Most harrowing child kidnapping cases including baby snatched from cot

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Parents become riddled with extreme fear if their child returns home late, forgets to send a text or wonders off in a shop, even if it's just for a split second.

For what seems to be the most of the time, their worry is squashed in mere moments. But, in some cases, kids go missing and their cases remain unsolved for decades.

However, this week, the world was left overjoyed after missing four-year-old Cleo Smith was found safe after she disappeared from Blowholes campground site in Western Australia on October 16.

The four-year-old, dubbed the Australian Madeleine McCann, was found alive by police in a man's house on Wednesday, eighteen days after going missing.

Experts have called the breakthrough a miracle – with one criminologist Xanthé Mallett saying that the case "breaks all the rules".

Kate and Gerry McCann also said the case has given them “hope”, that they will find their daughter Maddie, who vanished while on holiday with them in Portugal on May 3, 2007.

In the wake of Cleo being found, we have taken a look at some of the most famous child kidnapping cases in history which have rocked millions across the globe.

Charles Lindbergh Jr.

  • Boy, 16, kidnapped by 'group of men' loses teeth and has hair cut off in horror attack

Charles was only 20 months old when he was snatched from his cot in his family home in 1932. His parents, including the famous aviator Charles Lindbergh, were forced to pay a ransom of $50,000, but despite the payment, he was found dead several months later.

Bruno Hauptmann claimed he was innocent but was convicted and executed after the case was named the "crime of the century", according to APM Reports.

After his abduction, a law was made called the Federal Kidnapping Act in 1932 which made it a federal crime to transport kidnapping victims across state lines.

Ben Needham

  • Miracle as 'Aussie Maddie McCann' found alive weeks after tot vanished from campsite

Ben was 21-months-old when he disappeared from outside his grandparents home on the Greek island of Kos in July 1991.

Despite a string of searches and investigations, no trace of him has ever been found and South Yorkshire Police have maintained their opinion that Ben died on the day that he vanished in an accident with a digger.

This year marked the 30th anniversary of his disappearance from the island and his family continue to dispute the theory without any evidence to support it.

Etan Patz

Ethan, was six-years-old when he was walking to his school bus stop alone for the first time, when he was kidnapped in May 1979.

Pedro Hernandez, 18, worked at a convenience store near his home in Manhattan and lured him into the shop's basement by promising him a soda.

It was reported that Hernandez choked him and put him out with the rubbish, but his body was never found.

The case struck fear across America after his disappearance remained unsolved for decades. He was the first child to be featured on milk cartons in the US.

Ethan was sadly declared legally dead in 2001.

In April 2017, Hernandez was sentenced to a minimum of 25 years for kidnap and murder.

Elizabeth Smart

  • Businessman and model girlfriend 'kidnapped and tortured by gang of six men'

Elizabeth became one of the USA's most famous kidnap victims in the summer of 2002 when she was abducted from her bedroom at the age of 14.

She was snatched by religious fanatic Brian Mitchell, who took her to a makeshift camp up not too far from her home in Salt Lake City, Utah.

It was reported that he had abused the teen and had given her drugs and alcohol as well as chaining her to a tree.

Elizabeth was rescued after a motorcyclist recognised her and told the police, reports Sky News.

In her memoirs, she wrote: "Over the next nine months, Brian Mitchell would rape me every day, sometimes multiple times a day, he would torture and brutalise me in ways that are impossible to imagine, starve and manipulate me, like I was an animal."

Mitchell was given a life sentence for rape, kidnap and burglary in May 2011.

His wife Wanda Barzee was sentenced to 15 years in prison after she thought Elizabeth was a "slave".

Polly Klaas

  • Miracle boy, 4, topples off 70ft cliff and survives huge fall with only grazes

Polly was in the middle of enjoying a slumber party with her friends when a man armed with a knife stormed into her bedroom and tied the girls up before putting pillowcases over their heads.

The 12-year-old was abducted from her home in California and was later found dead.

Richard Davis was convicted after he admitted to abducting and strangling her, reports Medium.

The case sparked support for California's "three strikes" law, which states that after three violent or severe felonies, the criminal has to serve a mandatory life sentence in California. It was passed in 1994.

Jacob Wetterling

Jacob, was 11-years-old when he was abducted while on his way home from a local shop with his brother and best friend in Minneapolis in 1989.

His kidnapper Danny Heinrich was armed with a gun and fled with Jacob.

Heinrich kept the location of his body a secret for more than two decades – he led investigators to Jacob's body in August 2016.

Following on from his disappearance, his mother Patty became an advocate for missing children and ran for the U.S. House twice, reports APM reports.

The case sparked one of the largest manhunts in US history and led to the launch of a federal law which required states to register sex offenders in 1994.

Jaycee Dugard

  • Fisherman mauled by Pablo Escobar's escaped cocaine hippos in front of his young son

Jaycee was 11-years-old when she was abducted outside her home in California in 1991.

She was held captive by Phillip Garrido in a compound in his back garden where she was sexually assaulted over a period of 18 years.

During this time she had given birth to two of his children and became a parent for the first time at the young age of 14 years old.

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Authorities were first made aware in August 2009, when Garrido, who had a previous conviction for rape, took her and his two daughters to a parole meeting, reports Sky News.

It was reported that he was sentenced to 431 years in Jail, while his wife Nancy Garrido was slapped with a life sentence after being convicted of kidnap, rape and false imprisonment.

"As I think of all of those years I am angry because you stole my life and that of my family … I hated every second of every day of 18 years because of you, " Jaycee wrote in a statement in court in 2011.

  • Missing Person
  • Ben Needham
  • Madeleine Mccann
  • Drugs
  • Family

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