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The eerie conditions on night Cleo vanished

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Howling winds, rocky terrain and a soundtrack of thundering swell — these are the eerie conditions missing four-year-old Cleo Smith would have faced at the time she vanished from her family’s tent in the middle of the night.

In the early hours of October 16, the girl whose face would soon be one of WA’s most recognisable is believed to have been snatched from her mum and stepfather’s side.

Normally brimming with eager tourists, the popular Blowholes campground resembled a ghost town exactly one week later, overcome by a stillness disturbed only by the wind.

Cleo was last seen at 1.30am when she woke her mother Ellie to ask for a drink of water, but when mum Ellie woke again at 6.30am the hazel-eyed youngster was gone.


The West Australian spent early Saturday morning, exactly seven days since Cleo went missing, at the camp site where she was last seen.

Camera IconMissing girl Cleo Smith, 4. Credit: Facebook / Ellie Smith
Missing girl Cleo Smith, left.
Camera IconMissing girl Cleo Smith, left. Credit: Dominiques Visuals/Dominiques Visuals
A drone shote of the Blowholes camping ground.
Camera IconA drone shote of the Blowholes camping ground. Credit: WA Police/supplied

Standing there at 1.30am it was impossible to shake an uneasy feeling. The site was almost completely deserted, aside from one car parked at a cabin on the southern side of the campground.

What would have been a fun holiday hotspot during the day resembled the set of a spine-chilling film, as the rundown shacks stood ominously in the darkness.

The rocky terrain must be navigated with careful steps at the best of times, let alone when it is so dark. We found ourselves having to watch where we were going constantly as we negotiated the loose rock and potholes on the uneven path.

Moving safely would only become more difficult if you were to venture into the bush.

It’s hard to imagine how a little girl could have managed such a feat on her own, especially if she had been lugging a sleeping bag.

The Blowholes campground near Carnarvon overnight.
Camera IconThe Blowholes campground near Carnarvon overnight. Credit: Jackson Barrett/Bunbury Herald
The Blowholes camp ground near Carnarvon as the sun began to rise this morning.
Camera IconThe Blowholes camp ground near Carnarvon as the sun began to rise this morning. Credit: Ailish Delaney/South West Times

Our night was illuminated by the occasional beam from the nearby lighthouse and an almost full moon.

The Moon set at 6.42am, well after sunrise. But Cleo would not have been so lucky. At 1.30am on October 16, the Moon would have been at about 75 per cent visibility before setting at 2.38am, according to Geoscience Australia, leaving her in darkness.

For the rest of our night at the campground, all we heard were piercing winds, crashing waves and crickets chirping.

Wind gusts of up to 35km/h were recorded at Carnarvon Airport at 4am — we felt the brunt of it at the coastal campground.

Temperatures fell to 18C at 6am with an apparent temperature of 14C, but even dressed in a jumper and jeans, it was easy to feel the chill.

Little Cleo was last seen wearing only her pink onesie, which would have provided little resistance to the howling winds and cool temperature.

At sunrise at 5.45am, we were able to safely leave, but for the Smith family the question still remains, where is Cleo?

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