A man suspected of kidnapping four-year-old Cleo Smith from a remote campsite was attacked by a fellow prisoner within hours of his arrest, according to reports.
The 36-year-old was arrested following a dramatic night-time raid more than 60 miles from the area where Cleo was snatched.
As he waited in a holding cell, he was beaten “black and blue” by another prisoner, it is reported in Australian media.
The suspect was later pictured in the back of an ambulance with a bandage on his head surrounded by police officers.
Detectives last night announced that the toddler had been found alive nearly three weeks after she mysteriously disappeared.
The man, who was not at home at the time, was subsequently taken in for questioning.
His attacker’s proud mum told Daily Mail Australia of her son: “As soon as he heard this bloke was arrested over that little Cleo, he blew up, beat him black and blue.
“I tell you what, he got a real hiding… my son had to be taken out in shackles, and he was taken for treatment… he was in a bad way. He is a big bloke but he really copped it.”
Cleo, who was branded the country’s ‘Madeleine McCann’, went missing from the Blowholes Shacks site in Carnarvon, north of Perth, on October 16.
Her family had feared the worst, but after her rescue following a dramatic rescue in the early hours of Wednesday, mum Ellie Smith posted on Instagram : “Our family is whole again.”
The little girl was alone in the house at the time, with Kelly later pictured in the back of an ambulance with what appeared to be a head injury.
The suspect is not known to Cleo’s family, police said yesterday.
And a picture was posted on social media of Cleo smiling and waving in a hospital bed after she was found with the caption: “The miracle we all hoped for.”
Western Australian Deputy Police Commissioner Col Blanch said Cleo and her family had slept in the same room after she was rescued, and he said he believed they “cuddled all night”.
He told 2GB: “They had a small amount of hope, but I thought they probably thought they were never going to give her a cuddle again.
“I’m pretty sure they all slept in the same room just cuddling all night.”
Officers broke into a house in Carnarvon, a town about 100 km (62 miles) south of the campsite, early on Wednesday morning and found Cleo in one of the rooms.
It followed an extensive search which saw hundreds of people interviewed and police forensically trawling through bins in the search for clues.
News of the little girl’s rescue was greeted with joy from a public who had come to fear the worst.
Deputy commissioner Col Blanch said: “It’s my privilege to announce that in the early hours of this morning, the Western Australia police force rescued Cleo Smith. Cleo is alive and well.
“One of the officers picked her up into his arms and asked her, ‘What’s your name?’ She said, ‘My name is Cleo.’”
WA Police Force via Getty Images)
He said that “incredible police work” had led to Cleo’s rescue, but did not provide any further information.
Det Sgt Cameron Blaine was one of four police officers who raided the house in Carnarvon.
He said: “There could have been anyone of the team but it turned out that I was one of four guys that was fortunate enough to go through that door and make that rescue.
“We had always hoped for that outcome but were not prepared for it, it was absolutely fantastic. Originally, to see her sitting there in the way that she was, it was incredible.”
He continued: “One of the guys jumped in front of me and picked her up and I just wanted to be absolutely sure, it certainly looked like Cleo, I wanted to be sure it was her,” he said.
“I said ‘what is your name?’ She didn’t answer, I asked again and she didn’t answer. I asked a third time and then she looked at me and said ‘my name is Cleo’. And that was it. Then we turned around and walked out of the house.”
WA Commissioner Chris Dawson said: “What a great day. We now have returned Cleo to her loving parents. It’s a wonderful day for this little girl and her loving family.”
“She is physically OK. That was evident from the start,” said state police homicide squad Senior Sergeant Cameron Blaine, who was one of four people to rescue the child.
“Taking her to the hospital we got assurance of that from people that know what they are doing.”
He said finding her was “without a doubt” the best moment of his career.
Shocked neighbours have revealed details about the man who owned the house where she was found.
One neighbour told Sunrise: “The other day – on Monday – we saw him in Woolworths buying Kimbies [nappies] and that.
“But we didn’t click on what he was buying them for.”
Sahntayah McKenzie who also lives nearby said she heard crying one night, but didn’t link it to the then-missing girl.
In an emotional statement following the girl’s discovery, New South Wales commissioner Mick Fuller said his Western Australia counterpart Chris Dawson had broken down in tears at the news.
Mr Fuller said he thought the chances of Cleo being found alive were “so slim”.
He added: “West Australian Police never gave up on Cleo, it was good old-fashioned police work that resulted in her being found alive.”
Cleo’s mum had discovered that the toddler was missing from the tent around 6am and that was when the search got underway on October 16.
The conditions with remote terrain meant it was difficult to search the area with some people using quad bikes and even a drone.
JAMES CARMODY/ABC NEWS POOL/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)
More than 100 people at the site were interviewed, and police carried out extensive searches by land and air.
“Police arrived at 7.10am and by 7.26am set up a protected site,” revealed Det Superintendent Rob Wilde.
By 11am homicide detectives were at the scene and police were searching cars at the campsite.
Det Supt Wilde said that police had previously responded to around 200 possible sightings of Cleo around the country but none turned out to be her.
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