WA cops look at sex pest register
BETWEEN 10 and 20 registered sex offenders are living in the area where four-year-old Cleo Smith vanished five days ago amid growing fears she was abducted from the West Australian campsite.
Deputy police commissioner Darryl Gaunt said officers had made inquiries into the registered sex offenders in the Carnarvon area but none of them were suspects.
“Part of the investigative strategies have included reaching them and making inquiries into their whereabouts and movements,” he told 6PR radio on Wednesday.
“At this point in time, we’re very comfortable with where we sit with those inquiries.”
Cleo was staying in a tent with her family at the Blowholes Campground in Macleod, near Carnarvon, when she was reported missing about 6am on Saturday.
As the frantic search entered day five, Mr Gaunt said authorities remained hopeful of finding Cleo alive.
“While time is not on our side, there have been instances in the past where even small children lost in remote areas have still been found safe and well,” he said on Wednesday. “There’s been some rain – that gives us hope that there’s water on the ground ... we keep searching.”
Mr Gaunt said police were still first and foremost treating the case as a search and rescue mission, despite growing fears Cleo may have been abducted.
“From the moment this incident was reported to us, we launched parallel activities around a search and rescue operation, as well as an investigation phase,” he said.
“To say we’re treating this as an abduction is not correct.
We’re treating it as a search and rescue mission, first and foremost, and that remains our mission.”
Mr Gaunt said police had received a lot of information from people who had been at the campground and reported hearing “certain noises” and seeing suspicious activity.
“We’ve investigated and responded to the vast majority of that. Most of them are explained,” he said.
Mr Gaunt agreed that the theory of Cleo wandering off from the tent in the middle of the night with her sleeping bag did not seem to be a likely proposition.
“No, it doesn’t and look, it’s every parent’s worst nightmare, and I think all of our hearts go out to the family,” he said. “Their hands are tied as to what they can do.
“If I can give the comfort, the amount of effort that is going into this is second to none. We’re not holding back any resources.”
Mr Gaunt said Cleo’s father was interviewed in Mandurah, where he lives, but he was never a suspect.
Mr Gaunt said there had also been a lot of communication with Cleo’s mother and stepfather.
He urged anyone with information to come forward. “We’re getting information coming in from around the world and certainly interstate,” he said.