Doll-obsessed man who kidnapped child from Australian campsite jailed for 13 years as details of abduction emerge

5 April 2023, 06:25 | Updated: 5 April 2023, 08:52

Cleo Smith was abducted from her family's tent in October 2021
Cleo Smith was abducted from her family's tent in October 2021. Picture: Getty/WA Police/Facebook
Kieran Kelly

By Kieran Kelly

A man has been jailed for more than 13 years for kidnapping a four-year-old girl from a remote campsite in Western Australia.

Terrence Kelly, 37, pleaded guilty last year after taking Cleo Smith from her family tent on the Blowholes campsite, near Carnarvon, about 960km north of Perth, in October 2012.

Cleo's disappearance sparked a huge police search across Western Australia, with the little girl eventually being found at Kelly's house 18 days later.

Kelly, whose home was just minutes away from Cleo's family home, will serve more than 11 years in prison before he is eligible for parole.

"There are no truly comparable cases to assist in determining the length of a sentence," Chief Judge Julie Wager said during Kelly's sentencing.

Cleo was abducted from a campsite in Western Australia in October 2021
Cleo was abducted from a campsite in Western Australia in October 2021. Picture: Facebook
Terrence Kelly
Terrence Kelly. Picture: Getty

Kelly locked Cleo in a bedroom in his house alone for 18 days, modifying the door and leaving her unattended to for long periods of time, the court heard.

While in the bedroom, Cleo heard on a radio that her parents were looking for, which Kelly turned up to drown out her pleas.

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Kelly told police he felt guilty locking up Cleo but said he "roughed her up a few times" when she turned "bossy" and asked him for chocolate.

He also tried to tie Cleo's hands and feet to a chair but was unable to because "she was a bit of a fighter".

Cleo's disappearance sparked a huge police search
Cleo's disappearance sparked a huge police search. Picture: Handout

"I wasn't planning to keep her forever, you know. I was getting guilty every day and it was just more weight on my shoulders," Kelly said during a police interview.

"Eighteen days without contact or explanation, and with hours totally on her own and no access to the outside world, would have been very traumatic," Judge Wager said.

"In the world of a four-year-old, one day is a very long time. In the world of a four-year-old, 18 days is a very, very long time indeed."

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