A 36-year-old man obsessed with dolls was charged Thursday in the abduction of 4-year-old Cleo Smith, who was found “alive and well” after going missing for 18 days in Western Australia.
Terry Kelly appeared briefly in court in the town of Carnarvon, where he was charged with various offenses, including one count of forcibly taking a child under 16, police said in a statement.
Cleo was discovered in a house in Carnarvon early Wednesday morning, after police forced their way in and found her alone in a room playing with toys less than a 10-minute drive from her home.
She had gone missing from a campsite on Oct. 16.
“One of the officers picked her up into his arms and asked her, ‘What’s your name?’” Western Australia Police Deputy Commissioner Col Blanch told reporters. “She said, ‘My name is Cleo.’”
Police didn’t say whether the girl was injured.
The charges against Kelly had been delayed after he was taken to a hospital twice for self-inflicted injuries, officials said.
Asked about reports Kelly had banged his head against a cell wall, Blanch only replied that there were “no serious injuries.”
A police statement said the suspect’s “medical matter does not relate to any police involvement with him.”
Meanwhile, the Daily Mail reported that Kelly is apparently a fan of Bratz dolls, citing bizarre Facebook profiles linked to him.
In one account, the suspect reportedly used the moniker “Bratz DeLuca” to detail his obsession with the dolls – and included images of girls’ toys in his home and pictures of himself driving around with them.
“I love my dolls,” he wrote in one post, the news outlet reported.
“I love taking my dolls for drive arounds and doing their hair and taking selfies in public,” he reportedly wrote in another.
Cleo’s disappearance from the nearby Blowholes campsite on Oct. 16 led to a task force of more than 100 officers scouring the area for signs of her.
Her mother last saw Cleo early that morning when she woke up asking for water. Five hours later, she and her sleeping bag had vanished from the family’s tent.
“As we passed the divider, I went into the other room and the zipper was open,” her mother, Ellie Smith, told reporters. “I turned around to [my partner] Jake and just said, ‘Cleo’s gone.’”
Detective Superintendent Rod Wilde, the lead investigator, said police allege that Kelly “acted solely alone” in abducting the little girl, Agence France-Presse reported.
Many had feared the search for Cleo would end in tragedy, but her discovery sparked nationwide elation, with police admitting “seasoned detectives” were “openly crying with relief.”
“This is the outcome we all hoped and prayed for,” Blanch reportedly said, citing “some incredible police work.”
Cleo appeared to be back to her joyful self on Thursday as she was photographed playing in her backyard.
“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,” Detective Senior Sgt. Cameron Blaine said.
Wilde said specialist child interviewers had traveled to Carnarvon from the state capital Perth, about 560 miles to the south.
Police would not comment on whether Cleo was questioned before Kelly was charged.
Local media have reported Kelly raised suspicion among residents when he was seen buying diapers though he was known to have no children, but authorities have released little information about why he was deemed to be a suspect.
“It wasn’t a random tip or a clairvoyant or any of the sort of things that you might hear,” Police Minister Paul Papalia said. ”It was just a hard police grind.”
With Post wires