Toddler Chloe Campbell was snatched from her home to frighten her father in an act of retribution, family friends believe.
The three-year-old had gone missing from the family’s lounge room, where she’d been sleeping with her siblings, before turning up 42 hours later at the showground across the road from her Childers home.
The little girl was returned to her mother Tammy O’Donnell at 1am (AEST) on Saturday after being found by police.
Her disappearance had sparked a massive police hunt and searchers were beginning to fear for the worst after two days of fruitless searching.
Queensland police are trying to find out if the little girl was abducted or wandered off.
Family friends have told the Sunday Mail that they think a threat against Chloe’s father, Garth Campbell, about two months ago is linked to her vanishing.
Melissa Small told the Queensland newspaper she suspected the person or people behind the threat to Mr Campbell had snatched Chloe, and that the threat to him had been officially reported.
“They’ve done this to scare Garth,” Ms Small told the Sunday Mail.
“Garth has been very scared and this is why he is a mess.
“They’re just messed up people. If they are the people, they are close family friends.”
One family member told the newspaper the abductor must have known the girls were sleeping in the lounge room.
“It’s not nice to think it was someone they know. I’ve met their friends and they all seem like really decent people – battlers – I couldn’t imagine it would be them,” the family member said.
“But then, too many things point to the fact they must have known the girls were sleeping in the lounge on the holidays. Someone would have to have known that.”
Police have begun talking with Chloe and have collected any possible DNA evidence from her clothes.
Ms O’Donnell told reporters she was “overjoyed” when she was reunited with Chloe at the Bundaberg Base Hospital, where she was examined and later released.
“She opened her eyes a little bit and (said) ‘Mummy want to go home now’ and passed out,” the mother of four said.
“I was just in tears. I didn’t care if she woke up or not and then I just laid on the bed with her and gave her cuddles for a while and then we just came home to let everyone know.”
Investigations are continuing.