A man who admitted abducting a four-year-old girl from a remote campsite in Western Australia and holding her for 18 days during a massive police search has been sentenced to 13 years and 6 months in prison.
Terence Kelly, 37, pleaded guilty to abducting Cleo Smith from the tent she was sharing with her family in the early hours of October 16, 2021, and was sentenced Wednesday in Perth’s District Court.
Cleo’s disappearance triggered a police hunt that covered several square kilometers around the site and was later extended nationwide, as the state government offered a reward of one million Australian dollars ($676,000) for information leading to her location.
For more than two weeks, police amassed evidence, including interviews, security video footage, phone data and calls from hundreds of people offering information as her distraught parents made desperate appeals for help to find her.
Eventually the information pointed to a single-story house in the coastal town of Carnarvon, about 73 kilometers (45 miles) south of the campsite where she went missing.
Four officers entered the house, not far from the family’s own home, just after midnight on November 3, 2021, where they found Cleo alone in a bedroom.
“To see her sitting there in the way that she was, was incredible,” Detective Senior Sergeant Cameron Blaine told reporters the day she was found.
“I just wanted to be absolutely sure it was her, so I said, ‘What’s your name?’” he said.
She said: “My name is Cleo,” according to police, who filmed the moment on bodycam.
Kelly wasn’t at the home when Cleo was found – he was arrested in the town when police stopped his car, according to CNN affiliate 9 News.