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Police investigating reports of past approaches in area where Cleo vanished

WA detectives are in the process of reviewing past reports of approaches to children in the area where four-year-old girl Cleo Smith went missing.

Speaking from Carnarvon on Friday, homicide detective Rod Wilde said they were looking at reports dating back as far as 10 years ago.

In the video above, Police deploy new technology in search for Cleo

It’s thought Cleo, who vanished from the Blowholes campground in WA’s Gascoyne region on October 16, has been abducted by a third party.

Asked about unconfirmed reports of past predatory behaviour in the region, Wilde said police were aware of past “events” and were reviewing their details as part of their investigation.

“Certainly over the years, and some of that we’re talking over … a 10-year span, some of these events do occur,” he said.

“So we’re going back and checking old reports.

“I can say there’s been nothing of a similar nature in recent times, but of course that’s part of the process that we undertake.

“We fully review all past incidents.”

Missing four-year-old girl Cleo Smith.
Missing four-year-old girl Cleo Smith. Credit: 7NEWS

Early on in the investigation, it was revealed that as many as 20 registered sex offenders were living in the area near where Cleo vanished.

All have been interviewed by police.

It was also revealed that up to a dozen convicted child sex offenders are on the run in WA.

Twelve criminals in WA have either failed to comply with reporting obligations, provided false or misleading information to police, or their whereabouts are currently unknown.

The unaccounted-for offenders are male and aged between 25 years old and 72 years old.

Most were last seen in the Perth metropolitan area.

Three of the offenders have Goldfields addresses as their last known location, while two are believed to be overseas.

An aerial view of the Blowholes campsite.
An aerial view of the Blowholes campsite. Credit: 7NEWS

The 12 unaccounted-for sex offenders have been convicted of offences ranging from child rape to possession of child exploitation material.

Their details are on a public WA government community protection register but cannot be published in case the details “create, promote or increase animosity towards, or harassment of, a person identified by this site”.

The purpose of the website is to ensure that families have information on “serious and high-risk offenders” in order to protect “the safety of children in the community”.

That website crashed for 48 hours earlier this week.

Child stealing incidents

The alarming number of child stealing and kidnapping events in WA over the past 12 months has also come into focus.

In the last financial year, there were 15 kidnapping and “child stealing” incidents reported to WA Police, records show.

Seven of those have occurred this year alone.

Four happened in the Perth metro area, but one happened in the Mid West/Gascoyne region where Cleo disappeared in the early hours of October 16.

The alarming figures show there have been a total of 328 abductions in WA since January 2007.

Thirteen of those have occurred in the Mid West/Gascoyne region.

Detective Superintendent Rod Wilde of the WA Police Major Crime division.
Detective Superintendent Rod Wilde of the WA Police Major Crime division. Credit: 7NEWS

Investigation ‘progressing’

Police have yet to publicly identify any suspects but on Thursday Wilde said he was confident answers would soon be found.

“We’ve been back there obviously conducting some forensic work and other investigations,” he said.

“The investigation is progressing.

“We are hopeful, very hopeful and confident that we’re going to resolve it.”

In recent days police have made several visits to Cleo’s family home in Carnarvon and collected samples from a campfire at the Blowholes site.

A police forensics officer enters the Carnarvon home of missing girl Cleo Smith.
A police forensics officer enters the Carnarvon home of missing girl Cleo Smith. Credit: 7NEWS
Mum Ellie and her partner Jake.
Mum Ellie and her partner Jake. Credit: Supplied

Wilde said the girl’s mother Ellie Smith and stepfather Jake Gliddon were not suspects.

“They’re co-operating. That is part of what we do in major investigations of this nature,” he said.

“Understandably, they’re upset.

“It’s been a difficult time for them.

“Fortunately they’re looked after by family and friends.

“Given the circumstances, they’re holding up.”

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