Relatives of the man accused of abducting Cleo Smith say he was called a "little princess" during his unusual upbringing.
Earlier this week, it was revealed in audiotapes that Terence Darrell Kelly was removed from his mother's care at a young age, and raised by a respected member of the indigenous community, Penny Walker, in the town of Carnarvon. Walker died in 2020, leaving Kelly living alone in their home.
Kelly's cousin has spoken to Channel Nine, saying the accused kidnapper's guardian spoiled him as a child, which led to friends and family in the community referring to him as her "little princess". She also believes the passing of Walker affected him significantly.
"They were very close. She was the only thing that he had," they said. "Eventually she passed away. And I think that shattered him.
"And he was lonely. His behaviour changed. He just kept locking himself in the house."
Details about Kelly's troubled early years emerged this week in an audiotape of an interview with Walker from 2019.
Walker said she took Kelly under her wing when he was just two years old.
During a 2019 oral history interview with Denmark-based photographer Nic Duncan, Walker spoke about how a "little boy with jet black curly hair" ended up in her care in 1987.
Born in 1943, Walker was 44 when she took him in and called him Terry.
In the interview, she said she had been a heavy drinker in her youth and that she was a domestic violence victim. She said her own six biological children had been taken from her.
Later in her life, she said she was blessed when she was given the chance to raise Kelly – whose mother was a drug addict and did not want him. When she took him in, she said considered the young Kelly a gift from God.
"I looked down at him and this little boy – God was giving me something back into my life … my children.
"So I had this little boy. Beautiful boy, Terry, two-year-old jet black curly hair."
She said that she raised him alongside her two grandsons after the death of her daughter from multiple sclerosis.
Walker was part of the Stolen Generation and also spoke about her traumatic childhood – which included sexual abuse and beatings – at the Moore River Native Settlement and New Norcia Mission.
She died in 2020, leaving Kelly living alone in their Carnarvon house – where locals said he became increasingly withdrawn.
Other locals who knew Kelly said they didn't "notice any unusual behaviour" in his younger years.