Cleo Smith investigation cop Jon Munday awarded Australian Police Medal

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One of the unsung heroes of the Cleo Smith investigation in northwest Western Australia has been awarded a major honor in recognition of his police service.

Geraldton police officer Jon Munday oversaw the 2021 search for the four-year-old, who was found 18 days after he was abducted from a campsite in Carnarvon.

Inspector Munday has been awarded an Australian Police Medal as part of the Australia Day Honours.

He has spent most of his 34 years with WA Police in the bush, but has also been involved in some of the state’s most high-profile cases in and around Perth.

During his time as a cold case detective, Inspector Munday assisted the team of investigators trying to solve the murder of Rockingham boy Gerard Ross.

Jon Munday calls for public help during the Gerard Ross murder investigation.(ABC News: Charlotte Hamlyn)

He also played a role in bringing Claremont murderer Bradley Edwards to justice for the murders of Jane Rimmer and Ciara Glennon.

Inspector Munday last year led the operation aimed at tackling youth violence in the Kimberley, implementing new policies and procedures that helped arrest a large number of offenders.

Kidnapping case

But perhaps the most memorable moment of his career to date was the rescue of Cleo Smith, who was found at kidnapper Terence Kelly’s home in Carnarvon after going missing from her family’s tent.

“I was woken up by my former superintendent Roger Beer… and he said, ‘We found Cleo,'” said Inspector Munday.

“I didn’t believe it and I called him back about 10 minutes later and said, just to make sure I wasn’t dreaming, did you say she was found alive?”

“It was not a resolution I was expecting as hours turned into days and days into weeks.”

Inspector Munday was one of the first officers on the scene when Cleo disappeared and led the critical early stages of the investigation.

A police officer speaks in front of a set of microphones
Jon Munday was in charge of the massive search for Cleo Smith.(ABC News: James Carmody)

He said the first 24 hours of surgery were challenging.

“People provided helicopters, industry around Karratha provided food, fuel and water, so it was a very busy 12 to 24 hours,” he said.

“After that, we kind of got into a rhythm and things moved forward a lot more smoothly.”

Satisfied with all he had achieved in his career, Inspector Munday said it was “humbling” to be awarded the Australian Police Medal.

“I’m a police officer to serve the community and just face what needs to be done on a daily basis,” he said.

“I like working in a small community and being able to really make a difference and see the difference you’re making, rather than being part of the law enforcement apparatus in the metropolitan areas.

“It’s been a very rewarding career.

“I love doing it and will continue to do it.”

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