A 57-year-old fisherman who stepped into the shallows of the Adelaide River near Darwin took a fatal risk in some of the most densely populated crocodile waters in the world.
Fishing with his wife after dark on Monday night, the Darwin local entered the river to free a fouled hook - and fell victim to a 4.5m saltwater crocodile known as Michael Jackson for his albino appearance.
Police Duty Superintendent Jo Foley said the man's wife heard a scream and saw a croc tail thrashing in the water and ran down a track next to the river to find help. Police and wildlife officers scoured the river in boats and several hours later they found Michael Jackson near human remains, and shot him. The man's wife was treated for shock by ambulance officers and taken to her home on the rural outskirts of Darwin.
The man's death was the fourth fatal crocodile attack in the Northern Territory this year. A 12-year-old boy was killed at a billabong in nearby Kakadu national park in January, in June 62-year-old fisherman Bill Scott was snatched from a boat, in Kakadu, and human remains were found in a crocodile on Melville Island after a man vanished last month.
Since 1971 an average of two people a year have been killed in about 100 attacks by saltwater crocodiles, which have been protected for more than 30 years after hunters decimated their numbers. The world's oldest living reptile is also one of its most deadly, capable of taking wild pigs, cattle, horses and water buffalo.
Australia has the highest river densities of salties in the world, and the Adelaide River, 60km south of Darwin, is packed with crocodiles that have become a tourist attraction. Boats suspend meat from poles, with crocodiles launching themselves clear of the water to snatch it. The man was fishing about 100m from the boats' jetty when he was taken. The area is heavily signposted with warnings against entering or walking too close to the water.
Michael Jackson was not the meanest crocodile in the river. The biggest is Brutus, who hit international attention when he was photographed devouring a shark. But Michael Jackson is being mourned.
"Michael Jackson was one in a million, and unfortunately being an albino would have been picked on by all the others," Rob Marchand, owner of Wallaroo Tours, which runs Jumping Croc cruises, told the ABC. He said that the crocodiles had been fighting a lot recently, jockeying for position and preparing to breed. "The croc has only been doing what nature intends it to do, and that's survive."
Dr Adam Britton, a crocodile researcher at Charles Darwin University, told AAP: "They acted appropriately to shoot him but it's a real shame they had to do it. He is a well-known, well-loved crocodile. It was always a thrill when he appeared."
How not to become a croc victim
1 Only swim in designated areas, obey warning signs and remember that not every dangerous river or pond is signposted.
2 Don't walk at the water's edge - stay at least 5m away - and do not wade in shallow water.
3 Avoid predictable activities at the water's edge: crocs hunt effectively by learning routines and patterns in their prey, and they learn quickly.
4 Don't lean over the water from boats, overhanging banks or trees.
5 Use landing nets to retrieve and release fish. Crocs can stay close to boats to steal fish caught on lines.
6 Don't camp too close to the water's edge, Stay at least 50m away from the water's edge, preferably up a steep bank of at least 2m high.