The aunt of a British diver killed in a shark attack in Australia says he loved the water and wildlife so much he would not want the animal to be destroyed.
Simon Nellist, from Penzance, died after the horrific tragedy on Wednesday. Today his aunt, Jacqui Seager, from Maidstone, recalled his passion for nature and the sea.
It is believed 35-year-old Mr Nellist was training for an upcoming charity swim when he was fatally attacked in front of horrified onlookers in Sydney’s Little Bay.
Mr Nellist, an RAF veteran who also served in Afghanistan, was due to marry his fiance Jessie Ho this summer. Friends described him as an experienced diving instructor.
The incident, believed to be the first fatal shark attack in Sydney since 1963, prompted the immediate closure of more than a dozen beaches in the area, with a review due today.
Mrs Seager, a business consultant and photographer, said: "What happened to Simon was terrible, and a very rare event. It was hugely unlucky.
"But he wouldn't want the animal to be destroyed. He loved being around the water, swimming and wildlife and was very compassionate.
"His brothers and sisters swim very well and he always just loved living by the sea. When I heard of his move to Australia and what he was doing, it came as no surprise."
His death came weeks before 'smart' drum lines were reportedly due to be installed which could have prevented the tragedy.
But it is believed Mr Nellist argued against their use, as sharks had died in them and the traps had ensnared other creatures.
Mrs Seager added that, naturally, his parents, who live in Cornwall, are griefstruck.
"It is a very tight-knit community there and they will be being supported," she added.
In Sydney the search is continuing for the white shark believed to be responsible, which left Mr Nellis with what medics described as “catastrophic injuries”.
Della Ross, a friend of Mr Nellist, told broadcaster 7News: “Everything that is connected to Simon, to me is connected to the ocean.
“The news hit us like a truck because he is really one of the people that makes this Earth better.”
A neighbour living in the Wolli Creek area of Sydney described Mr Nellist as “Such a nice guy”.
Emergency services were called to Little Bay at around 4.35pm local time on Wednesday after reports that a swimmer had been attacked by a shark.
Witness Kris Linto said the shark “came and attacked him (the victim) vertically”.
He told Nine News TV: “We heard a yell and then turned around. It looked like a car just landed in the water – big splash.”
Lucky Phrachnanh, from New South Wales state ambulance, said the victim “suffered catastrophic injuries as a result of the attack”, adding there was nothing paramedics could do when they arrived at the scene.
A spokesman for the Department of Primary Industries (DPI) said: “Based on footage provided by the public, including eyewitness accounts, DPI shark biologists believe that a white shark, at least three metres in length, was likely responsible.”
It is believed Mr Nellist was training for the 5k Malabar Ocean Swim, due to take place this weekend, when he was killed.
The event has been cancelled as a mark of respect, organisers said.
An event statement read: “The organising committee extends our thoughts and prayers to the family of the swimmer who was so tragically taken.
“Out of respect for the swimmer and his family, and following wide consultation with Randwick Council and experienced, senior Surf Life Saving personnel, we believe that cancelling the 2022 swim is appropriate.”