Police Looking for Kidnapped Girl Tipped Off After Suspect Bought Diapers: Reports

The mystery surrounding the circumstances behind 4-year-old Cleo Smith's disappearance in Western Australia and subsequent rescue is beginning to unravel.

Australian media is reporting that Terry Kelly, the man accused of kidnapping Smith, raised suspicions after he was seen purchasing diapers despite not having any children. The Carnarvon Police Department has not released any information as to why Kelly became a suspect, according to the Associated Press.

Police Minister Paul Papalia attributed the arrest to hard work from the police. "It wasn't a random tip or a clairvoyant or any of the sort of things that you might hear," he said in a statement. "It was just a hard police grind."

The disappearance of Smith from a campground north of Carnarvon had captured the attention of Australia. The police department attributes the community's willingness to help with the investigation as a significant reason Smith was found alive on November 3.

"We'd always hoped for that outcome, but were still not prepared for it," said Detective Senior Sergeant Cameron Blaine.

Carnarvon Police offered a reward of 1 million Australian dollars ($743,000 USD) for information that could help in the investigation. Police said it's not expected that the reward will be claimed, the AP reported.

Kelly is charged with taking a child by force along with other offenses.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Cleo Smith With Family
Police in Australia looking for kidnapped 4-year-old Cleo Smith were tipped off when the suspect bought diapers. Smith, seen above with her mother, Ellie Smith, was found on November 3. Photo by Tamati Smith/Getty Images

Cleo Smith was back to her laughing, bubbly self as she played in the backyard of her Australian west coast family home on Thursday, hours before a 36-year-old stranger was charged with abducting the 4-year-old from a camping tent more than two weeks ago.

Kelly appeared briefly in court in the town of Carnarvon where a magistrate refused to release him on bail.

Police visited Cleo's family in Carnarvon as they prepared to gather crucial eyewitness evidence involving Kelly.

"I can only see her on the outside, but from that point of view, I'm amazed that she seems to be so well-adjusted and happy, and it was really...heartwarming to see that she's still bubbly and she's laughing," Blaine said.

"I'm sure that it has had an impact, but just to see her behaving quite naturally like a 4-year-old girl should do and just enjoying being in the presence of her little sister and her family was good," Blaine added.

Blaine was part of a four-member police team that used a battering ram to smash into a locked house early Wednesday and rescue Cleo. The lights were on and she was alone playing with toys in a house less than a 10-minute drive from her own, police said.

"My name is Cleo," the smiling girl told the police officers who rescued her and asked her name as confirmation that they had found the right child.

Kelly was arrested in a nearby street at about the same time, police said.

Detective Superintendent Rod Wilde, who heads the police investigation, said specialist child interviewers had traveled to Carnarvon from the state capital Perth, 900 kilometers (560 miles) to the south.

"The main concern around that is Cleo's welfare," Wilde said of the interview.

"We have experienced people that will undertake that and it'll take as long as it takes. We'll sit down with the family and work out the appropriate time," Wilde added.

Police would not comment on whether Cleo was interviewed before Kelly was charged.

Kelly was taken from police detention to a hospital late Wednesday and again on Thursday, with what media reported were self-inflicted injuries.

Asked about reports Kelly was injured after banging his head against a cell wall, Western Australia Police Deputy Commissioner Col Blanch only replied that there were "no serious injuries."

A police statement said Kelly's "medical matter does not relate to any police involvement with him."

Wilde said Kelly had since returned to the police station and was "speaking to officers."

Wednesday was the first full night Cleo spent at home with her mother, Ellie Smith, stepdad Jake Gliddon and her baby half-sister Isla Gliddon since the family's ordeal began.

As they slept, public buildings in Perth were illuminated with blue lights to celebrate the success of the police investigation. In Carnarvon, balloons were raised on buildings, and signs were posted welcoming Cleo home.

Western Australia Premier Mark McGowan also visited the family on Thursday and commented on how "well-adjusted" the child and her parents seemed.

"She's bubbly, playing, friendly, sweet. She was eating an icy pole, she spilt it every way. She told me it was very, very sticky, which I believed, and she was just delightful," McGowan said.

McGowan said he gave her two teddy bears dressed in police uniforms, but she seemed unimpressed with his suggestion that she name them Cameron and Rod after the senior detectives leading her investigation.

Blaine, a homicide investigator, said he was uncertain whether Cleo recognized him from their first meeting when they met again on Thursday. He described his reaction to finding Cleo alive as "shock, followed by elation."

Xanthe Mallett, a criminologist at Australia's Newcastle University, said finding a victim of stranger abduction alive after more than two weeks was rare.

"Sadly, they're normally killed quickly, usually during the first three hours," Mallett said.

"I always thought that this was going to be somebody with local connections because it was somebody who knew that campsite, so the fact that she was so close to that campsite and so close to Cleo's home wasn't a surprise to me," Mallett said.

Police "engaged so well with that community and had them on board, they had the whole community's eyes on everyone, reporting anyone suspicious. I think that was really key in this investigation—just great, old-fashioned, boots-on-the-ground police work," Mallett added.

Welcome Home Cleo
Cleo Smith was found alive 18 days after being abducted from her family's camping tent. This photo shows a sign erected north of Perth, Australia, welcoming the 4-year-old home. Richard Wainwright/AAP Image via AP