A shark possibly 4m long killed a swimmer near a popular New Zealand beach on Wednesday, then disappeared after police attempting to save the man fired gunshots at the enormous predator.
Muriwai Beach near Auckland was closed after the fatal attack, one of only about a dozen in New Zealand in the past 180 years.
Police recovered the body of the victim, identified as Adam Strange, a 46-year-old television and short film director, the New Zealand Herald said.
A policeman fired up to 12 shots at the killer shark in a bid to retrieve the body of Mr Strange.
Mr Strange was seen waving for help before other beachgoers realised what was happening in the water and raised the alarm
A police source told the New Zealand Herald it was possible up to three sharks, most likely great whites, had been feeding on fish and birds, and Mr Strange swam right into the middle of them .
It is understood that when a rescue inflatable got to Mr Strange, the shark still had him in its grip. He was already dead.
Mr Strange's family issued a statement expressing their shock and requesting privacy.
Pio Mose, who was fishing at the beach, told the Herald he saw the swimmer struggle against the huge shark. He told the man to swim to the rocks, but it was too late.
“All of a sudden there was blood everywhere,” Mose said. “I was shaking, scared, panicked.”
Police Inspector Shawn Rutene said in a statement that the swimmer was about 200m offshore when the shark attacked.
He said police went out in inflatable lifesaving boats and shot at the shark, which they estimated was aboaut 4m long.
“It rolled over and disappeared,” Rutene said, without saying whether police were certain that they killed the creature.
About 200 people had been enjoying the beach during the Southern Hemisphere summer at the time of the attack.
Police said Muriwai and other beaches nearby have been closed until further notice.
Family and friends gathered at the beach today for an emotional ceremony to remember Mr Strange.
Up to 200 people attended a tapu-lifting ceremony at the beach this morning, with many wading into ankle-deep water and embracing.
Muriwai Beach and others nearby will remain closed until Saturday following the attack and lifeguards will continue to search the ocean for any sign of sharks.
Police yesterday did not say what species of shark was involved in the attack. Clinton Duffy, a shark expert with the Department of Conservation, said New Zealand is a hotspot for great white sharks, and other potentially lethal species also inhabit the waters.
Attacks are rare.
Duffy estimated that only 12 to 14 people have been killed by sharks in New Zealand since record keeping began in the 1830s.
“There are much lower levels of shark attacks here than in Australia,” he said.
“It's possibly a function of how many people are in the water” in New Zealand's cooler climate.
He said that during the Southern Hemisphere summer, sharks often come in closer to shore to feed and to give birth, although that doesn't necessarily equate to a greater risk of attack.
“Ninety-nine percent of the time they ignore people,” he said. “Sometimes, people get bitten.”