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24th Jan 2022

Man pleads guilty to abducting 4-year-old Cleo Smith

Katy Brennan

He had been charged back in October.

A man has pleaded guilty to abducting four-year-old Cleo Smith and keeping her at his home.

Cleo was taken from her family’s tent in Australia in October, resulting in a a major search operation. She was found 18 days later at a stranger’s house in Carnarvon.

Terrence Darrell Kelly was charged in connection with the abduction. Now, the 36-year-old has pleaded guilty to the kidnapping.

When the single charge was levelled at him, Mr Kelly simply replied: “Guilty.”

He was remanded in custody and will face the Perth District Court in March. His sentencing is expected to be revealed at a later date.

Police believe that he acted alone and did not have any connection to the family.

Mr Kelly was arrested on a nearby street had been held in a Perth jail since 5 November – just two days after police forced their way into his locked house to rescue Cleo inside.

The case made headlines worldwide when Cleo first went missing from a tent on a campsite that she and her family had been staying at on 16 October.

She was sleeping on an air mattress next to her younger sister’s cot. Her mother, who was sleeping in the other room of the tent, woke up the next morning to find that Cleo was gone and the tent door had been left open.

Due to the nature of Cleo’s disappearance, police  immediately suspected an abduction had occurred.

After 18 days of intense and rigorous search efforts, the girl was returned to her family alive and well – an outcome almost no one thought would happen.

Police revealed that a “really important” piece of information about a car, as well as several forensic clues, had pointed them in the correct direction and were crucial in finding the missing child.

Mr. Kelly’s shocking guilty plea means he will now avoid a lengthy trial.