Australian man admits abducting four-year-old Cleo Smith from family tent

Cleo Smith was reunited with her family weeks after going missing. Credit: PA

A man has pleaded guilty to abducting a 4-year-old girl from her family’s camping tent on Australia’s west coast last year, in a case that attracted global media attention.

Police found Cleo Smith alone in a house in the small western Australian town of Carnarvon 18 days after she went missing last October.

Terence Darrell Kelly, 36, admitted to the abduction during a brief court appearance in a video link from a Perth prison.

The clip of the police who found her weeping with relief when she told them, “My name is Cleo,” when they asked her identity was seen around the world.


The moment Cleo is found by police and told she would be "taken to see her mummy and daddy"


Police have said the man arrested soon after Cleo’s rescue was a stranger to the girl and her family, but they have given little other information about why he was a suspect.

Kelly faces a potential sentence of up to 20 years in prison on a conviction of forcibly taking a child aged under 16.

He will next appear in a Western Australian state District Court in Perth on March 20.

Cleo disappeared on October 16 while camping with her family at the Blowholes campsite in Macleod, near Carnarvon.

The house where Cleo was found Credit: Sunrise

She had woken up around 1.30am that morning and asked her mum Ellie Smith for some water.

When Ms Smith woke up at around 6am, she found the flap to the tent open and Cleo and her sleeping bag missing.

The house where Cleo was found was just seven minutes drive from her home and two minutes away from a police station.The rescue of Cleo captivated Australians and attracted global media and political attention.

At the time Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison thanked police for their involvement in the extensive search for the little girl.

"I just want to say how thankful I am that Cleo is home and that she's safe," Mr Morrison said.Kelly has not entered a plea to other criminal charges he faces, including assaulting a public officer. Those charges have been adjourned to a later date.