Cleo Smith’s mum has told that a kidnapper invented a sick story to convince her four-year-old daughter to leave the family tent, saying that her baby sister was unwell.
The disappearance of the toddler from a campsite in Western Australia caught the imagination of the world as a desperate search began on October 16, before she was found 18 days later.
Finally she was traced to the home of Terrence Darrell Kelly, 36 who has pleaded guilty to taking her from the Blowholes campsite.
Several months have now passed since Cleo was reunited with her family but her mum Ellie Smith fears that she will never get over what happened.
She said that the four-year-old would wake up shouting and screaming in the night initially.
And now she is scared of being behind locked doors while she insists on sleeping with the lights on.
Ellie said how Cleo remembers how she was lured away.
“She tells us that she was taken because her baby sister was sick,” she told 60 Minutes.
“And so she needed to be taken away from us to that we could help her baby sister. She just knows a reason as to what he’s told her.”
Cleo’s mum told of the joy when she finally heard the news that she was safe, after receiving a call at 1am from police.
She said: “I was asleep when the phone call came through and I was like ‘this is either good or bad’. I’ve answered it and straight away (the police officer stated) ‘I’ve got someone who wants to say hello to you’ and I was swearing, I was like ‘oh my God, no way’.
“Cleo got on to the phone and she’s like ‘hi mummy’ and I was like ‘hi baby’.”
Back home Cleo quickly got back to playing with her baby sister Isla but Ellie feels that her child has been changed by what happened.
She said how she is “different and always will be and that’s just our life now.”
The toddler is blocking out what took place with her emotions up and down and Ellie feels that she went into “survivor mode”.
Kelly, 36, was arrested on the same day Cleo was found and he pleaded guilty to forcibly taking a child aged under 16 at Carnarvon Magistrates Court.
Appearing via video link from the high-security prison Casuarina Prison in Perth, he admitted his guilt and was referred to the WA District Court for a sentence mention in March.