Image source, Wa POLICEImage caption, Police released a photo of Cleo Smith after her rescue

A 36-year-old man will be charged in connection with the abduction of a four-year-old Australian girl, in a case that has gripped the nation.

Detective Superintendent Rod Wilde told reporters that the man would likely be charged this afternoon.

Four-year-old Cleo disappeared from her family's tent at a campsite on 16 October, triggering a massive search.

She was found in a house in Carnarvon, about six minutes' drive away from her family home.

Authorities say the man in custody has no connection to the Smith family.

Detective Wilde said that the man had been admitted to hospital after trying to harm himself while in police custody but was now back at the station and was being interviewed by detectives.

He added that they expected to produce him before a magistrate later today once those interviews were concluded.

Police have not formally named the man, but there has been massive interest in his identity.

'A very quiet man'

Local media have been carrying images of the house where Cleo Smith was locked up and spoken to the man's neighbours who have expressed shock that he might have been involved.

The West Australian said that he had been described as a "very quiet" man who "kept to himself", adding that everyone on the street had said that they knew him.

ABC News reported that he had been recently spotted by a neighbour buying nappies.

"We didn't click who… he was buying them for," the neighbour was quoted as saying.

  • Missing girl found alive weeks after vanishing
  • Police offer A$1m reward amid fears girl was taken

An image by 7 News, believed to be of the man has also been widely circulated on social media and other news platforms.

It shows a man underneath a blanket in the back of an ambulance.

This video can not be played

To play this video you need to enable JavaScript in your browser.Media caption, The moment four-year-old Cleo Smith was rescued by police

Western Australia Deputy Commissioner Col Blanch said police had a duty to ensure anyone in custody medically fit enough to undergo questioning and to ensure that the court process is validated.

He added that the man had been "assisting" with the investigation.

News of Cleo's rescue has been welcomed by relieved Australians.

Australian PM Scott Morrison tweeted it was "wonderful, relieving news". Commissioner Dawson said: "I think Australia is rejoicing."

"To find a little girl – a vulnerable little girl – after 18 days. You know, obviously people think the worst, but importantly hope was never lost," the commissioner added.

The girl has been reunited with her parents, who had made desperate pleas for Cleo's return.

"Our family is whole again," her mother, Ellie Smith, wrote on Instagram.