The police officers who found little Cleo Smith will have their heroic efforts recognised at an official function presided by the Queen’s representative in Western Australia — and Premier Mark McGowan says they should also get the nation’s highest honour.
Mr McGowan told reporters on Sunday the reception for the 140 member Taskforce Rodia team would be held at Government House or parliament, led by Governor Kim Beazley.
“It will be great to acknowledge all of those police officers and other staff who are involved,” the Labor leader said.
The awarding of police medals would be decided by Police Commissioner Chris Dawson, Mr McGowan said.
“But I expect there will be some nominations out of all this because it was an extraordinary piece of police work,” he said.
“All of us were amazed — it was such a dim, dark scenario that we were facing and the family was facing, and then they burst into that house and there she was.
“That was a wonderful outcome.”
A journalist suggested the team should get the Australians of the Year award and Mr McGowan agreed.
“It’s a good idea … that’s a great idea,” he said.
“I don’t know if they’ve ever made a mass award of that, but it would be a wonderful acknowledgment of a group of great people who threw their all at it, not just the police officers, but also the analysts behind the scenes who examined all the mobile phone and technological information did a wonderful job.”
Cleo’s disappearance sparked a massive land, air and sea search, and hit headlines around the world.
The four-year-old was allegedly taken from the family tent while camping at Quobba Blowholes, 75 km north of Carnarvon, on October 16 and was missing for 18 days.
She was rescued from a locked house in Carnarvon – not far from her family home – just before 1am on Wednesday after detectives forced their way in.
Terence Darrell Kelly, 36, had been arrested about an hour before Cleo was found and has since been charged with two offences including one count of forcibly taking a child aged under 16.
During his court appearance on Thursday, Mr Kelly verbally lashed out at the media.
He was remanded in custody to face court again on December 6 and is being detained at the maximum-security Casuarina Prison in Perth’s south.
Cleo’s mother Ellie Smith and stepfather Jake Gliddon issued a statement through WA Police on Friday, thanking her rescuers and everyone who provided support.
“We are so thankful that our little girl is back within our arms and our family is whole again. As we try to get on with our lives, we ask that you respect our privacy,” they wrote.