A panel of world-leading body language experts have weighed in on the heartbreaking abduction of Cleo Smith who vanished from a remote campsite in Western Australia two weeks ago.
The experts examined a recent interview of the four-year-old’s devastated parents highlighting some of their mannerisms that could be mistakenly seen as ‘red flags’.
The Behaviour Panel concluded that mother Ellie Smith and step father Jake Gliddon are ‘telling the truth’ and that investigations should be directed away from the couple.
Police have also come to the same conclusion, ruling out the pair as suspects in the mysterious disappearance at the Blowholes campsite, near Carnarvon in the northwest of the state on October 16.
‘The parents have been nothing but helpful. We’ve worked very closely with them, they’ve let us into their home, they’ve let us into their cars, their phones, everything,’ Acting Police Commissioner Col Blanch said on Friday.
Pre-schooler Cleo Smith (pictured) is still missing after vanishing from a camping ground in remote Western Australia almost two weeks ago
Former US military interrogator Greg Hartley noted that when Mr Gliddon was asked by Channel Seven’s Flashpoint if there was anything he’s holding back his ‘blink rate increases’ along with his ‘respiration’ when he replies ‘No, nothing’.
He also points out that during the interview the stepfather ‘breaks eye contact and looks down’.
But Mark Bowden, an expert in human behaviour and body language who has worked with G7 leaders, said the seemingly suspicious gestures can be explained.
‘His mouth tightens and doesn’t open very much. That’s just the kind of accent you get in Australia,’ the British expert said.
‘There are parts of Australia where you have to keep your mouth very closed so dust doesn’t get down there, so that is just his baseline.’
Mr Gliddon’s blink rate, rapidness of breath and sheepish eye contact was simply due to the stress of the situation and the difficult question being asked on live TV, the expert said.
Little Cleo Smith’s mother is holding out hope that the four-year-old will ‘come home’ to her
Pictured: A map showing the possible roads Cleo Smith travelled in the time between when she went missing and police arrived
‘We have a ”No, nothing” and a shake of the head at the same time (during his denial). This is a very clear sign of truthfulness.’
Asked the same question by the interviewer, Cleo’s mother also made a strong denial of holding back any information, saying ‘No way, we love our daughter and we want her home’.
Mr Hartley said ‘her head says no way at the same time her body and her mouth are saying it’ – a gesture which indicates someone is telling the truth.
The expert noted there is a ‘confirmation glance’ between the two parents during their denials.
Chase Hughes, who applies his body language expertise in the corporate sectors said ‘confirmation glances are less common if there is a made-up story’.
Mr Bowden said he believed Mr Gliddon’s confirmation glance and hesitation was due to him being Cleo’s stepfather, rather than biological father.
Cleo’s mother Ellie Smith (pictured) urged the public to contact police if they have any information
Little Cleo Smith and her step father Jake Gliddon are pictured together
He added that some people may be falsely sceptical of the Mr Gliddon because of his ‘submissive gestures’ such as breaking eye contact.
‘I think we are seeing a consistent level of submission that we do not want to see when a child is taken,’ he said.
‘I think what we want to see is a very, very strong male getting aggressive… and we’re not getting that and that is going to upset us and we are going to transfer some feeling to that and make him bad.
‘But that doesn’t have anything to do with any complicity in this event. I think that is just him and his response.’
Cleo Smith (pictured dressed up as an astronaut) was snatch from her tent while camping
Another body language gesture usually associated with negativity is folded arms, which both parents have displayed at times during various interviews.
Scott Rouse, a body language expert who trains US law enforcement, said there was nothing suspicious about folded arms.
‘Their arms are crossed and the first thing people are going to say is people are disinterested (when they have folded arms)… but most of the time it means absolutely nothing,’ he said.
‘I think they are just doing that because they are tired and a little freaked out.’
Timeline of events the day Cleo’s family realise she’s missing
About 6am: Ellie Smith wakes up and realises Cleo and her sleeping bag are missing.
6.23am — Ellie calls 000 to report her eldest daughter missing as she continues to search the camp ground.
6.30am — The first two officers are dispatched from Carnarvon police station. They travel to Blowholes as a matter of priority, with sirens and lights.
6.41am — A second police car with another two officers is sent to Blowholes, also with lights and sirens.
7.10am — The first police car arrives. The second is only minutes behind.
7.26am — Police on the scene establish a protected forensic area which is taped off to the public, surrounding the family tent where Cleo was last seen.
7.33am — A drone operator is called upon to search from the skies.
7.44am — A third police car is dispatched to the Blowholes.
8am — Family and friends of Cleo’s parents begin to arrive to help with the ground search.
Another group of detectives briefly searches Cleo’s home to make sure she’s not there. They then head to Blowholes and begin stopping cars coming into and leaving the area.
8.09am — A helicopter from a local company arrived at the scene and started searching as police request an SES team attend the Blowholes search.
8.24am – Police airwing and volunteer marine searchers are called in to assist with the search.
8.34am — Roadblocks are set up at the entrance of Blowholes as detectives gather the names, registration details and addresses of people coming and going. Police search cars.
9.25am — Nine SES personel arrive at the Blowholes to assist with the search.
9.30am — Detectives sit down with a distressed Ellie and remain by her side for the rest of the day while other search crews hunt for Cleo.
11am — Homicide detectives from the Major Crime Division are called and begin travelling from Perth to assist with the search.
1pm — More homicide detectives and search experts are flown in from Perth.
3pm — Officers and search experts arrive in Carnarvon to offer their expertise.