The West Australian detective who made international headlines when he rescued kidnapped girl Cleo Smith has been accused of police misconduct by the state’s Corruption and Crime Commission after releasing confidential information to a young journalist he struck up a relationship with.
Homicide squad Detective Senior Sergeant Cameron Blaine led the raid of abductor Terence Kelly’s Carnarvon home in November 2021, asking Cleo for her name, prompting the four-year-old’s famous response, “My name is Cleo”.
After public praise for the rescue was heaped upon Blaine, allegations of misconduct emerged and he was stood down on full pay in September 2022, pending a CCC investigation.
He resigned from WA Police shortly before the CCC report was tabled on Thursday.
The report alleged Blaine released confidential information to the journalist, and misused a police vehicle to repeatedly visit the journalist at her home.
“In each case his behaviour could constitute reasonable grounds for the termination of his employment,” the report read.
“The commission has formed an opinion of police misconduct.”
The journalist, 22, claimed she and Blaine developed an intimate relationship while in Carnarvon a week after Cleo was found, however, Blaine denied this.
The CCC said it did not accept his conflicting assertions after the journalist provided a “wealth of material” to support her version of events.
“Blaine’s characterisation of the relationship is belied by the content of messages recovered from the phones,” the CCC report read.
“The totality of his messages to [the journalist] paints a different picture from that he now portrays.”
The CCC found Blaine “grew friendly” with the young journalist while working to find Cleo.
“During Operation Rodia, journalists and reporters for both print and electronic media were lodged in motels and other places in Carnarvon, as were police,” the report read.
“Members of each socialised together on occasion. DSS Blaine grew friendly with a female journalist aged 22 … There is no evidence of wrongdoing on her part.”
Kelly, 37, snatched Cleo from the Quobba Blowholes campsite, a remote coastal area in WA’s north, as she slept beside her parents and baby sister on the night of October 16, 2021.
Her disappearance sparked one of the biggest missing persons investigations in Australian history, with more than 100 police officers assigned to the case, dubbed Taskforce Rodia.
Nearly three weeks into the search, CCTV footage of a car entering Carnarvon on the night of the abduction and mobile phone data led detectives to storm Kelly’s home at midnight on November 3.
Cleo was found awake sitting in a bedroom playing with toys.
Kelly confessed to abducting the little girl and was later sentenced to 13 years and six months jail for the kidnapping. He is appealing his sentence.
More to come.
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