Horror at Humpty Doo: croc took Briony

Hunted or hunter ... a hungry "saltie" in the Adelaide  River, south of Darwin. Inset: Briony Goodsell, killed while swimming.

An 11-year-old girl, whose mangled body was found by authorities 24 hours after she went swimming with other children in a waterhole, was taken by a crocodile, the Northern Territory coroner has found.

On a hot Sunday afternoon in March last year, Briony Goodsell, her sister and two friends were cooling off in a swollen creek at Lambells Lagoon near Humpty Doo, south-east of Darwin.

One of the friends told investigators at the time that Briony started to yell out for help, before going under water.

“I thought she had a vine wrapped around her waist,” the friend said. “Then I saw the tail of a crocodile come out of the water and go back in. “I yelled out ‘crocodile’ and looked for [the other children]. When I looked back at Briony, she was gone.”

Dragged under ... Briony Goodsell, right, and her friend Jesse.  Briony was taken by a crocodile near Humpty Doo, south-east of Darwin.Dragged under … Briony Goodsell, right, and her friend Jesse.

In his findings, coroner Greg Cavanagh said that, based on all the evidence at the inquest, the death was due to a crocodile attack. “Although the crocodile was not located, there is sufficient evidence to find that it was a saltwater crocodile of approximately 3.2 metres in length,” he said.

“[It] travelled into the smaller feeder creek from the Adelaide River floodplain during a period of heavy rain and high water level.” As a result of the tragedy, the Northern Territory government changed its crocodile management plan and launched an education campaign.

Despite evidence being given at the inquest that crocodile numbers had increased to up to 150,000 in the Northern Territory in recent years, Mr Cavanagh concluded that culling would not work and would only lead to a false sense of security.

Mr Cavanagh said that as part of the Top End community, residents must face the reality that dangerous, man-eating animals lived among humans. “There is a balance to be achieved between the ethical and sustainable treatment of crocodiles and the safety of the public,” he said.

“The current crocodile management plan prepared and approved by the Northern Territory government promises the community that there will be increased attention to, and efforts with regard to, public safety.”

“I recommend that the increased public safety measures which are set out in detail … are resourced and implemented,” he said in his findings released this week.

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