A man has pleaded guilty to abducting the Australian girl Cleo Smith from her tent while she was on holiday with her family.
The four-year-old disappeared from the remote campsite on the country’s west coast last year.
She was found 18 days later in a house alone in Carnavon, a short drive from where she went missing.
The case garnered worldwide public attention due to the long search for Cleo and her surprise discovery after many had given up hope of finding her alive.
Terence Darrell Kelly, 36, admitted to the abduction during a brief court appearance in Carnarvon on Monday in a video link from a Perth prison.
When the single charge was levelled at him, Kelly simply said: ‘Guilty.’
He is alleged to have acted alone and police say he does not have any connection to the family.
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.
Bail was not considered when Kelly returned to court last month.
On November 2, Police burst into the locked house after receiving a tip-off from concerned neighbours and found young Cleo.
In audio of the moment that was released at the time, an officer can be heard saying ‘we’ve got her, we’ve got her,’ before asking the child what her name is.
When there is no immediate response, he asks again: ‘What’s your name sweetheart?’
‘M-My name is Cleo,’ the little girl says in a trembling voice. ‘Your name is Cleo,’ the relieved officer tells her. ‘You’re alright, bubby.’
She was later reunited with her family and her mother her mother, Ellie, posted on Instagram that ‘our family is whole again’.