A detective who played a central role in rescuing kidnap victim Cleo Smith committed serious misconduct during a “relationship” with a young reporter, a corruption watchdog has found.
Detective Senior Sergeant Cameron Blaine became an international hero when Western Australian police released footage of him asking the four-year-old girl her name as she was carried out of a Carnarvon home in November 2021.
“My name is Cleo,” she said in the now-famous video.
However, allegations of misconduct against the veteran detective later emerged and Western Australia’s Corruption and Crime Commission (CCC) investigated him.
The findings of that report were released after being tabled in Parliament on Thursday, a day after the resignation of Detective Senior Sergeant Blaine.
The CCC found serious misconduct relating to Detective Senior Sergeant Blaine’s “repeated disclosure of confidential information to media reporters” and repeated misuse of a police four-wheel drive.
Detective Senior Sergeant Cameron Blaine (pictured) became an international hero when WA police released footage of him asking the four-year-old girl her name
The commission said Detective Senior Sergeant Blaine developed a relationship with a young reporter after Cleo’s rescue and repeatedly passed information to her and other journalists.
During the investigation into Cleo’s disappearance, Detective Senior Sergeant Blaine “became friends with a 22-year-old journalist,” the report said.
The journalist, codenamed “Mrs A” in the report, told the CCC she had had an “intimate relationship” with the detective, which he denied.
The CCC found that Ms A had been invited to visit Detective Senior Sergeant Blaine at the Carnarvon Sea Change Apartments a week after Cleo’s rescue.
Detective Sergeant Blaine, now aged about 50, told investigators Ms A had been at his flat but had not revealed any confidential information.
The CCC accepted Ms A’s statement about the events of the evening and what confidential information Detective Senior Sergeant Blaine had provided to her.
“The Commission’s investigation found that DSS Blaine released confidential information related to his and other WAPF investigations without any rational basis for doing so,” the CCC said in a statement.
“In the Commission’s view, DSS Blaine’s actions in publishing confidential information included the misuse of information obtained as a police officer for his own benefit in maintaining a relationship and the benefit of the journalist.”
A detective who played a central role in rescuing kidnap victim Cleo Smith (pictured) has resigned from the police force just days before the expected publication of a corruption report about him
According to the report, the relationship between Ms A and Detective Senior Sergeant Blaine continued when they returned to Perth from Carnarvon.
“Any intimate relationship appeared to have ended in February or March 2022, although contact between them was maintained until June 24, 2022,” it said.
The CCC also identified 62 instances in which Detective Senior Sergeant Blaine breached police vehicle policy by using a Toyota Prado for personal reasons.
“In some cases, DSS Blaine recorded the reason for taking the vehicle as a police matter,” the statement said.
“In the Commission’s view, DSS Blaine’s misuse of the motor vehicle constitutes a breach of the trust placed in him as a senior police officer.”
Commissioner John McKechnie KC said: “The commission’s report highlights two risks of misconduct in the WA Police, exemplified by the conduct of DSS Blaine.”
“Western Australia police officers are in positions of trust.” They have access to information that should remain confidential.
“They have access to police resources to do their job effectively and efficiently. “When that trust is abused, public trust declines.”
The CCC seized the investigator’s and Ms A’s phones and their contents were downloaded as part of its investigation.
“DSS Blaine explained in detail his opinion of Ms. A, the nature of the relationship and her motive for what he viewed as false evidence against him,” the commission’s report said.
“DSS Blaine’s characterization of the relationship is contradicted by the content of the messages recovered from the phones.” “The totality of his messages to Ms. A paints a different picture than what he is painting now.”
A police spokeswoman confirmed this week that the detective had resigned from the force before the report was published.
“Det Sen Sgt Cameron Blaine’s resignation has been accepted,” it said in a short statement.
“No further comment can be made at this time.”
The resignation meant the officer did not face the prospect of being forced out of the Washington Police Department under a so-called Section 8 proceeding.
As part of that process, Police Commissioner Col Blanch would have to explain why he lost confidence in the officer.
Cleo was rescued 18 days after being removed from her family’s tent at Quobba Blowholes campsite on October 16, 2021.
On November 3, investigators forced entry into a home in Carnarvon, about 75km south of the campsite, and found the little girl in a bedroom.
Speaking to the media the next day, Detective Senior Sergeant Blaine said it was “absolutely fantastic to see her sitting there… it was unbelievable.”
“I asked her her name. “One of the guys jumped in front of me and picked her up and I just wanted to be absolutely sure that … it was her,” he said at the time.
“I said, ‘What’s your name?’ She didn’t answer… I asked three times and then she looked at me and said, ‘My name is Cleo.’
The detective said it was the best moment of his career.
Cleo’s kidnapper Terence Kelly was sentenced to 13 years and six months in prison in April.