A British tourist believed to have been eaten by a shark during a luxury trip to celebrate his wife’s 40th birthday had been swimming in what was deemed a ‘safe’ lagoon, it was revealed today.
The victim, named locally as civil servant Richard Martyn Turner, from Edinburgh, was snorkeling by himself in the area on the Indian Ocean paradise of Reunion Island where four sharks were later caught, according to the Scottish Sun.
The 44-year-old’s death was confirmed by judicial sources days after his severed hand and forearm were found in the stomach of a predator. His wife, named by sources as Verity Turner, identified his remains through his wedding ring.
Martyn Turner, pictured on his wedding day to wife Verity in 2014, vanished while swimming off Reunion island. His hand, still bearing his distinctive wedding ring, was later recovered from a shark killed nearby
The victim, who was known as Martyn, and events company worker Verity, were originally from northwest England but moved to Edinburgh.
Mr Turner vanished on Saturday while snorkelling in Hermitage Lagoon, off the coast of the Indian Ocean island of Reunion – a French overseas territory.
Despite four sharks being killed near off the coast nearby where he went missing, the lagoon was described by locals as ‘safe’ for swimmers.
The Briton has yet to be officially named, but local sources said the couple were at the five star resort of Lux Réunion hotel in Saint-Gilles for Mrs Turner’s 40th birthday.
The Foreign Office declined to comment on the victim’s identity yesterday.
A police helicopter was called in to the search for the missing man, but he could not be found by rescue teams.
The lagoon is deemed safe for swimmers thanks to its calm, shallow waters of less than 6ft and its dense coral reef, which serves as a barrier that helps keep sharks out.
It is located off Hermitage Beach, close to the town of Saint-Paul – one of the most popular tourist attractions on Reunion, which is 500 miles east of Madagascar.
A legal source on Reunion said: ‘The man undoubtedly thought he was safe. He went off to snorkel around the Hermitage coral reef, where the water is warm and very shallow.
‘It may be that waves pushed the man beyond the reef into open sea, or that the shark swam into the lagoon. What is now certain is that he is dead.’
Reports identified this shark as the one from which Mr Turner’s remains were recovered
Mr Turner was affectionately described as an ‘English eccentric’ on a profile published for his wedding with Verity, pictured
Hermitage Lagoon off Hermitage Beach, close to the town of Saint-Paul, is one of the most popular tourist attractions on Reunion. It is deemed safe for swimmers thanks to its calm, shallow waters of under 6ft deep but outside the lagoon waters are known for shark attacks
It remained unclear last night whether Mr Turner was attacked by the tiger shark or whether he drowned and the fish was attracted to his floating body.
One source on the island claimed his hand and forearm were found inside the stomach of one of the captured tiger sharks – which were between nine and 13ft long.
Tiger sharks are the second most dangerous shark to humans after the Great White.
Classed as a near-threatened species, an adult tiger shark is 10-14ft long, can weigh up to 1,400lb and will live for 15 years or more.
A spokesman for the local search and rescue crew – the Centre Regional Operationnel de Surveillance et de Sauvetage (Cross) – said it might not be possible to determine cause of death without a body, but blood and DNA tests would be carried out on the hand.
He added: ‘The victim was certainly swimming but it is not clear whether he was attacked or he was already dead when he was eaten. One possibility is that he became unwell while in the lagoon and was taken by the currents into deeper water.’
The spokesman said there was no operation to find the Briton as crews would be unlikely to recover a body given how many sharks are in the water. He added: ‘If we find a body, it is usually within the first 48 hours of it going missing.’
It is understood the victim and his wife had been spending a week on the island, staying at the Lux Réunion hotel in Saint-Gilles.
It is understood the Briton and his wife had been spending a week on the island, staying at the Lux Réunion hotel in Saint-Gilles (pictured)
Saint-Gilles on the Indian Ocean island of Reunion (file image). A 44-year-old British man believed to have been eaten by a shark was staying at the Lux Réunion hotel in Saint-Gilles
Mr Turner’s severed hand and forearm were said to have been identified by his wife on Wednesday. They were recovered after five sharks were killed four miles from the picturesque Hermitage Beach.
A police insider on Reunion said the man had been described by his family as a ‘strong swimmer’.
The insider added that the tourist’s wife ‘did not see him going out of the sea after he went off for his swim’.
The couple are thought to live in Edinburgh and moved to Scotland from the north west of England around 15 years ago.
Mr Turner is believed to have worked for the Scottish civil service while his wife was employed at a local events company.
A source on the island said: ‘Here, they regularly fish sharks to regulate the population.
‘This week they fished four – that’s a lot for a week, so maybe they had suspicions – and they found human remains in one of the stomachs.
‘Apparently they found his hand and forearm and it’s thanks to his wedding ring that they identified him.’
The shark that had eaten the remains was over 10ft long.
Mr Turner is believed to have worked for the Scottish civil service while his wife was employed at a local events company
There are frequent shark attacks around Reunion, which is in the Indian Ocean, some 500 miles from Madagascar (a map showing the location of Reunion island)
Last night, the UK Foreign Office said: ‘We are providing support to the family of a British man who died in La Reunion.’
Reunion’s waters are among the most shark-infested in the world, with numerous beaches and coves closed to swimmers, surfers and snorkellers due to the threat.
Local authorities have been accused of downplaying the dangers in order to prevent harming the tourism industry.
In May, a 28-year-old surfer had his leg ripped off by a shark off Reunion, with his body later found floating in the port of Saint-Leu.
It was the 24th shark attack – and 11th fatal case – reported on Reunion since 2011.
On a visit last month to Reunion, French President Emmanuel Macron said his government was doing everything possible to deal with the shark crisis.