Cleo Smith trolls have slithered under a rock…for now

THE abduction of Cleo Smith from a family camping holiday in Australia has been likened to the case of Madeleine McCann.

Except, of course, four-year-old Cleo was found safe and well after 18 days while, 14 years on, the agony still endures for Madeleine’s parents Kate and Gerry.

But one deeply unwelcome similarity between the two cases was the rush by online trolls to heap blame on the already distraught parents — either by implicating them in their own child’s disappearance or accusing them of not watching her closely enough.

Despite the early-on insistence of Aussie detectives that they were not treating Cleo’s mum Ellie and stepfather Jake Gliddon as suspects, online forums rapidly started filling up with conspiracy theories.

Some of these “internet sleuths” were genuinely wanting to help, some were stirring the pot of suspicion with claims that there were “discrepancies” in the couple’s account, and some were just plain nasty.

And just like the McCanns, laced through it all were the same old tropes about how they just didn’t seem distressed enough to be the parents of a missing child.

It’s called shock and paralysing terror, you dimbos.

“I just don’t get why some people, when they get a keyboard, say the most horrible and shocking things that they would never say otherwise,” says Mark McGowan, premier of Western Australia.

Because they can do so with impunity, that’s why.

And until everyone has to be identifiable when they post comments, innocent people like Cleo’s parents and the McCanns will continue to bear the brunt of other people’s inadequacies.

Thankfully, Cleo was eventually found alive and well at the home of her suspected abductor 45 miles away, and the tables turned on the ghastly trolls.

“Let’s hope the conspiracy theorists who have posted vile accusations against her parents now offer a public apology,” tweeted one local journalist who worked on the case.

Except they won’t, of course. They’ll just slither back under the largely anonymous rock from whence they crawled to await their next victim.

Deputy Commissioner Col Blanch said: “We cautioned early on about internet detectives.

"Police were doing their work and sifting through it. I think what’s happened here today is a strong reminder, don’t judge too quickly.”

Hear hear.

The superb Netflix documentary Don’t F*** With Cats shows that, done correctly, the modern phenomenon of internet sleuths can strike gold after meticulous research.

But this is the rare exception, rather than the rule, and the majority of conspiracy theorists go down a rabbit hole of self-importance, unsubstantiated rumour and partisan judgment.

It is unhelpful to the police and downright distressing to those whose loved ones are involved in the case.

Thankfully, Ellie and Jake have a happy ending to their terrifying ordeal. But for the McCanns, the agonising wait of knowing what happened to Maddie goes on and persistent trolls continue to spit bile in their direction.

Shame on them.


MEGHAN is having dinner with all 24 female senators in the States after lobbying them over paid parental leave.

When she called them, she reportedly introduced herself as “Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex”, and did the same when reading her book, The Bench, to a class of school kids.

She does love that Royal title, doesn’t she? If only she loved the duties that go with it just as much.

Meghan and Harry continue to exploit their increasingly tenuous connection to the British monarchy – both commercially and politically – and The Queen is still reportedly having ongoing discussions over whether to remove their titles.

One suspects that if she does, it will have to be prised, finger by finger, from Ms Markle’s vice-like grip.


THE undeniably stylish Sienna Miller says she has never been someone who likes to be “overtly sexy”.

She says: “I don’t feel the need to be on display that way – that’s not interesting to me.”

Presumably, this outfit from the movie Layer Cake is chalked up to “acting”.


THE president of Colombia wants drug-users to understand the environmental impact of their cocaine habit.

“If you’re saying you are conscious about the environment, and conscious about the consequences of deforestation, once you consume cocaine, you are financing deforestation and the use of chemicals in the tropical forests around the world,” says President Ivan Duque.

A strong argument, you might think, to persuade upper and middle-class drug users to stop fuelling the trade that puts Britain among the highest level of cocaine use in Europe.

But then again, they continue to snort coke despite knowing that mere children are being recruited by county lines gangs to transport it, so one doubts that the scourge of deforestation will trouble them too much.

They’ll just carry on virtue-signalling loudly about their regular recycling habit.


WHEN Millie Anna Prelogar posted a photo of herself in front of the posters for Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard, at the Theatre Royal in Windsor, the show’s star Sir Ian McKellen saw it and got in touch.

He asked if 17-year-old Millie, who has Down’s syndrome, and her father Jeff would show him the sights of the town.

They ended up spending four hours together, and 82-year-old sir Ian also popped in to Millie’s home to meet her mother and pet dog before heading back to the theatre for that night’s performance.

Now that’s a true star.


IF, as she claims, actress Kristen Stewart was anxious to be respectful of William and Harry’s grief when playing their mother Diana in the new film Spencer, then surely the most respectful action would have been to turn down the role in the first place?


FROM the second our children are born, our overriding instinct is to protect them from harm.

Be it babies and choking hazards, toddlers and traffic, tweens and stranger danger, teenagers and drugs . . . we rarely stop worrying when they are not in our sight.

Losing a child is an unimaginable horror in any circumstance and, in July 2020 poor Nevres Kemal joined the ranks of bereaved parents when her 24-year-old daughter, Azra, fell from a bridge after her car set on fire.

Dealing with the grief of law student Azra’s death was agonisingly painful enough, but last month, Nevres also learned that her daughter’s body was raped three times by hospital electrician David Fuller, the monster who violated at least 100 people – aged from as young as nine – as they lay in the mortuary.

An extra, unimaginable torment for those who thought the bodies of their loved ones were in a protected and respectful place.

This simply cannot be allowed to happen again.


A CHURCHGOER falsely claimed she was terminally ill and her “dying wish” was to move in with a married vicar in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex.

She then accused Rev William Bulloch of making her pregnant during an affair, a claim denied by the 52-year-old and discredited by a tribunal.

Yet the Church of England still sent the woman to Disneyland Paris as part of a £40,000 survivors’ support package, had her debts paid and got a new car and sofa.

Begging the question: Is she just a deeply troubled woman, or was it the prospect of getting “compensayshun” that actually encouraged her to lie and potentially ruin the life of an innocent man.

The Church says it has improved the support scheme.

But as Oscar Wilde once observed: “No good deed goes unpunished.”


GARY LINEKER says he’s happy being single for now, but “never say never”.

He says: “I don’t think I will get married again, but maybe in five, ten years’ time, when I’m old and need my nappies changing, I will change my mind.”

Er . . . form an orderly queue, ladies.

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