Cleo Smith kidnapper beat her when she asked for chocolate

Terence Kelly - Tamati Smith/Getty Images/Getty Images AsiaPac
Terence Kelly - Tamati Smith/Getty Images/Getty Images AsiaPac

The man who kidnapped four-year-old Cleo Smith while she was camping with her family in Australia kept her in a locked room and beat her when she asked for chocolate.

Terence Darrell Kelly, 37, made the admission during his trial for abducting Cleo from a tent as she slept with her family at a popular coastal tourist spot and holding her captive for more than a fortnight in 2021.

Details of the child’s ordeal were revealed on Wednesday, when he was sentenced to 13 years and six months in jail by a Perth District Court after he pleaded guilty.

Her abduction more than 550 miles north of Perth triggered one of Western Australia’s biggest manhunts in October 2021.

Police eventually discovered her imprisoned in a bedroom in Kelly’s council house in Carnarvon.

'I used sticky tape but it wasn't working'

Speaking at Wednesday’s sentencing, chief judge Julie Wager said the girl had pleaded to be returned to her parents and was often in tears during her 18 days in captivity.

The court heard that Kelly told police after his arrest that he “roughed Cleo up a bit a few times” and lost his temper when she became “bossy” and asked for chocolate.

In a police interview, he admitted smacking the child but insisted he had not wanted to harm her badly.

Cleo Smith
Cleo Smith

On one occasion, he tried unsuccessfully to tie her up.

“I used sticky tape but it wasn’t working,” he said.

“So I thought: ‘I won’t tie her up any more with the sticky tape.’” He said she was a “bit of a fighter”.

Personality disorder

On another occasion, Cleo heard her name being mentioned on the radio news and said “they were saying her name”, the judge revealed.

Fearful of neighbours hearing the child’s voice, Kelly turned the radio up full volume so that people outside would not hear her.

Kelly, who was obsessed with dolls and surrounded himself with Bratz toys at home, had a personality disorder and longed for his own family, the court was told.

The judge said he decided to create his own imaginary family as a coping mechanism in an effort to deal with a traumatic childhood.

He had been abandoned by his parents at the age of two and had been using methamphetamine when he abducted the child.

Judge Wager said she accepted Kelly’s drug use and his complex personality had caused him to offend.

He will be eligible for parole in 2033.