7News has publicly apologised for wrongly accusing an Indigenous man of kidnapping 4-year-old Cleo Smith.

On Wednesday, the news outlet publicly accused the Indigenous man of kidnapping Smith who was recently found and safely rescued.

Along with naming the man, 7News shared images of him online.

Out of respect for his privacy, the National Indigenous Times will not name the man, however Ngaarda Media reported he shares the name of the alleged abductor but he identifies by his mother’s last name publicly.

The man has reportedly been forced to remove his social media accounts due to severe online abuse and harassment shortly after 7News shared his photograph.

7News have since removed all posts regarding the man, and have released a short apology statement.

“Earlier on Wednesday 7News wrongly showed images of a man that were incorrectly labelled as the person under arrest over the disappearance of Cleo Smith,” they said.

“These were removed promptly, but 7News apologises for the error.”

7News did not post the apology on their social media.

The man’s aunt shared her view on Ngaarda Media’s Facebook post and said that too many people “jump the gun when they look up Facebook”.

“He broke down and cried and he was sobbing. I’d like people to wait for the police to give out information.”

The correct alleged suspect has since been taken into custody in Carnarvon. He was arrested after Smith was found in a bedroom of his home.

She was found “alive and well” according to WA Police Deputy Police Commissioner Col Branch and was later reunited with her family.

Smith had gone missing whilst camping with her family on October 16. Over the following 18 days, a widespread search was undertaken by police and volunteers in WA’s north-west,
which included a $1 million reward for information on her whereabouts.

The Commissioner emphasised WA Police’s aim to “hold the person to account, and bring them before justice” speaking on The Project.

WA Police describing finding the 4-year-old alive as “the miracle we all hoped for” on their Twitter page.

By Aaron Bloch