A four-year-old Australian girl whose disappearance horrified and riveted the nation was found in a locked house in her hometown on Wednesday, police said.
“My name is Cleo,” the child said after police broke into the house in Carnarvon, a coastal town of some 5,000 people in western Australia, after an 18-day nationwide search.
Cleo, who went missing with her sleeping bag from a campsite in the Australian outback on Oct. 16, has been returned to her parents, police said. Police have arrested a man, 36, whose name has not been released.
“We were ... looking for a needle in a haystack and we found it,” Western Australian Police Deputy Commissioner Col Blanch told Perth Radio 6PR. He added that officials shed tears of relief and joy over how their hopes had “come true.”
The family had been camping some 60 miles north of her home in Carnarvon when she disappeared in the middle of the night. They woke on Oct. 17 to find Cleo missing from not only her tent but also the camping grounds.
Police originally searched the area surrounding the campsite, but upon further investigation found it was more likely an abduction. Cleo would have been much too short to have zipped the tent back up to the height it was left at, they said.
The search caught the attention of Australians across the country as her family pleaded with the public for any information on their daughter’s whereabouts.
Police Commissioner Chris Dawson said body camera video of four police officers breaking into the house with a search warrant and finding Cleo brought a tear to his eye.
He would not detail what the girl had gone through.
She was “as well as you can expect,” Dawson said.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison called the ordeal “every parent’s worst nightmare.”
“The fact that that nightmare has come to an end and our worst fears were not realized is just a huge relief, a moment for great joy,” he added.
The police team had 140 people working on the case with more than 1,000 tips from the public and the state had offered a one million dollar reward in relation to Cleo’s case, according to Reuters.
Cleo's mother, Ellie Smith, recently made a post on Instagram celebrating her daughter’s homecoming with the caption, “Our family is whole again.”