SYDNEY - A white-headed crocodile nicknamed Michael Jackson has been shot dead, reports said Tuesday, after the predator apparently killed a fisherman in Australia's north.
Authorities were called in when a 57-year-old man disappeared after wading into the croc-infested Adelaide River to disentangle his fishing line late on Monday.
Police said the man's wife was with him on the river bank but did not see the moment the animal, believed to be 4.5 metres (15 foot) long, attacked.
"The initial information is that she did not see him taken but (heard) a scream and then turned around and saw a tail splashing in the water," Northern Territory duty superintendent Jo Foley said.
"She is absolutely distraught." Police later recovered a body, believed to be the victim, from the water.
The place the man was taken, some 60 kilometres (37 miles) from Darwin, is close to a popular spot where tourist boats go to see crocodiles which leap out of the water to take food dangled on long poles.
It is the same river where a monster reptile known as Brutus was pictured going head-to-head with a bull shark earlier this month, a battle the croc won.
"If it is Michael Jackson it'd be a very sad event," Adelaide River Queen Cruises owner Tony Blums told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation of the well-known animal.
"He's a unique half-albino. He's a very nice crocodile." Blums said there was about one crocodile for every 100 metres of river, and Michael Jackson would have been "just below the water" before he attacked.
Fellow tour operator Rob Marchand, owner of Wallaroo Tours, said crocodiles had been in that part of the river for years and had been fighting a lot recently in the lead up to the breeding season.
"The croc has only been doing what nature intends it to do, and that's survive," he told the ABC.
"They know how to do three major things: eat, reproduce and aggression ... if you're not going to look after yourself, you'll find yourself being eaten."
Crocodiles are common in Australia's tropical north. Their numbers have increased steadily since the introduction of protection laws in 1971, with government estimates putting the population at 75,000-100,000.
Earlier this month a 22-year-old man disappeared near a beach in the Northern Territory's northern Melville Island and is feared to have been taken by a crocodile.
Just weeks earlier in June, a 62-year-old man was snatched from his boat by a crocodile in front of terrified relatives in Kakadu national park, also in the Northern Territory.
In January a 12-year-old boy was killed by a crocodile in the same park.