WA Police have revealed a “very recent development” in the search for missing four-year-old Cleo Smith.
Detective Superintendent Rod Wilde of the Major Crime Division on Sunday said a car was spotted turning south of Blowholes Rd, towards Carnarvon, just after 3am on the same morning the little girl went missing from her family tent at the Blowholes Campgrounds.
See forensic officers at Cleo’s family home in the video player above
Two people who were travelling together along the North West Coastal Highway for work spotted the car turning right off Blowholes Rd between 3am and 3.30am.
Cleo was last seen by her parents about 1.30am on Saturday.
Her mother Ellie Smith said she woke around 6am to discover the little girl was missing from the family’s tent.
“We want the person or persons who were in that vehicle to come forward and contact police,” Supt Wilde told reporters at a press conference on Sunday afternoon.
“We want to know who they were and what they were doing.
“The time is not exact but we believe it to have been between 3am and 3.30am.
“We believe it was a passenger vehicle, not a truck.”
Supt Wilde said the new witnesses, who he described as “credible sources”, couldn’t provide police with a detailed description of the vehicle or how many people were inside.
“Obviously at that time when the people observed it, it wasn’t anything of great significance,” he added.
“They just came forward after hearing about Cleo and the news and realised the significance.
“Fortunately, they’ve come forward and passed that on to us so we are keen to speak to the person who was driving and anyone who was in that vehicle to speak to us.”
Police also said Cleo’s voice was heard on CCTV that was triggered by a motion censor, confirming she was at the Blowholes Campground before her disappearance.
After spending Saturday combing exterior of the the Smith’s family home in Carnarvon for fingerprints, police found no evidence the family was being stalked.
They believe that “if Cleo was taken”, it was a “chance event”.
‘Someone knows something’
Earlier on Sunday, WA Police Commissioner Chris Dawson urged the public to contact police with any information potentially related to Cleo’s disappearance.
“If you know or you suspect someone you think their behaviour has changed since that weekend, then bring that information forward,” he said at a press conference, alongside premier Mark McGowan.
“That’s the sort of information that might crack open this case.
“We do believe that someone knows something.”
Commissioner Dawson said police would “painstakingly go through every vehicle movement” and every piece of forensic evidence.
“This is a large scale investigation, but it is in a remote locality,” Dawson said.
“So in one sense, we’ve got an opportunity here to put a very large footprint around whoever was in the area at the time, it’s that sort of level of investigation and effort that we are capturing now.”
“Cleo just can’t simply disappear from that tent without a third party, another person or persons knowing.
“We will painstakingly go through every vehicle movement, every bit of technology that we get, every forensic exhibit that we collect, and of course eyewitness accounts.”
Forensic officers spent Saturday scouring the Smith family’s Carnarvon home for any potential clues that could lead to a breakthrough in the case of the missing four-year-old.
Officers spent six hours at the home, dusting for fingerprints and evidence, investigating the possibility she was being stalked in the days and weeks before her disappearance.
WA Police insists Cleo’s parents are not their target.
It says the forensics team was sent to the home to firm up the growing suspicion the four-year-old was taken and amid fears the abduction was premeditated and planned, maybe meticulously.
“We’ve ruled out the fact that Cleo could have left of her own accord,” criminologist Xanthe Mallett told 7NEWS.
“So really we’re left with the only conclusion that an adult has actually taken her from that tent.
“At the moment the police will be trying to narrow down who that adult may be.”
Detectives believe she was taken from her family’s tent at the popular Blowholes site, on WA’s northwest coast, in the early hours of last Saturday morning.
Surveillance footage from motels and children’s clothing stores is being sought by detectives and police have also launched a fresh appeal for any dashcam or CCTV footage recorded last weekend within a 1000km radius of the Blowholes campsite but only as far south as Lancelin.
Detectives are “particularly interested” in motel check-in and communal areas, service stations, fast food outlets and bakeries, truck stops and free camping areas, children’s clothing stores, pharmacies and cosmetic stores, and camping stores.
Community service announcements appealing for information regarding Cleo’s disappearance are also being broadcast on radio stations.
West Australian authorities have offered a $1 million reward for information leading to Cleo’s location.
“We all feel for her and her family. We just want to make sure we find her as soon as we can,” McGowan said on Sunday.
“There’s a million-dollar reward. If you know anything about it, please provide that advice to the police immediately.”
It has been confirmed the zipper on the tent was found open to a height Cleo could not have reached, seemingly ruling out the possibility she wandered off on her own.
Her red and black sleeping bag is also missing.
Investigators have spoken to up to 20 registered sex offenders in the Carnarvon area, but there are currently no suspects.
“Given the information now that we’ve gleaned from the scene, the fact that the search has gone on for this period of time and we haven’t been able to locate her … it leads us to believe that she was taken from the tent,” Supt Wilde said earlier this week.
Supt Wilde said authorities were keeping an open mind in relation to whether Cleo may have been taken by someone known to her.
Police have not ruled out the possibility Cleo may have been taken across state borders.
– with AAP
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