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‘Guilty’: Cleo kidnapper admits crime in stunning twist

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Terence Kelly has admitted he was the man who snatched little Cleo Smith from her isolated tent and then held her captive for 18 days.

In a stunning development before magistrate Ben White in Carnarvon on Monday morning, Kelly’s lawyer revealed that the 36-year-old was ready to plea to the single charge of child stealing levelled against him.

And when that charge was put to him, the doll-obsessed loner uttered just one word: “Guilty”

Other charges faced by Kelly have been adjourned.


The admission brought a rapid conclusion to what had been expected to be a prolonged legal process for Kelly, who has been in custody since his dramatic arrest on November 3 — an arrest happening while other detectives rescued the four-year-old from Kelly’s Carnarvon home.

That rescue — accompanied by heart-wrenching body-worn footage of the moment the little girl confirmed her own name — has already become one of the finest moments in WA policing history.

And as well as accepting the accolades, the time since that rescue has seen a team of detectives painstakingly compiling the legal case against Kelly — with a more comprehensive statement of alleged facts provided to him just before Christmas.

His lawyer Kate Turtley-Chappel would have considered those, and talked to Kelly about them, before he entered his plea on Monday.

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She said it was important that Kelly plead guilty to the kidnapping charge as soon as possible.

However the wider public will have to wait a little longer for them to be made public, with just the bare charge against Kelly read to him via video link.

That charge was that on October 16 in Carnarvon, Terence Darrell Kelly forcibly took Cleo Grace Smith from her parents.

Kelly’s case will now be transferred to the District Court, in Perth, where a sentence mention hearing will be held – to determine when Kelly will actually learn his fate.

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