Cleo Smith: Irish detective who led Madeleine McCann probe says ‘hope wins out for a change’ as missing Australian girl found alive

Posted: 4th November 2021

Jim Gamble also said he feels ‘overwhelmed’ and that Cleo’s rescue is ‘simply the best news ever’


An Irish detective who led an investigation into the disappearance of Madeleine McCann said “hope wins out for a change” as missing Australian girl Cleo Smith has been found alive after going missing more than two weeks ago.

Jim Gamble – who was the senior child protection officer in the UK investigation into missing Maddie case – also said he feels “overwhelmed” and that Cleo’s rescue is “simply the best news ever.”

The former chief executive of the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre, who served as the senior child protection officer in the UK’s first investigation into Madeleine’s disappearance, also praised the work of Australian police who rescued four-year-old Cleo – dubbed ‘Aussie Maddie’ – on Wednesday after a late-night raid at a house which followed a tip to police the previous day.

Taking to Twitter as the news of Cleo’s rescue was announced, Mr Gamble wrote: “Simply the best news ever. Fantastic work. What an amazing result under such difficult circumstances and the glare of the media.”

The Bangor man, who is one of the UK’s most experienced and outspoken experts on the safeguarding of children online, also said he is “overjoyed that there is a happy ending in this case.”

“Thank God. Sometimes things can work out. There’ll be more work to do and plenty of support needed, but this is an amazing result,”

Mr Gamble, who now runs the Belfast-based INEQE Group which continues to spearhead the battle to make the online world safer for children, said he has “felt so overwhelmed” by the news of Cleo’s rescue.

“Everytime it fails to materialise you lose something. This is a powerful reminder that good things can happen,” he said. “Hope wins out for a change.”

Following the rescue of Cleo, a 36-year-old local man was arrested.


Australian media reported that officials wept with relief after seeing a body camera video of a police officer scooping up the girl and hearing her say: “My name is Cleo.”

The girl was reunited with her mother Ellie Smith and stepfather Jake Gliddon soon after her rescue.

Western Australia State police commissioner Chris Dawson said the girl is “as well as you can expect”, adding: “This has been an ordeal. I won’t go into any more details, other than to say we’re so thankful she’s alive.”

Mr Dawson said “dogged, methodical police work” led to the girl being found.


Australian prime minister Scott Morrison reacted from the United Arab Emirates on his way home from the Cop26 climate summit in Scotland, thanking police for finding Cleo and supporting her family.

“It’s every parent’s worst nightmare. The fact that that nightmare has come to an end and our worst fears were not realised is just a huge relief, a moment for great joy,” Mr Morrison told reporters.

“This particular case, obviously, has captured the hearts of Australians as we felt such terrible sorrow for the family,” he added.

Cleo’s family lives in Carnarvon, a community of 5,000 people, and the girl had disappeared with her sleeping bag on the second day of a family camping trip at Blowholes Campground, 47 miles north of Carnarvon, on October 16.

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 the theory that she had been abducted.

Source: Irish Mirror, November 2021

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