SYDNEY — Charges have been brought against the alleged kidnapper of Cleo Smith, a 4-year-old girl who went missing from a campsite in Western Australia two weeks ago and was reunited with her parents on Wednesday, Nov. 3.
The 36-year-old suspect is accused of having brought a child under 16 into his power, which is commonly referred to as "child theft," Australian broadcaster ABC reported on Thursday, citing the judiciary.
The man hardly showed any emotion as the indictment was read. When asked whether he understood the allegations, he merely nodded. The suspect did not apply for release on bail.
The man was flown 600 miles to a maximum-security prison in Perth on Friday, Nov. 5, the state's Justice Department said.
According to numerous media reports, he is said to have an obsession with dolls. Cleo was reported to have been busy with toys when officials freed her from a locked house in the town of Carnarvon in Western Australia on Wednesday.
Homicide detective Cameron Blaine, who was among Cleo’s rescuers, was cited by 7News as saying that he was "amazed that she seems to be so well-adjusted and happy."
The girl vanished from a tent at the Blowholes campsite after the family arrived on October 16. She was last seen by her mother around 1:30 am that night.
"What a great day, we now have returned Cleo to her loving parents," Western Australia Police Commissioner Chris Dawson told reporters.
"It is a really special day for Western Australia – indeed, I know the nation is rejoicing over the fact that we've been able to conduct this operation, and we never gave up hope."
Showing a photo of Cleo waving and smiling from what looks like a hospital bed, Dawson said: "as you can see she's alive, she's safe, she's back with mom and dad."
The girl was found in a locked house in the town of Carnarvon, some 900 kilometers north of Perth and about 75 kilometers south of where she went missing, police said.
Dawson said that at about 1 a.m. Wednesday four police officers broke down a door of the house and found her in a room.
"I just wanted to be absolutely sure that, it certainly looks like Cleo, I wanted to be sure it was her," Detective Senior Sergeant Cameron Blaine, one of the four officers who found the girl, told journalists, saying he asked the girl her name three times.
"I asked a third time and then she looked at me and she said 'my name is Cleo,' and that was it," Blaine recalled, adding that her parents were called shortly after that.
Dawson confirmed that police have taken a 36-year-old suspect into custody, saying he was "assisting police with our inquiries at the moment." He described the suspect as a local man from Carnarvon.
It appeared as if the events had not been planned but rather "opportunistic," Detective Superintendant Rob Wilde said.
Western Australia's state government had offered a 1-million-Australian-dollar ($740,000 U.S.) reward for information relevant to finding the girl.
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