Cleo Smith family friends open up on Blowholes campground search

Cleo Smith family friends open up on Blowholes campground search
Cleo Smith family friends open up on Blowholes campground search

Family friends have opened up on the first few hours of the frantic search for missing Cleo Smith and the early hopes the four-year-old was just playing hide and seek.

Close friends were among the first to join a search party just hours after Cleo had vanished from the Blowholes campground near Carnarvon, Western Australia, in the early morning of October 16. 

One friend said they launched a drone to search the surrounding inhospitable terrain while others jumped on quad bikes.

The search party was weighed down by a terrible feeling of shock at the sudden disappearance but also hope that Cleo would suddenly reappear.

'And we were still in hope that she was just kind of coming out of a hiding spot,' one friend told The West Australian.

'I mean, we've got to just hope that she shows up and that she came home in the end. I mean, you can't lose hope otherwise you start to lose yourself.' 

Close friends were among the first to join a search party just hours after news had broken that Cleo had vanished from the Blowholes campground near Carnarvon, Western Australia, in the early morning of October 16

Close friends were among the first to join a search party just hours after news had broken that Cleo had vanished from the Blowholes campground near Carnarvon, Western Australia, in the early morning of October 16

One friend said they launched a drone to search the surrounding inhospitable terrain while others jumped on quad bikes

One friend said they launched a drone to search the surrounding inhospitable terrain while others jumped on quad bikes

Cleo had been sleeping in a family tent with her mother Ellie (left), 18-month-old sister Isla and stepdad Jake Gliddon (right) when she disappeared with her sleeping bag

Cleo had been sleeping in a family tent with her mother Ellie (left), 18-month-old sister Isla and stepdad Jake Gliddon (right) when she disappeared with her sleeping bag

Cleo had been sleeping in a family tent with her mother Ellie, 18-month-old sister Isla and stepdad Jake Gliddon when she disappeared with her sleeping bag.

The family friend recalled a shaken and distraught Ellie trying to comfort Isla while the family joined the search.

Cleo's uncle was also among the search party who arrived at the campground around the same time as the family friend. 

They claimed the uncle frantically overtook them while driving on the road in order to reach the campground and begin searching as soon as possible.

'So he overtook me when we got on the bitumen,' they said.

'I don't think anyone gave a f*** if they got caught by police. There's a bigger fish to fry than giving everyone a fine that's trying to find Cleo.' 

The family friend said hope of finding the little girl was slowly beginning to fade before it was replaced by a much more sinister fear. 

Police now believe that Cleo had been abducted from the family tent she was sleeping in on the night she vanished. 

The friend claimed they had early suspicions as it was unlikely a four-year-old girl would be able to walk very far on her own through the surrounding rugged terrain.

They also hit back at trolls who have pointed the finger at the family for the sudden disappearance - even though police have ruled out the mother and stepfather as suspects.

'How many times have the police and media said that the parents aren't suspects? Countless times, but people still don't believe them,' they said. 

'Ellie and Jake would do anything for anyone. They love, as parents do, their kids.' 

Police have revealed they were on the scene less than an hour after Cleo Smith's mother woke up and found her four-year-old missing.

On Friday morning local time (2pm AEST), Detective Superintendent Rob Wilde revealed Ellie first called 000 at 6.23am - despite initial reports she searched the campground for hours before police arrived.

'Police arrived at 7.10am and by 7.26am set up a protected site,' he revealed. 

Inspector Jon Munday initially told the public police arrived 'about mid-morning' at the scene, but this was proven incorrect on Friday.

By 11am, homicide detectives had been sent to the area and police were already searching cars in and out of the campsite. 

Cleo's mother Ellie Smith (pictured) urged the public to contact police if they have any information

Cleo's mother Ellie Smith (pictured) urged the public to contact police if they have any information 

Police were unable to check inside many of the shacks immediately because most were bolted shut with padlocks

 Police were unable to check inside many of the shacks immediately because most were bolted shut with padlocks

'Those police did a really good and thorough job,' Mr Wilde said.

Police were unable to check inside many of the shacks immediately because most were bolted shut with padlocks.

Mr Wilde also explained away the lapse in time before detectives searched the family home in Carnarvon, citing the need for 'priorities' in a case as far reaching as Cleo's.

'Our priority was at Blowholes and in the tent,' he said. 'We knew from what Ellie and Jake had told us that she went missing from the campsite', so the home was not considered a priority.   

It comes after it was revealed detectives in the 100-strong taskforce had responded to 200 potential sightings of Cleo in the two weeks since she disappeared.

'Unfortunately all of those have proved unfruitful,' Mr Wilde said.

'That's been national as well, other policing jurisdictions have helped us and followed those leads through for us, so we're very grateful for that.'

They're still desperately trying to find Cleo's sleeping bag. 

While none of the leads have been accurate yet, he is still calling on the public to continue searching for Cleo and reporting any potentially useful information.

Pre-schooler Cleo Smith (pictured) is still missing after vanishing from a camping ground in remote Western Australia almost two weeks ago

Pre-schooler Cleo Smith (pictured) is still

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