.
Speaking from the scene, WA Police Insp. Jon Munday said he could not comment on whether the tent was zipped up when it was discovered Cleo was missing, or if any tracks had been found around the camp site.
“I can’t comment on specifics of what we have uncovered and what we haven’t uncovered but we have got the best people we can on this and we are going to leave no stone unturned until we have some answers,” he said.
Insp. Munday also refused to confirm or deny reports some campers heard the sound of a car skidding as it took off from the area about 3am on Saturday or whether police suspected Cleo had been abducted.
“We are not ruling that out. We are not going to get blinkered or sort of assume that something has happened,” he said.
“At this point in time, unfortunately, everything is still on the table.”
He added that all police stations were aware of the investigation and looking for things “that would trigger some suspicion”.
7NEWS reported Cleo’s biological father Daniel Staines was interviewed by police on Monday.
The Mandurah man spent almost three hours at the Mandurah Police Station, accompanied by his parents.
It’s understood he willingly provided a statement to police and The West Australian is not suggesting he was involved in Cleo’s disappearance.
Cleo’s mum moved to Carnarvon in January 2019 before meeting her current partner.
The mum of two is a local eyelash and eyebrow technician with a soap and candle-making side business.
She and her partner, Mr Gliddon, bought a house for their growing family in April.
Cleo’s stepdad is a keen fisherman who regularly shares his impressive catches on social media.
The shocked Carnarvon community has rallied around the young family, who have remained at the camp site in the hope their little girl returns.
The family tent has now been removed but the area remains cordoned off.
“She is an intellectually advanced little girl,” said a family friend.
“She is a smart little girl and she would not have wandered.”
Rain is expected on Tuesday, which could hinder aspects of the search, but Insp. Munday said authorities had made plans to keep searching for at least another 48 hours.
“We will not leave here until we are satisfied, we have searched the area and we can walk away with our hand on our heart and say we have done the best to find Cleo,” he said.
Insp. Munday added that the search grew more urgent with “every hour” Cleo was missing.
“With a four-year-old out in this environment … there is limited water supply, it is warm, there is very limited shelter so it is very, very concerning,” he said.
Professional family photos captured the weekend before Cleo vanished show the pre-schooler doting over her baby sister Isla who was born in March.
“She’s the sweetest little girl,” a family friend said.
“She’s a beautiful little girl and she deserves to come home.”
Anyone with information should call police on 131 444.