Tourists were not warned about croc­o­dile at­tacks, res­i­dents claim

The Daily Telegraph - - News - By Pa­trick Sawer, Susitha Fer­nando in Colombo, Sap­tarshi Ray in Delhi, and Camilla Turner

THE Sri Lankan au­thor­i­ties were last night strug­gling to con­tain the dam­ag­ing fall­out from the death of a Bri­tish jour­nal­ist killed in a croc­o­dile at­tack.

Of­fi­cials have or­dered po­lice to erect warn­ing signs in the area where Paul Mc­clean, 24, a re­porter on the Fi­nan­cial Times, was at­tacked as he washed him­self in the mouth of a river, near the beach where he was learn­ing to surf.

Res­i­dents claimed that vis­i­tors to the south­ern Sri Lankan beach re­sort where Mr Mc­clean was killed were not warned of the pos­si­bil­ity of croc­o­dile at­tacks in the area. The au­thor­i­ties fear the lo­cal tourist econ­omy, which draws thou­sands every year to the area’s long sandy beaches, could be hit as a re­sult of the tragedy.

Sub In­spec­tor T D Gayana Sam­path Rat­nayake, said: “Fol­low­ing this in­ci­dent the deputy in­spec­tor gen­eral in the area has in­structed us to put warn­ing boards in sev­eral lan­guages.”

Mr Mc­clean had ar­rived in the coun­try from Lon­don for a hol­i­day ear­lier this week with a group of Bri­tish and Amer­i­can friends, and had gone on a surf­ing les­son at the Safa Surf School when Thurs­day af­ter­noon’s tragedy hap­pened.

He was last seen scream­ing for help and wav­ing his hands in the air as the large rep­tile grabbed him. Lo­cals told The Daily Tele­graph that de­spite the rivers in the area be­ing in­fested with crocodiles, the au­thor­i­ties had not taken any mea­sures to warn ei­ther the lo­cals or vis­it­ing for­eign­ers.

Wi­jeya Wi­jesinghe, a teacher who vis­ited the scene in the im­me­di­ate af­ter­math, told The Tele­graph: “A num­ber of lo­cals, es­pe­cially fish­er­men, had seen crocodiles in the area.

“There were few in­ci­dents of croc­o­dile at­tacks but they were ca­su­al­ties. How­ever no lo­cal author­ity or the tourist in­dus­try had taken mea­sures to warn tourists about dan­ger.”

In one of the first de­tailed ac­counts of the at­tack Mr Wi­jesinghe said: “A lo­cal fish­er­man who was about 20 me­ters away had seen the croc­o­dile get­ting into wa­ter.

“A few min­utes later he saw the hands of vic­tim who seemed to be strug­gling to save him­self from the croc­o­dile.”

Navy divers re­cov­ered Mr Mc­clean’s body yes­ter­day morn­ing from the muddy la­goon bed near Ele­phant Rock beach where it had been buried by the croc­o­dile.

A lo­cal mag­is­trate is over­see­ing an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the tragedy, with a post mortem due to be held to­day.

An ini­tial ex­am­i­na­tion re­vealed hor­rific wounds to Mr Mc­clean’s legs, where he had been dragged into the wa­ter by the croc­o­dile.

Af­ter trav­el­ling to south­ern Sri Lanka and spend­ing time in the re­sort of Unawatuna, Mr Mclean moved on to the East Beach Surf Re­sort in Arugam Bay where he had ar­ranged for surf lessons with an out­side op­er­a­tor.

He was trav­el­ling with school friends Chris Baller and Lorenzo Cadoux-hud- son. Mr Baller yes­ter­day posted a pho­to­graph of him­self hug­ging Mr Mc­clean on a Sri Lankan moun­tain top, in trib­ute to his friend.

Yes­ter­day col­leagues at the FT spoke of him as a tal­ented jour­nal­ist with an en­gag­ing sense of hu­mour and a sharp eye for a story.

James La­mont, the FT’S man­ag­ing edi­tor, de­scribed Mr Mc­clean as “a tal­ented, en­er­getic and ded­i­cated young jour­nal­ist” who had “a great ca­reer ahead of him at the FT”.

Mr Mc­clean es­tab­lished a rep­u­ta­tion as a ris­ing star at the pa­per’s Brus­sels bu­reau, be­fore mov­ing to its fastft team, in Lon­don.

Katie Martin, head of fastft, de­scribed him as “a warm, funny per­son and a tal­ented young jour­nal­ist with a cu­ri­ous mind… a joy to be around, truly, with an imp­ish sense of hu­mour”.

‘A lo­cal fish­er­man who was about 20 me­ters away had seen the croc­o­dile en­ter­ing into the wa­ter’

‘The desk to my left is empty. This is a sad time. My heart goes out to friends and fam­ily of the charm­ing Paul’

“Paul spent his last days in the of­fice laugh­ing at stupid stuff on the in­ter­net and try­ing to con­vince me he looked like Daniel Craig.”

She said, adding: “The desk to my left is now empty. This is a sad time. My heart goes to the friends and fam­ily of the charm­ing Paul Mc­clean.”

Mr Mc­clean de­scribed him­self as a “long-suf­fer­ing Ever­to­nian” and the club yes­ter­day paid its own trib­ute, stat­ing: “Ev­ery­one at Ever­ton is deeply sad­dened to hear of the un­timely pass­ing of Ever­to­nian and FT re­porter Paul Mc­clean.”

Ex­perts said that while at­tacks by crocodiles on hu­mans re­main rare the threat is grow­ing as the crea­tures come into in­creas­ing con­tact with hu­mans as a re­sult of threats to their na­tive habi­tat from mud­slides and floods.

Fol­low­ing the mon­soon rains last May, Sri Lankan gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials is­sued warn­ings for peo­ple to look out for stray crocodiles in flood­wa­ters.

Ji­gar Upad­hyay, a re­searcher on hu­man-croc­o­dile in­ter­ac­tion, based in Gu­jarat, In­dia, said: “It’s very un­usual for a croc­o­dile to go af­ter a hu­man. What could have hap­pened is that he wan­dered into a nest­ing area by ac­ci­dent and the croc­o­dile was pro­tect­ing any hatch­lings. Any hu­man would ob­vi­ously be ter­ri­fied – re­sult­ing in an un­know­ingly more threat­en­ing ges­ture to the an­i­mal.”

Paul Mc­clean and Chris Baller hug while pos­ing on top of a Sri Lankan moun­tain. Mr Baller posted the im­age in trib­ute to his friend

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