Terence Darrell Kelly, the man charged with the kidnapping of a four-year-old Australian girl, had a doll room inside his house, according to reports.
The 36-year-old, who was arrested following a night raid on a home in the coastal town of Carnarvon, posted numerous photos of himself surrounded by the toys on social media.
“I love taking my dolls for drive arounds and doing their hair and taking selfies in public,” he posted to Facebook in April 2020, news outlet WA Today reported.
Cleo Smith disappeared from her family’s tent in remote Western Australia last month, sparking a frantic air, land and sea search.
She was missing for almost three weeks until being found in a bedroom in Kelly’s home during a nighttime raid – just a short drive from her home in Carnarvon.
“The lights were on and she was playing with toys, I think that’s about all I want to say,” WA Police Detective Senior Sergeant Cameron Blaine said.
“This is still a matter that needs to go before the courts. There’s certain aspects about what we saw that is going to be evidence.”
A member of staff at a toy shop in the town told reporters that she had sold several dolls to Kelly over the last few years.
Police refused to answer questions on whether the toys were found inside the property. Superintendent Rod Wilde, head of the taskforce, said he “didn’t want to go into that”.
Kelly screamed “I’m coming for you” during his appearance at Carnarvon Magistrate’s Court on Thursday, before saying to the judge “what the f— are the media doing here?” gesturing to journalists in the gallery, according to Australian media.
“It’s an open court,” the magistrate said. Kelly appeared shoe-less and was guarded by two police officers.
He was not required to enter a plea and did not apply for bail. According to local media he has been remanded in custody until Dec 6.
Many had feared the search for Cleo Smith would end in tragedy, but the discovery of her “alive and well” sparked elation in Australia, with police admitting “seasoned detectives” were “openly crying with relief”.
The force on Thursday released audio recording of the rescue, in which officers can be heard urgently trying to affirm her identity.
“We’ve got her”, “you’re alright” excited police are heard to say, before another asks “what’s your name? What’s your name? What’s your name, sweetheart.”
“M-my name is Cleo” the girl eventually responds. “Your name is Cleo,” the revealed detective repeats. “Hello Cleo.”
The girl was reunited with her mother Ellie Smith and stepfather Jake Gliddon soon after her rescue. “Our family is whole again,” the mother said on social media.
Police last month had offered 1 million AUD (£546,000) for information leading to Cleo’s recovery after she was abducted from her family’s tent at Blowholes Campground, about 620 miles north of Perth, on Oct 16.
Her disappearance triggered a massive search throughout the region and police officers interviewed more than 110 people who were at the campsite on the night Cleo arrived with her family.
The case has drawn national attention, with many Australians taking to social media to express their anguish for her family.
The search had prompted comparisons to that of Madeleine McCann, the British toddler who went missing while on holiday with her family in Portugal in 2007.
Cleo’s mother described waking at 6am on Oct 16 to find the tent unzipped and her oldest daughter missing.
A massive land and sea search was initially mounted in the sparsely populated region on the assumption that she had wandered from the tent. But more evidence began to support an abduction.
The position of the zipper on the tent flap – too high for Cleo to reach – suggested she had not opened it herself.
This caused “great concern” for Cleo’s safety, with Detective Superintendent Rod Wilde saying police believed the abduction was “an opportunistic-type event”.
Then on Tuesday came important new forensic information.
Western Australia Police Deputy Commissioner Col Blanch said police had acted quickly after finding a “needle in a haystack” but did not specify what led them to the house where Cleo was found.
“We had been following a lot of the forensic leads and it led us to a particular house,” he said.
Chris Dawson, Western Australia’s police commissioner was briefed by officers late on Tuesday before they executed the search warrant on the Carnarvon home.
“They briefed me and said, ‘Look, I think we’re onto something here’,” he told ABC radio. “We hoped we’d find her alive. It’s remarkable she’s alive, you know, (after) 18 days.”
Detectives who specialise in crimes involving children and child abuse have now been dispatched from Perth to help local police interview Cleo, according to the West Australian.
It is hoped the 4-year old will be able to provide vital information on the investigation, though it is not yet clear when she will be interviewed.
Their small hometown of Carnarvon, which had spent weeks on edge after the girl’s disappearance, was soon decked out in balloons and “welcome home” signs as residents celebrated the news.
One of her rescuers, detective Cameron Blaine, said he visited the family after Cleo was released from a brief hospital stay Wednesday and she appeared to be coping well.
“It was really heartwarming to see her interact and playing in the backyard and just being herself and around her parents,” he said. “I’m amazed she seems to be so well-adjusted and happy.”