Cleo Smith: Terence Kelly jailed for 13 years for abducting four-year-old girl

A man has been jailed for 13 years and six months for abducting a four-year-old girl from a remote Western Australia (WA) campsite.

Terence Kelly, 37, pleaded guilty last year to taking Cleo Smith from her family’s tent in October 2021.

After a huge police search, Cleo was found alive 18 days later at Kelly’s house, minutes from her own home.

Kelly was arrested and later admitted child stealing in a case which attracted global attention.

Handing down the sentence at Perth District Court, Chief Judge Julie Wager said the crime displayed “the highest level of seriousness”.

Kelly will serve more than 11 years before being eligible for parole.

The court heard how Kelly kept Cleo at his house for the entire 18 days, in a bedroom with a door modified to be lockable from the outside.

He turned up the radio to drown out the noise of Cleo pleading for her mother, the court was told.

In an impact statement, Cleo’s parents said their lives had been “ripped apart” by the “permanent” trauma of what Kelly had done. They hope their little girl can “lead the best life” in the future, they added.

Cleo taken ‘in relative silence’
The young girl had been staying with her family in a tent at a campsite about an hour’s drive north of her home town, Carnarvon, 900 kilometres (559 miles) north of Perth.

She was last seen by her mother when she woke in the middle of the night and asked for a glass of water. The next morning, her mother discovered Cleo and her sleeping bag missing, and the tent door open.

Kelly took Cleo from the tent between 02.40 and 04.40 “in relative silence”, WA’s Director of Public Prosecutions Robert Owen told the court.

More than 100 police officers were involved in the investigation.

The breakthrough reportedly came when a mobile phone number was traced to a phone tower near the campsite around the time of Cleo’s abduction.

This led officers to Kelly’s locked house in Carnarvon, where she was found inside alone at 01.00 local time.

Video of the rescue showed the young girl identifying herself to officers and smiling.

Kelly told police he felt guilty for taking Cleo, and had not been planning to keep her, the sentencing hearing was told.

The offender was exposed to severe trauma as a child which had caused him to suffer a neurological impairment, the court heard.

He created a “fantasy world” to protect himself from reality, and was also a methamphetamine user.


SOurce: BBC


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