British journalist (24) killed by crocodile while washing his hands in lagoon
A Financial Times journalist was killed by a crocodile whilst washing his hands in a lagoon in Sri Lanka during a holiday with friends.
Paul McClean, 24, an Oxford University graduate, is believed to have wandered off from friends in order to go to the toilet, before being ambushed by the reptile as he dipped his hands in the water.
He is said to have been seen “waving his hands in the air” in desperation before being dragged under water at a lagoon known as Crocodile Rock, located just just minutes from a popular surfing beach.
It is believed Mr McClean had only arrived in the country within the last few days and was staying at a nearby hotel with a group of friends.
Raised in the Thames Ditton area of Surrey, he graduated from Oxford with a First Class Honours degree in French in 2015 before joining the FT later that year.
He most recently covered Brexit and the EU for the newspaper and had recently spent a couple of months living in Brussels before returning to London earlier this year.
His most recent article, about the champagne industry, was published on Tuesday.
A colleague of Mr McClean on the FT said: "We're all totally stunned. He was a great kid, an Everton fan, super bright. It's an absolute tragedy."
Mr McClean’s brother, Neil, 22, was diagnosed with leukemia in 2014 and has documented his fight against the disease in a light-hearted online blog.
Whilst in remission, he returned to his studies at Glasgow University but relapsed in 2016 and was waiting for a stem cell transplant after doctors said it was his best hope of a long-term recovery.
Their father Peter is director of a management consultancy firm and lives with their mother, Irene, in Surrey.
According to the uncorroborated reports, Mr McClean was in the area with a group of friends and had wandered away to find a toilet, and had stumbled into an area known to be infested with crocodiles.
Fawas Lafeer, owner of Safa Surf School, located up the coast from where the incident happened, said: "This afternoon at around 3.15pm there was an incident involving a tourist at Elephant Rock surf spot, near Aragum Bay.
“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.
“The police were called immediately. We believe it was a 25 year old British man by the name of Paul McClean who was on holiday in Sri Lanka with a group of friends.
“He went surfing at the local surf spot; a trip organised by the hotel he was staying at. He headed away from the beach into the jungle around 900m away from the shore.”
Mr Lafeer 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.
“He was learning to surf and after that he wanted to go to the toilet. He went in the jungle, about 800 meters. It was when he was washing his hands that the crocodile took him.
“They can't do anything because the river is deep and murky, it is not very clear. They have sent out the Navy, Army and the task force, but I doubt they will find the body.
"The crocodiles take the bodies along river and hide them in the mud, so I don't think he will be found until the day after tomorrow.”
Meanwhile, a Scottish man staying in the area, who wished to remain anonymous 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."
There are two different kinds of crocodile that live in Sri Lanka, the Marsh, or 'Mugger', crocodile and the estuarine crocodile.
There are believed to be thousands of marsh crocodiles spread throughout various water bodies in the island.
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 last year a 60-year-old Sri Lankan man was also killed by a crocodile whilst fishing in the Paayindan River in Sammanthurai.
It is understood that two crocodiles measuring up to 17 feet in length have been observed or captured in the region since 2016.