Australian authorities are offering a reward of AU $ 1 million ($ 750,000; £ 540,000) for information on the whereabouts of a four-year-old girl they fear may have been kidnapped from a remote campsite.
Cleo Smith was last seen sleeping in her family’s tent at Quobba Blowholes coastal camp in Western Australia early Saturday morning.
Her mother said she discovered the tent open that morning and the missing girl, along with her sleeping bag.
The teams are searching for air and sea.
“Someone in our community knows what happened to Cleo,” Western Australian Police Commissioner Col Blanch said at a news conference Thursday.
“Someone has the knowledge that can help – and now there are a million reasons you need to step forward,” he said.
Colonel Blanch said the police were “chasing leads” based on information they had already received.
Investigators said they were concerned that Cleo might not have left the area alone because the tent’s zipper had been opened higher than she would have been able to reach.
“We hope to find Cleo alive, but we have serious fears for her safety,” said Det Supt Rod Wilde.
“Given the information we have now gleaned from the scene, the fact that the research has been going on for this period of time … which leads us to believe it was taken from the tent.”
Cleo’s mother, Ellie Smith, previously described how the last few days had been “horrendous”. “We haven’t really slept,” he said at an emotional press conference.
“Everyone asks us what we need and all we need is our baby girl at home … The worst part is we can’t do anything else. It’s out of our hands, so we feel hopeless and out of control.”
Cleo’s family traveled to the remote site, about 900 km (560 miles) north of Perth, over the weekend for a camping trip.
The Quobba Blowhole site, in Macleod, is a local attraction on the state’s Coral Coast, known for its windswept ocean landscapes, sea caves and lagoons.
Ms. Smith said she put Cleo to sleep after dinner on Friday night, seeing her again at 1:30 am when she woke up asking for water.
Cleo was sleeping on an air mattress next to her younger sister’s cot in a separate room of the family tent, Ms. Smith said.
She saw the curtain open and Cleo leave at 6:00 am when she went to give her youngest daughter a bottle, she added.
“We went hunting, hiking, making sure it wasn’t around the tent,” Ms. Smith said.
“Then we got in the car and started shooting everywhere … We realized we had to call the police because she wasn’t there.”
Police said they initially focused their search on a row of shacks near the coast, adding that bad weather had hampered their efforts.
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