Fish­er­man de­scribes last tragic mo­ments of Bri­tish jour­nal­ist be­fore croc­o­dile at­tack

Sunday Times (Sri Lanka) - - NEWS - By Ka­sun Warakapi­tiya and Was­an­tha Chan­dra­pala

A Panama vil­lage fish­er­man yes­ter­day ex­plained how he saw one of Bri­tain's top fi­nan­cial jour­nal­ists wav­ing his hand in dis­tress be­fore be­ing at­tacked by a croc­o­dile and drowned in a la­goon.

Velupil­lai Sadanan­dan, 65, told the po­lice that he was in his fish­ing hut when he sud­denly heard a cry and looked to­wards the la­goon.

"I shouted to alert the other fish­er­men and rushed to the lo­ca­tion, by that time the tourist had dis­ap­peared," he said.

Am­para's Ju­di­cial Med­i­cal Of­fi­cer A. Il­lan­go­van yes­ter­day re­turned a ver­dict that 24- year- old Paul McClean’s death was caused by drown­ing though there were marks of an at­tacks of a rep­tile (croc­o­dile).

The body of Mr McClean was re­leased last evening.

Six Navy men re­trieved the body of the Jour­nal­ist on Friday morn­ing af­ter sev­eral at­tempts were made to lo­cate the body in the la­goon, Navy Me­dia Spokesman Lankanatha Disanayake said.

The hor­ri­ble tragedy oc­curred at Panama, six kilo­me­tres south of Arugam Bay.

The Navy spokesman said two navy of­fi­cers and four divers had joined res­cue mis­sion the next day morn­ing, towed an an­chor con­nected to a speed boat to get the body out of the mud but they were un­suc­cess­ful in the first at­tempt.

"We took a dif­fer­ent ap­proach and the team then cir­cled the boat high speed cre­at­ing a cur­rent to sweep away the mud af­ter con­firm­ing the place where the Bri­tish jour­nal­ist was last seen,” he said.

The body was found hor­i­zon­tally stuck in eight feet of mud, with the right leg hav­ing punc­ture wounds and the heel twisted.

The body was handed over to Panama po­lice for fur­ther in­ves­ti­ga­tions and taken to Am­para for the post mortem ex­am­i­na­tion.

A Panama po­lice of­fi­cer said the tragedy had taken place be­tween 2.30 pm and 3.15 pm on Thurs­day.

Mean­while, a Bri­tish High Com­mis­sion spokesman said they were in touch with the vic­tim's fam­ily.

A surfer ex­plained that the place where the tragedy took place was close to the ‘Croc­o­dile Rock’ which is known to be in­fested with croc­o­diles and is usu­ally avoided by the area's peo­ple.

He said the Bri­tish Fi­nan­cial Times jour­nal­ist had re­port­edly gone on surf­ing ear­lier and re­turned to the beach and there­after had gone in­land to­wards the la­goon to re­lieve him­self.

He had re­turned to wash his hands when the croc­o­dile grabbed him.

The surfer said that though politi­cians claimed money had been al­lo­cated to build toi­lets for the tourists, there were no san­i­ta­tion fa­cil­i­ties.

He said that in fu­ture the surf­ing com­mu­nity would place warn­ing signs at dan­ger­ous areas of Arugam Bay to avoid such tragedies. This was the first croc­o­dile at­tack in the area.

Mr McClean was a jour­nal­ist at Bri­tain's Fi­nan­cial Times and a grad­u­ate of Ox­ford Univer­sity.

He joined the FT two years ago un­der a grad­u­ate scheme.

Mr McClean's col­leagues sent twit­ter mes­sages and posted trib­utes on Face­book in hon­our of the young jour­nal­ist.

At the Fi­nan­cial Times, trib­utes were writ­ten by its re­porters. One of them, Lionel Bar­ber, said, “Paul was Nat­u­ral. He had charm cu­rios­ity and an at­ten- tion to de­tail -- the in­gre­di­ents for a top reporter. He was fam­ily. We will miss him sorely.”

“Our thoughts are with his fam­ily, friends and loved ones,” said James La­mont, the FT’s Man­ag­ing Ed­i­tor. “We are in touch with them, do­ing all we can to help dur­ing this dif­fi­cult time.”

The Brus­sels bureau Chief Alex Barker in his trib­ute said it was Mr McClean who first worked out ex­actly how many in­ter­na­tional treaties Bri­tain would need to rene­go­ti­ate af­ter Brexit

He also worked in the Paris of­fice of WAN- IFRA as an ed­i­to­rial in­tern in May 2014. He was in Paris as an Ox­ford Univer­sity stu­dent on his year abroad -manda­tory for Stu­dents study­ing a for­eign lan­guage.

He worked as a trainee jour­nal­ist/ blog­ger writ­ing ar­ti­cles for the WANIFRA blog.

The in­quest is due to be held to­mor­row.

The la­goon at Panama: Calm wa­ters now flow over a ter­ri­ble tragedy

Paul McClean

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