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  • Writer's pictureThe M Word Consulting


The news today that little Cleo Smith was found is truly incredible. We absolutely love the photograph of a smiling and waving Cleo Smith eating an icy pole in her hospital bed released by Western Australia police! The photo comes after the four-year-old was rescued from a Carnarvon house more than two weeks after she vanished.

Cleo has truly captured our hearts and the empathetic hearts of millions across Australia and abroad. But what can we learn from this frightening tale? Here are 5 lessons we have learned so far, with more inevitably to come as the man in custody is probed by police over this hideous crime against Cleo.


Children are kidnapped in Australia. Sometimes it is premeditated, sometimes it is opportunistic. Sometimes it is by someone known to the child, sometimes it is not. Sometimes the child survives (just like Cleo, thankfully!). Sadly, sometimes the child suffers in ways we can not bare to imagine, and may not survive. Quite simply, kidnappings and abductions are not as rare as we wish they were. Just ask Cleo’s mum, the Morcombe family or the still grieving parents of Noosa schoolgirl Sian. Don’t ever think it won’t happen to YOU.


You can never guess what an offender looks like. The neighbours of the 36-year-old man were astonished this morning when they found out a resident on their street had abducted and hidden Cleo for almost 3 weeks. Described as “quiet”, no one suspected the man could or would ever do such a thing. There is no publicly available register for known child-sex offenders or kidnappers in Australia. In fact, one could literally be living right next door to you. They are our neighbours, our teaches, our friends, our coffee makers, our sporting coaches – they are anyone. Don’t ever assume it isn’t someone around YOU.


Carnarvon is a small coastal town approximately 900 kilometres north of Perth, with a population of less than 5000 people. No one would have ever suspected a criminal capable of kidnapping, locking up and hiding a 4-year-old little girl would live there or get the worlds attention by committing such a hideous crime on a local family, right under the nose of police. The man in police custody literally hid Cleo only 2 minutes from the local police station. No town is too big or too small. No region is too rich or too poor. No suburb is safe or protected from criminals. No campsite is too frequented and no playground is too populated. YOUR home (or your tent) is not immune to crime.


You must listen to your instincts. Anything a little unusual or strange that makes you think, “well that’s weird” is your instinct warning you something isn’t right. Listen to that inner voice and never ignore your gut feelings! A local Carnarvon resident found it strange that the man who has been apprehended and questioned over Cleo’s kidnapping was purchasing nappies at Woolworths when he didn’t have an infant. That was weird. That was a sign something was not right. And indeed, something very wrong was going on. Listen to your instincts when they try to protect YOU from danger.


Anything that draws attention is good self defence. It was simply a car driving at 3:30am that was noticed by locals given most people are sleeping at that time of day. The car was noticed and police were alerted to this vital clue. Imagine if that car was veering sideways as a screaming 4 year old kicked at the drivers head. Or imagine if the horn started blowing full volume in the campgrounds at 3am as the toddler aggressively tried to get attention while the kidnapper thrust her in his vehicle. Imagine if the toddler wrapped her little hands over the drivers’ eyes while he drove and caused him to leave skid marks in the gravel. Any commotion caused is helpful and good self defence. Any commotion and as much commotion that YOU or YOUR CHILD can muster in these circumstances can literally save a life.

More detail and more lessons will undoubtedly unfold as police continue to investigate this awful crime against an innocent little girl and her family. We are just so incredibly relieved that, in this instance at least, little Cleo is safe. Because, as we always say, one child is too many 👊🏼

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