Man pleads guilty to kidnapping four-year-old Cleo Smith

Man pleads guilty to kidnapping four-year-old Cleo Smith

An Australian man has pleaded guilty to the kidnapping of four-year-old Cleo Smith and holding her captive for 18 days at his home.

While on a camping trip in October last year whith her family little Cleo was taken from their tent, sparking a widespread search.

Police later found her at a strangers house in her home town Carnavron, only a short drive from the campsite.

Terence Darrell Kelly, 36, admitted a charge of child stealing to a magistrate this morning (24 January).

He was remanded in custody to face the Perth District Court in March, and is expected to be sentenced at a later date.

Australian media reported that Mr Kelly’s guilty plea had come as a surprise ahead of what many expected to be a lengthy legal process.

He has been held in a Perth jail since 5 November, two days after police smashed their way into his locked house where they Cleo inside.

Vision of the rescue released at the time showed the young girl identifying herself to officers and smiling.

In an audio clip released by police, Cleo could be heard stating “My name’s Cleo” before officers cheerfully replied “Hello Cleo!”

Her family later released a statement saying they were “so thankful that our little girl is back within our arms”.

A police task force of more than 100 officers investigated her disappearance.

The police task force ultimately found information about a car that led them to Mr Kelly’s house, Commissioner Chris Dawson said in November.

Local media reported the breakthrough came when police traced a mobile phone number to a phone tower near the campsite around the time of Cleo’s abduction.

Mr Kelly is yet to enter a plea on a separate charge of assaulting a public officer.

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Ellie joined Gi Media in July 2021.