Cleo Smith investigator Jon Munday one of four to be honoured with Australian Police Medal

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He was the police officer who led the painstaking search for Cleo Smith in the first desperate hours and days after she vanished from a tent near Carnarvon.

Insp. Jon Munday was also the first person to reveal to the world that it would not have been possible for the tiny four-year-old to reach the height the tent zipper had been opened — and that police were dealing with a possible abduction.

The senior officer — whose 34-year career has involved leading roles not only in investigating Cleo’s disappearance but the Claremont serial killings case and the unsolved murder of Gerard Ross — is today one of four WA officers to be awarded the Australian Police Medal.

Insp. Munday has served a big part of his three-decade career in country WA at 15 police stations across the State.

Currently based in the Mid West-Gascoyne district, Insp. Munday said the Cleo investigation was his career highlight, which ended with her being found alive in the Carnarvon home of Terence Kelly 18 days after he abducted her.

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He described the “horrible” early days of the search, saying it became clear within the first six to 12 hours that “something wasn’t right”.

“My job was really to find Cleo within the defined search area, and or to prove categorically that she wasn’t there, and there was no sign of her there,” he said.

Camera IconPictured: Cleo Smith. The 4-year-old girl went missing from her family tent while camping at Blowholes, 75km north of Carnarvon. Credit: facebook/supplied

“It was a bit of a two-pronged brief, firstly searching for her, and secondly searching for any evidence that would lead us to where she might be and if there was any third party involvement.

“Certainly, as the days dragged on, it was increasingly clear that she wasn’t there, and we were facing the worst possible scenario that she was snatched, or left the tent voluntarily and was taken.”

Insp. Munday added, “we went above and beyond there … with all the volunteers, the SES, the Defence Force and the community volunteers, (the search area) was significantly greater than what would normally be acceptable to be able to suspend a search”.

“It was just one of those unique things — we just had to keep going to find answers, and it was just really pleasing that it ended well.”

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