A MAN has pleaded guilty to abducting a 4-year-old girl from her family’s camping tent on Australia’s west coast last year.
Police found Cleo Smith alone in a house in Carnarvon, a town of 5,000 people, 18 days after she went missing last October.
The search for her had captivated Australians, and the police who found her wept with relief when she told them, My name is Cleo,” when they asked her identity.
Police have said the man arrested soon after Cleo’s rescue was a stranger to the girl and her family, but they have given little other information about why he was a suspect.
Terence Darrell Kelly, 36, admitted to the abduction during a brief court appearance in Carnarvon in a video link from a Perth prison, 900 kilometer (560 miles) to the south.
He faces a potential sentence of up to 20 years in prison on a conviction of forcibly taking a child aged under 16.
He will next appear in a Western Australian state District Court in Perth on March 20.
Kelly has not entered a plea to other criminal charges he faces, including assaulting a public officer. Those charges have been adjourned to a later date.
It was previously revealed that Kelly was obsessed with Bratz dolls with pictures showing dozens of them in the house where she was found.
One of Kellys many social media profiles is a Facebook page devoted to his obsession with Bratz dolls, an American brand featuring scantily clad teenage figures.
On the page, posted a video of himself with a filter showing hearts with the words I love my dolls.
Kelly is also pictured with one of the dolls in each hand wearing a Bratz t-shirt with the words: Nothing beats chilling at home with by Bratz dolls.
He also uploaded photos to Facebook in April 2020 showing him taking a doll for a car drive.
I love taking my dolls for drive around and doing their hair and taking selfies in public, he captioned the post.
Grainey dashcam footage shows the moment police swooped on Kelly.
The doll-obsessed man was just metres away from his home where the four-year-old Cleo was locked inside.
Cleowas carried to safetyafter she was found safe 18 days after vanishing from Blowholes Campground – just 43 miles from her home in Carnarvon, Western Australia.