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International

Financial Times journalist Paul McClean killed by crocodile in Sri Lanka after he was dragged underwater when he went to wash his hands

13:30, Friday, 15 September, 2017
Financial Times journalist Paul McClean killed by crocodile in Sri Lanka after he was dragged underwater when he went to wash his hands

A FINANCIAL Times journalist was killed by a crocodile while washing his hands at a lagoon in Sri Lanka during a holiday with pals.

Paul McClean, 25, an Oxford University graduate, is understood to have wandered away from his group of friends to find a toilet when he was attacked.The British victim, from Surrey, was seen "waving his hands in the air" in desperation before being dragged under water at a lagoon called Crocodile Rock near Arugam Bay.

Mr McClean graduated from Oxford with a First Class Honours degree in French in 2015 before joining the Financial Times later that year.

He had covered Brexit and the EU for the newspaper and had recently returned to London after living in Brussels for a couple of months.

The lagoon, known to be crawling with crocodiles, is yards away from popular surf spot Elephant Rock near Arugam Bay on the southeast coast.

Sri Lankan police and the army are said to be searching the shore surrounding the area.

Locals claimed the victim had been staying at the East Beach Surf Resort - located just minutes away from the surfing area he went missing from.Fawas Lafeer, owner of Safa Surf School, located up the coast from where the incident happened, said: “A local fisherman witnessed a man being dragged into a river, set back from the beach, by a crocodile. The fisherman was on the opposite side of the river and downstream of the incident location."

He added:“This is the first known crocodile attack in Sri Lanka. Both tourists and locals surf at Elephant Rock, which is a beautiful secluded beach and very safe.

“Crocodiles in Sri Lanka live only in the fresh, back waters of the jungle. It is almost unheard of for them to come close to the beach. The salt water actually turns them blind.

“Local search and rescue teams are working alongside the police and British Embassy in attempt to locate the man's body."

Meanwhile, a Scottish tourist, who wishes to remain anonymous, said: “A British tourist was at a surf spot called Elephant rock.

"There's a lagoon right next to the sea. He went to the toilet next to the lagoon and was grabbed by a crocodile.

“There are lots in the lagoon. People last saw his arms in the air in the water and then was grabbed under. I was there but didn’t see it happen though. Horrible“They are searching for a body but haven’t found anything yet.

“The army were down and there are people out on boats checking the shore because crocodiles won't eat anything in water - they will take it on to dry land to eat prey."

He said some locals had discussed the possibility that he may have fallen into the lagoon because of quicksand.

“They are 90 per cent sure it was a crocodile but a couple of the guys said there was quicksand in the lagoon," the tourist said.

“A few people that knew the guy were just on the ground, I didn't get that close but they all just seemed in shock and not saying much.

“There were a large crowd of Sri Lankan men surrounding them and they had bits of paper.”

Sean Carroll, from New South Wales, Australia, wrote on Facebook: “A croc just took a tourist bloke in Sri Lanka.

“He was walking on a beach where a small river meets the sea, it’s named Crocodile Rock for that reason obviously.He still hasn't been retrieved from river. Heavy.

"I’m sure he was close to the river for it to take him. Police looking and army too.”

There are two different kinds of crocodile that live in Sri Lanka, the Marsh, or "mugger", crocodile and the saltwater crocodile.

One local from Panama village, 10km from Crocodile Rock, heard about the horrifying attack from his friends.

He told SunOnline: “A British guy fell in the lagoon. There are lots of police searching the area.

“It is a very dangerous place to swim, there have been lots of attacks.”

In April of this year, a 13-year-old girl was attacked and dragged away by a crocodile while she was enjoying a day out with her family at Pulnewa Lake, in Galnewa.

The girl was reported missing by her family, who said they saw her being dragged into the water by the large reptile.

And in July 2016, a 60-year-old Sri Lankan man was also killed in a crocodile attack.

He had been fishing in the Paayindan River in Sammanthurai when he was attacked.

A colleague said: “We’re all totally stunned. He was a great kid, super bright. It’s an absolute tragedy.”

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