bbc– A four-year-old girl missing for 18 days in a remote part of Western Australia has been found alive and well in a locked house, police have said.
Cleo Smith disappeared from her family’s tent at a campsite near the town of Carnarvon on 16 October, triggering a massive search.
A 36-year-old man is in custody and being questioned by detectives.
Police smashed their way into a home in Carnarvon in the early hours of Wednesday, following forensic clues.
“They found little Cleo in one of the rooms,” Deputy Commissioner Col Blanch from WA Police said in a statement.
“One of the officers picked her up into his arms and asked her, ‘What’s your name?’ She said ‘My name is Cleo’.”
The girl has been reunited with her parents, who had made desperate pleas for Cleo’s return.
“Our family is whole again,” her mother, Ellie Smith, wrote on Instagram.
Police footage of Cleo’s rescue showed her “smiling” and “as well as we could expect in the circumstances”, said Commissioner Chris Dawson, who added she was receiving medical care.
Authorities say the man in custody has no connection to the Smith family. No charges have been laid.
The house where Cleo was found is about six minutes’ drive from her family home in Carnarvon, which has about 5,000 residents.
Australian PM Scott Morrison tweeted it was “wonderful, relieving news”. Commissioner Dawson said: “I think Australia is rejoicing.”
“To find a little girl – a vulnerable little girl – after 18 days. You know, obviously people think the worst, but importantly hope was never lost,” the commissioner added.
What is known so far?
Cleo’s family were on the first night of their holiday at the Quobba Blowholes camping ground when she went missing between 01:30 and 06:00 on 16 October.
The remote site in Macleod is about 900km (560 miles) north of Perth, and is a local attraction on the state’s Coral Coast – known for its windswept ocean scenery, sea caves and lagoons.
Cleo had been sleeping on an air mattress next to her younger sister’s cot. When her mother, who had been sleeping in the second room of the tent, got up in the morning, Cleo was gone and the tent door was open.
Police said this raised fears of an abduction. Ms Smith was adamant Cleo could not have left the tent on her own.
A taskforce of 100 officers were sent in from the state capital, Perth, to join a massive air, land and sea search. Reconnaissance planes were used to comb sparsely populated areas.
Authorities offered a A$1m ($750,000; £540,000) reward for information on Cleo’s whereabouts.
The case drew international attention, and there were reports that bounty hunters had travelled to the region once the cash reward had been offered.
Deputy Commissioner Blanch said they scoured thousands of pieces of information looking for a “needle in a haystack”.
“Late last night they found that needle that led them to that address and rescued Cleo,” he told Network Seven.
Police said it involved information about a car, but would not elaborate.
ABC News reported a man who lived at the house had been recently spotted by a neighbour buying nappies.
“We didn’t click who… he was buying them for,” the neighbour was quoted as saying.
News that Cleo has been found sparked a sense of huge relief in the local community.
“For 18 days we’ve been filled with anxiety and concern,” Carnarvon Shire president Eddie Smith told Australia’s 2GB radio.
Deputy Commissioner Blanch told 6PR radio that it had been “incredible to see seasoned detectives openly crying with relief”.
Police said they did not expect the reward to be claimed.
Mark McGowan ‘considering’ moving after detectives charged two young men who allegedly made threats against the WA Premier and his family
skynews– Western Australia Premier Mark McGowan is “considering” relocating his family from their home in his electorate of Rockingham after he allegedly became the victim of beheading threats.
Detectives this week revealed two men, aged 20 and 18, have been charged after allegedly phoning Mr McGowan late on Saturday night and leaving “a number of threatening messages”.
The Premier confirmed to reporters he and his family had been allegedly threatened with beheading.
“In terms of my own family, obviously it’s not pleasant. It’s not very nice and I just urge the people doing it to stop,” he said.
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While the family has no immediate plans to move houses in the wake of the alleged threats, Mr McGowan said it is something “we’re considering”.
The incident comes amid increased threats of violence to state leaders over vaccination mandates.
Protesters in Melbourne displayed fake gallows to pretend to execute Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews, while Northern Territory Chief Minister was forced to order his family to flee their home after his address was shared at an anti-vaccine rally.
Mr McGowan told reporters the alleged threats would not stop his government from encouraging vaccine uptake ahead of plans to reopen to the rest of the country.
Border restrictions will be removed within the first two months of next year when the 90 per cent double-dose target is met and showing proof of vaccination at some venues will become a requirement.
