Harrowing story of ‘Australian Madeleine McCann’ found safe 18 days after kidnap

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    Stolen from her family tent in the dead of night and transported to a safe house by a doll-obsessed madman, the tale of four-year-old Cleo Smith is one of the strangest true crime stories in living memory.

    On October 16 2021, Cleo was abducted from her camping trip in Western Australia by nutter Terrence Darrell Kelly, who absconded with her still in her sleeping bags while her oblivious parents slept.

    When they awoke to find their daughter missing, one of the largest man hunt's in Ozzie history began earning the child the nickname of the 'Australian Madeleine McCann'.

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    However, unlike Madeleine's tragic case – Cleo would eventually be found 18 days later on November 3 living in relative peace in a creepy shack just minutes from her parent's home.

    On the night of November 3, depraved child thief Terrence Darrell Kelly had stalked the family and bided his time to make his move.

    According to Cleo's mother Ellie, the child remembered exactly what the predator had said to her to make her leave the tent.

    She told 60 minutes: "She tells us that she was taken because her baby sister was sick.

    “And so she needed to be taken away from us to that we could help her baby sister. She just knows a reason as to what he’s told her.”

    While Cleo's distraught family searched desperately for her, Cleo lived out the best part of three weeks under the sordid care of Kelly, who treated her like one of his prized Bratz dolls.

    Prior to his crime, Kelly had been very proud of his prized collection of children's toys and even made creepy Facebook profiles for them.

    Shockingly, Kelly appeared to plan the abduction and forensic officers found dolls and boxes of pens, crayons, crafts and children's clothes when they searched the house.

    However, after 18 days the net closed in on him after neighbors had their suspicions aroused by his behavior and sounds of crying.

    A man, who neighbors knew did not have a child, was seen buying nappies and they heard a child crying at his address.

    One neighbour told Sunrise in Australia after the incident: "The other day – on Monday – we saw him in Woolworths buying Kimbies [nappies] and that. But we didn't click on what he was buying them for."

    Sahntayah McKenzie who also lives nearby said she heard crying one night, but didn't link it to the then-missing girl.

    She told The West Australian: "Not last night, the night before it… I heard a little girl crying but I wouldn't expect it to be Cleo.

    "I didn't expect it would happen in this little neighborhood, a lot of people know each other."

    Police eventually carried out a raid and found the tot who told police "My name is Cleo."

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    She was swiftly reunited with mum Ellie Smith and her stepfather Jake Gliddon and returned home where for months she suffered night terrors and overhanging PTSD from her traumatic experience.

    Meanwhile, Terrence Darrell Kelly was arrested and pleaded guilty to forcibly taking a child under 16.

    He faces a maximum term of 20 years in prison.


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    • Madeleine Mccann
    • Family
    • Crime

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