Australian missing girl Cleo Smith was found alive in a locked house just seven minutes from her family’s home.
Police found the five-year-old girl, who disappeared on Oct. 16 from her tent on a family camping trip at 12:46 a.m. Wednesday, 18 days after she disappeared. Authorities said they had broken into a public property after a “needle in a haystack” clue.
When officers scooped her up into their arms and asked what her name was, she reportedly told them: “My name is Cleo.”
Investigators feared that she could have been taken somewhere in Western Australia. However, she was all along in a rundown house on Tonkin Crescent in Brockman, located in the northern suburbs of Carnarvon, just seven minutes (3 km) by car from South Carnarvon, where she lived with her family.
Neighbors saw the home’s resident, a 36-year-old man, buying Kimby diapers at Woolworths, a supermarket in the city’s main shopping center.
A witness told Seven News: “The other day, I think it was Monday, we saw him in Woolworths buying nappies, but we didn’t click on who it was or what he was buying them for. Until now.”
Officers reportedly received a sudden tip on Cleo’s location Tuesday night and confirmed the information with phone data and “a lot of forensic leads.”
According to police reports, the Western Australian police broke into the house shortly after midnight and found the girl in a room. Cleo was smiling when rescued, said officers, who took her to the hospital for a medical check-up.
The man has been arrested and questioned by detectives. He has no connection to Cleo or her relatives, Police Commissioner Chris Dawson said.
Locals described the suspect as “quiet,” adding that they would not expect him to be involved in Cleo’s disappearance. A neighbor identified as Sahntayah McKenzie said she had heard a girl crying one night but would not expect it to be her, West Australian reported.
Police stated that phone data had been critical in solving the case and said officers had acted “in a heartbeat” to find Cleo after gathering key information.
Local media reported that officers carried a crowbar and battering ram off the property after finding the girl. After that, a police plane landed in the city to pick up the man in custody.