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.”
13-year-old girl was killed by a crocodile in April on a day out at Pulnewa Lake, in Galnewa. The girl’s family, said they saw her being dragged into the water by the large reptile.
In July last year, a 60-year-old Sri Lankan man was also killed by a crocodile 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.