Friday, 15 September 2017

Paul McClean, A Talented Journalist Died During Holiday

Tributes have been paid to a “talented, energetic and dedicated” British journalist whose body has been found after a suspected crocodile attack in Sri Lanka.

Police divers found Paul McClean, a reporter for the Financial Times, dead in the mud of a lagoon near the village of Panama, on the country’s east coast. He had been on a beach and had wandered away to go to the toilet when he stumbled into an area infested with crocodiles.

Body of FT journalist presumed killed by crocodile found in Sri Lanka
James Lamont, the FT’s managing editor, said the paper was offering its help to his family and liaising closely with the Foreign Office. “Our thoughts are with his family, friends and loved ones,” Lamont said. “We are in touch with them, doing all we can to help during this difficult time.”

He said McClean, 24, was “a talented, energetic and dedicated young journalist” who had “a great career ahead of him at the FT”.

Katie Martin, McClean’s boss on the fastFT desk, said he was “a warm, funny person and a talented young journalist with a curious mind” and “a joy to be around, truly, with an impish sense of humor”.

Photo published for FT reporter Paul McClean dies in Sri Lanka
FT reporter Paul McClean dies in Sri Lanka
‘Talented, energetic and dedicated’ journalist with an eye for hidden stories.
Steve Bird, head of the FT’s NUJ chapel, said he knew McClean as “great colleague and journalist.”

“Paul was an important part of our chapel and engaged with our recent campaign highlighting the need to do more for trainees,” Bird said. “In his two years at the FT, Paul made a big impact and won a lot of friends. He will be missed very much.”

Séamus Dooley, the acting general secretary of the journalists’ union, said McClean was “a journalist with a career full of promise and a highly regarded colleague.

“On behalf of the NUJ, I would like to extend sympathy to his family, friends, and colleagues. Our thoughts and the thoughts of NUJ members everywhere will be with them at this sad time. The tragic circumstances add to the shock at his untimely death.”

A minute’s silence for McClean was held in the FT newsroom on Friday morning.

A crocodile is believed to have dragged McClean under water on Thursday afternoon, a police official told Agence France-Presse. A postmortem examination later on Friday will formally establish the cause of death.


“There were six or seven wounds on his right leg,” the officer said. “The body was stuck in mud at about the same place where he was seen last by some others who were with him.”

McClean, who was a month away from his 25th birthday, joined the FT as a graduate trainee two years ago. After growing up in Thames Ditton, Surrey, he had graduated from Oxford with a first in French. His most recent FT story explored the threat to champagne production from climate change.

The reporter was on holiday with friends in Panama, about 225 miles (360km) east of the capital, Colombo. Fawas Lafeer, the owner of Safa Surf School, said local fishermen saw McClean being “dragged into a river” by a crocodile.

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He said McClean had gone into the jungle to go to the toilet just before the incident happened and later washed his hands in the water.

Other holidaymakers in the area alerted police after McClean disappeared and a search was mounted with the help of navy divers, AFP reported.

Laffer said crocodiles had been known to hide bodies in the mud. But he said it was “almost unheard of” for the reptiles to come so close to the beach, describing Elephant Rock as a “beautiful secluded beach and very safe”.

Crocodile attacks on people are rare in Sri Lanka. However, this month wildlife authorities reported that a crocodile had seriously injured a wild elephant in the south of the island.

During monsoon floods in May, authorities warned people in inundated areas to beware of stray crocodiles.