It was the incredible news that millions of Australians had been waiting for on Wednesday – that four-year-old Cleo Smith had been found safe and well after going missing for 18 excruciating days.
And while Perth-raised model Megan Gale was one of the first to reach out to Cleo’s parents to celebrate the news, she also took the time to lash out at those who had falsely suggested Cleo’s family had something to do with her disappearance.
In a comment posted on Cleo’s mother Ellie Smith’s Instagram page, Megan, 46 – who is mother to Rosie, four, and River, seven – wrote: ‘Sending love to you all. So incredible and the most beautiful news that you have your little girl back.’
Speaking out: While Perth-raised model Megan Gale (pictured) was one of the first to reach out to Cleo’s parents to celebrate the news, she also took the time to lash out at those who had falsely suggested Cleo’s family had something to do with her disappearance
However, her message of support was quickly followed by scathing words aimed at those who had made vile accusations towards Cleo’s family in the midst of her disappearance.
‘I hope all the people who took the time to troll Cleo Smith’s mum and sent her awful messages accusing her of being involved in her little girl’s disappearance are also going to take the time to reach out to her,’ she said.
She added that she hopes the trolls ‘admit they were wrong and apologise for their judgment and accusations’.
Discovery: Police broke their way into a locked house in Carnarvon, 75km from where Cleo went missing, about 1am on Wednesday and found the girl in one of the rooms. Cleo pictured with her mother Ellie Smith and stepfather Jake Gliddon
West Australian police officers found the missing four-year-old girl at a Carnarvon home about 1am on Wednesday, 18 days after she disappeared.
A 36-year-old man with ‘no connection to the family’ has been arrested.
Since Cleo vanished from her family’s campsite on October 16, social media sleuths had filled online forums with conspiracy theories falsely claiming that the girl’s parents were involved – despite detectives making clear early on they were not being treated as suspects.
Vile claims: Cleo’s parents Ellie and Jake (pictured) had been targeted by cruel trolls since their daughter disappeared on October 16
Within minutes of the news breaking she had been found on Wednesday, people flocked online to denounce those who pointed the finger at Cleo’s mum Ellie and step dad Jake Gliddon – demanding they issue the parents an apology.
‘Such amazing news about Cleo Smith! It’s really the only thing that matters today,’ Nine News journalist Libby-Jane Charleston Tweeted.
‘Let’s hope the conspiracy theorists who have posted vile accusations against her parents now offer a public apology.’
Another man said: ‘I wonder what all the sick trolls who harassed her parents on the inter web are doing right now? Being called out I hope. Deleting posts at a rapid rate is my guess.’
Added a third: ‘To all the vile people who trolled Cleo Smith’s parents during the most horrific period of their lives, now publicly apologise.’
Response: Social media users blasted keyboard warriors for adding to the parents’ stress while they lived ‘every parents’ worst nightmare’
Support: A woman from Scandinavia sent her love to Cleo’s family as they recover from their horrific ordeal
Fury: One woman called for those who criticised the family to publicly apologise to the little girl’s parents
Authorities also addressed the unwarranted treatment Ms Smith and Mr Gliddon have suffered over the past three weeks while speaking to the media on Wednesday.
Speaking on Sunrise, Deputy Commissioner Col Blanch reminded ‘internet detectives’ that case cracking was best left to professionals.
‘We cautioned early on about internet detectives. Police were doing their work and sifting through it,’ Deputy Commissioner Blanch said.
‘I think what’s happened here today is a strong reminder, don’t judge too quickly.’
Cleo vanished from her family’s tent between 1.30am and 6.30am on October 16 as her parents and baby sister slept nearby.
All smiles: Police had released this photo of little Cleo eating an icy pole in hospital after her miraculous rescue on Wednesday, 18 days after going missing
Her disappearance sparked a widespread search operation and major police investigation, with the state government offering a $1million reward for information leading to her location.
After a tip off, police raided a Carnavon home on Wednesday – just 73.7km south of the Blowholes campsite she went missing from, raising the possibility she was right under the noses of police for the past three weeks.
Even eerier, the property is only a seven minute drive away from where the toddler’s family live in the small coastal Western Australian town.
Cleo was reunited with her family a short time later and is now in hospital receiving care.
Miracle: Cleo was reunited with her family a short time later and is now in hospital receiving care