Grisly find in the belly of monster croc
POLICE hope to crack a missing-persons cold case after obtaining DNA from a surgical plate found in the stomach of a monster crocodile.
Detectives in far north Queensland have been trawling through unsolved cases of possible victims who may have ended up in the belly of the 4.7m-long beast.
Known as M.J., the giant saltwater croc is understood to have been trapped in the wild and relocated to South Johnstone crocodile farm, at Innisfail, about 10 years ago.
"It's a baffling but intriguing case,'' crocodile expert John Lever said.
"How did this plate end up inside a crocodile? And who did it belong to?"
Officers hope to get a positive match by using the DNA, the missing persons register and talking to family of possible victims - who had surgery to get a metal plate with six screws implanted to fix a broken leg bone - to confirm an identity.
It is unknown if the human orthopaedic plate was attached to the bone of someone the crocodile had attacked and eaten.
Or, if it was fed to the crocodile as body parts, in a macabre but not impossible murder plot in the state's deep north.
"Police say forensic tests found DNA on the head of one of the screws," Mr Lever, who made the gruesome find in July, said.
"It's hard to imagine there is any DNA left.
"It's been in the highly acidic stomach of a crocodile for at least 10 years.
"It is so acidic it's eaten away the identification numbers on the plate that might have been easily matched with medical records."
Family of two missing persons have come forward to contact authorities in hopes of solving the puzzling mystery.
National Parks and Aboriginal rangers have been liaising with police and scouring archives to try to identify the exact location where the big male, believed to be between 30 and 50 years old, was caught.
Mr Lever, who owns Koorana Crocodile Farm at Rockhampton, purchased the 700kg crocodile from the Innisfail farm, now owned by French luxury retail company Loius Vuitton, in 2014, but its movements in the wild before that are unclear.
"It's exposed a flaw in the system.
"We chip all our crocodiles, that way we keep a history of every crocodile that comes into the farm, and we've got thousands.
"At Innisfail farm, the old owners, the Tabones, say they never had a croc called M.J., and the French company, the new owners, are only interested in the skins. It's meant the inquiry has hit a bit of a brick wall."
When M.J. died seven months after a fight with another male in July, Mr Lever opened up its stomach and found the 3.5mm DCP (dynamic compression plate), six screws and rocks.
In a "mystical twist", his wife recently broke her leg and had exactly the same titanium plate with eight screws implanted into her bone, he said.
Until the date and location of the big croc's capture is confirmed, the vast scope of possible missing persons cases - and those that were never reported missing - spreads from Townsville to the tip of Cape York.
■ Darren McAllister was last seen on November 20, 2006 in bushland near Coen on Cape York.
■ The 35-year-old Millaa Millaa man was reported missing after going pig hunting with a friend.
■ Police received information from the man's friend that they became separated about 1pm about 40km north west of Holroyd River station on the Holroyd Kendal Rd.
■ The missing man went to look for the dogs which had run off.
■ The man's friend searched throughout the afternoon until light faded and returned to the area with others however found no sign of the man.