Missing diver vest ripped by shark
Date July 12, 2012 Read later
A SHREDDED buoyancy vest belonging to missing Victorian diver Karen Lee appears to have been ripped from her body by a shark.
The search for the Preston woman was called off yesterday after investigators confirmed that scuba equipment discovered near the wreck, where she was diving off the Bellarine Peninsula, belonged to the 42-year-old.
Ms Lee disappeared while diving between Point Lonsdale and Barwon Heads on Saturday, but authorities said there had been no reports of shark activity in the area at the time.
Divers recovered her buoyancy vest, camera, tank and regulator near the wreck on Monday.
Police confirmed yesterday that the equipment belonged to Ms Lee after inspecting photographs in her camera.
Inspector Gary Bruce said that it was believed an attack by a ''shark or other marine life'' had happened after she died.
''There was no shark sighting during the dive or when they were searching for her on Saturday,'' he said.
A report will be prepared for the coroner.
If Ms Lee was killed by a shark and not attacked after drowning or dying from other causes, the fact no trace has been found of her suggests she was taken in a swift, sudden strike. The white shark, an apex predator of great size and formidable reputation, roams worldwide but appears to frequent temperate seas including southern Australia and Africa, and California and Japan.
It preys predominantly on mammals, from seals to whales, and has a reputation for attacking boats and humans, including four fatalities in West Australian waters in the seven months to last April.
However, experts believe the attacks on humans in wetsuits involve mistaken identity as sharks take them for seals.
The Victorian coast supports large seal colonies, which white sharks are attracted to but do not reside at, yet despite an environment that can sustain the endangered creature - and the numbers of people swimming, surfing and diving here - there have been few fatal attacks.
White sharks and other predators, such as killer whales, would also be drawn to the southern Australian coast at this time of the year for the annual appearance of right whales, which migrate from Antarctica to mate and give birth.
Assuming Ms Lee was taken by a charging white shark, the circumstances fit similar attacks, with the target near the surface and probably not having seen the creature beforehand.
In 2008, a fisherman landed a 250-kilogram bronze whaler shark off the Point Lonsdale pier.