“It’s not going to change our approach, we are going to continue to work together to get West Australians vaccinated,” Mr McGowan said of the alleged threats.
“We’re going to continue with the rules we’ve put in place cause that is what is needed.
“These sorts of threats, intimidation, violence, extremism is dangerous, it’s unhelpful and it’s not going to change anything the government does.”
WA Police confirmed in a statement on Tuesday that detectives from the State Security Investigation Group have charged two men over the alleged incident on Saturday night.
“It is alleged about 10.50pm, the two men phoned the Premier and left a number of threatening messages,” the statement read.
A 20-year-old man from Canning Vale and an 18-year-old man from Harrisdale have both been charged with one count each of Acts Creating False Apprehension as to the Existence of Threats or Danger.
They have been granted bail and are now subject to strict protective bail conditions.
Both men are due to appear in Armadale Magistrates Court on Friday December 17.
Last week Mr McGowan confirmed he shut his electorate office in Rockingham, south of Perth, after repeated threats of violence against himself and a number of staff members.
“There’s been death threats, there’s been threats to rape my staff, there’s been people threatening to bomb my office,” he told reporters last Wednesday
Perrottet Government moves to extend COVID-19 emergency powers until 2023
skynews– The Perrottet Government will extend the use of COVID-19 emergency powers until March 2023 after the New South Wales Health Minister pushed the proposal through Cabinet on Monday.
Cabinet approved Brad Hazzard’s proposal on Monday night which has led to backlash from some Coalition MPs, according to The Australian.
Mr Hazzard’s proposal to extend the powers comes off the back of a recommendation from Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant.
Under the state of emergency powers, the Health Minister has jurisdiction to declare Public Health Orders including restriction of movement, mask mandates, curfews and lockdowns.
The Australian has reported the Health Minister took the proposal to a party room meeting on Tuesday where multiple MPs challenged the necessity for the powers to be extended until March 2023.
It comes as NSW has surpassed the 90 per cent double dose vaccination rate, with greater freedoms being returned to fully jabbed citizens after the state hit 70 per cent and again at 80 per cent.
Greater Sydney endured more than three months of harsh lockdowns while the state boosted its vaccination rate, with the Berejiklian and Perrottet Governments linking COVID-19 jabs with greater freedoms.
The debate within Government ranks comes amid outrage in Victoria over the Andrews Government updating and changing its own emergency pandemic powers.
The Victorian Opposition Leader has argued that Victoria – which joined NSW in easing restrictions in late October – should be focussed on recovery, and the passing of the pandemic powers threatened certainty in the state.
It is understood the NSW Health Minister will address concerns with particular MPs on Tuesday in an emergency meeting.
Premier Dominic Perrottet responded to SkyNews.com.au’s request for comment and said: “Only the health provisions that need to be extended will be extended. I will be carefully considering this matter over the summer break”.
SkyNews.com.au has contacted Mr Hazzard’s office for comment.
Mostafa Baluch: Australian fugitive arrested after massive manhunt
bbc– A fugitive dubbed “Australia’s most wanted man” has been arrested during an elaborate attempt to cross a state border, police say.
Mostafa Baluch, 33, sparked a 17-day nationwide manhunt after allegedly cutting off an ankle bracelet which had tracked his whereabouts in Sydney.
Authorities said they pulled over a lorry after receiving a tipoff.
Mr Baluch – a suspected drug smuggler – was found in a car inside a shipping container on the lorry, police said.
Police noticed the container was not locked, and when they knocked on it, they heard someone knocking back.
“He was quite shocked – he thought he was cleverer than this,” said Detective Supt Rob Critchlow of New South Wales Police.
Officers allege Mr Baluch was trying to cross from New South Wales into Queensland when the arrest took place in the town of Tweed Heads about 01.00 local time on Wednesday (14.00 GMT Tuesday).
“Today will be considered one of the great days of NSW Police,” state Police Minister David Elliott said.
At the time he went missing, Mr Baluch was on bail on charges of attempting to import 900kg of cocaine from Ecuador.
Mr Elliott has since questioned the decision to give Mr Baluch bail. Police said an “extraordinary” amount of money had been spent on the manhunt.
Mr Baluch has been accused of having a senior position in a criminal network, and police said he posed a threat to the public while at large.
He will face a court hearing later on Wednesday.
Police said the man who was driving the lorry would face charges for allegedly assisting a fugitive.
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