Human remains found inside a four-metre crocodile in Australia’s far north over the weekend are believed to be those of 69-year-old Andrew Heard, who went missing last week.
Heard was last seen on Thursday afternoon when he set off in his 2.5 metre dinghy to fish the waters of Hinchinbrook Island’s Gayundah Creek, just north of Townsville, Queensland. His wife contacted authorities that night when he first failed to return to their yacht and then stopped responding via radio, and at about 2:30 AM on Friday morning his boat was found, capsized and with damage that indicated a crocodile attack.
Human remains were discovered in the area on Friday night, according to the Department of Environment and Science (DES), and the following day a 4.2 metre saltwater crocodile was found nearby. The reptile was caught, euthanised and cut open. Inside, a specialist found more human remains.
"Our thoughts are with the family at this difficult time following confirmation from [Queensland police] that the crocodile captured yesterday is believed to be the animal involved in the disappearance of a man," the DES said in a tweet on Sunday. "A necropsy was completed overnight."
A police investigation into the attack is ongoing, and officers will prepare a report for the coroner. The suspected crocodile attack would be the third to have occurred in Far North Queensland in as many weeks.
Towards the end of January, a man in his 40s was swimming at Lake Placid in Cairns when he was bitten on the head by a crocodile that he later described as being one-and-a-half- to two-metres long. In that case, the man survived with minor injuries after grasping the crocodile’s jaws and wresting himself from its grip.
"The animal has bitten the top of his head, with jaws either side,” critical care paramedic Paul Sweeney told reporters. “He felt this sudden impact clasp on the top of his head which he recognised to be a crocodile. He put his hands into the jaws to prise them off his head and when he did so and let go, the jaw snapped shut onto his left forefinger.”
Just days later, a 22-year-old man was attacked by a 3.6-metre crocodile while swimming in Weipa, near Australia’s far northeastern tip. He survived with deep lacerations to his hand, and the crocodile was trapped and euthanised shortly thereafter.
Following the Lake Placid incident, a spokesman for the DES urged people in Far North Queensland to be careful around swimming holes and known crocodile habitats, to avoid using canoes and kayaks, and to keep distance from the water’s edge when fishing—particularly at this time of year.
"The wet season is breeding time for estuarine crocodiles and they may behave more aggressively and become more territorial at this time,” the spokesman said.
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