PERTH (AFP) – A man on trial for abducting a four-year-old girl from a remote Australian campsite confessed to her kidnapping yesterday, a surprise development in the case that garnered worldwide attention.
Cleo Smith disappeared from her family’s tent in Western Australia in October, sparking a major search operation that many feared would end in tragedy.
But the little girl was found 18 days later alone inside a locked house in the coastal town of Carnarvon, a short drive from where she went missing.
Her accused abductor, Terence Darrell Kelly, pleaded guilty to child stealing yesterday via video link from prison.
Other charges have been adjourned, including a new charge of assaulting a police officer.
When the single charge was levelled at him, Kelly simply said: “Guilty.”
Kelly, 36, was remanded in custody until his next court appearance in March, when a date may be set for his sentencing and details of Cleo’s kidnapping are expected to be revealed.
He is alleged to have acted alone and police said he does not have any connection to the family.