The family of a British diving instructor who was killed by a great white in Sydney’s first fatal shark attack in 60 years have paid tribute to him, calling him a ‘wonderful human being’ who had the ‘rare gift’ of connecting with people.
Cornish-born Simon Nellist, a former RAF engineer who survived two tours of Afghanistan, died just 500ft from horrified beachgoers off Little Bay, east of the Australian city, on Wednesday.
His devastated family have now paid tribute, calling him a ‘proud Cornishman’ who had made Australia his home with his fiancée Jessie.
They said: ‘Simon had a great passion for nature and the sea, as well as being a very talented photographer’. Saying they would ‘miss him terribly’, they added: ‘Simon was a gentle, kind and wonderful human being. He was a cherished fiancée, son, brother, uncle and friend.
‘Simon was funny, compassionate and always had time for people. He had a rare gift of instantly being able to connect with others, gaining their trust and respect.’
Yesterday it emerged that Mr Nellist was killed just days before safety lines to stop sharks getting close to the coast were due to be installed. Sydney authorities had pencilled in the work for the area where he died before the end of February.
Relatives said his distraught mother was left wondering ‘how could he return from the frontline unscathed to then go to Australia, go out for a swim and get killed’.
Cornish-born Simon Nellist, a former RAF engineer who survived two tours of Afghanistan, died just 500ft from horrified beachgoers off Little Bay, east of the Australian city, on Wednesday
Yesterday it emerged that Mr Nellist was killed just days before safety lines to stop sharks getting close to the coast were due to be installed. Sydney authorities had pencilled in the work for the area where he died before the end of February
His devastated family said he was a ‘proud Cornishman’ who had made Australia his home with his fiancée Jessie
Mr Nellist was the first person to be killed by a shark in the Sydney area since the 1960s
Heartbreaking reason shark attack victim never got to marry the girl of his dreams – before he was mauled to death by a Great White in front of shocked fishermen
A diving expert killed by a monster great white shark was never able to marry the love of his life because of Covid lockdowns.
British expat Simon Nellist, 35, was engaged to Jessie Ho when he was mauled to death at Buchan Point, near Little Bay in the city’s east, on Wednesday afternoon.
Heartbroken friends revealed the expat, from Cornwall in the UK, had met Ms Ho not long after he went travelling in Australia six years ago.
Mr Nellist had finished a two year stint with the Royal Air Force and quickly fell in love with the wildlife and Ms Ho during his tour around the country.
The pair were madly in love and planned to marry last year, but were forced to push back their wedding because of the pandemic.
A close friend shared a post the former soldier wrote last year from his time spent in Afghanistan with the Royal Air Force.
In the post, put on Facebook as the country fell back into the grip of the Taliban, Mr Nellist wrote about playing music by the band Rage Against The Machine to local children.
He said the youngsters ‘were so nice, just good-hearted kids who had nothing. We made friends, played music and shared food. I hope they’re okay. If they managed to escape, I hope we can look after as many of them as possible’.
Most city beaches were shut after the attack with swimmers banned from the water.
The shark victim’s friend shared the post to show ‘the kind of gentleman Simon was’.
‘He was rare, salt of the earth, lived life to the max, an incredible diver and photographer, a brave soldier, a fine looking man, his heart was wholesome,’ she said. ‘I can’t stop thinking about him, his family, the love of his life Jessie and the pain they are feeling.’
Mr Nellist’s family told MailOnline that he would not want the animal to be destroyed. He was the first person to be killed by a shark in the area since the 1960s. His aunt Jacqui Seager, 62, said: ‘I don’t think Simon would want the shark to be killed. He loved nature.
‘He swam with sharks before. This isn’t the first time he’s gone out and seen them but he would still go out swimming. That’s brave. I don’t think he ever thought they would hurt him. Sadly, this time it managed to get to him.
‘It’s absolutely horrendous. We are all in shock.’
Photographer Mrs Seager, of Maidstone, Kent, added: ‘He swam most days. This is just a freak accident. It shows you can’t take life for granted.’
His death at Buchan Point on Wednesday forced authorities in Sydney to close several beaches, including the famous Bondi.
Special ‘drum lines’ – aquatic traps using baited hooks to lure and capture large sharks – were set up in the water. However, they are controversial because sharks have died in them. They also often catch other wildlife. Mr Nellist had hit out over their use in Sydney, saying they ‘protect no one’ and ‘need to go’.
A close friend shared a post the former soldier wrote last year from one of Mr Nellist’s two tours of Afghanistan while serving with the UK Royal Air Force
Simon Nellist was going to marry ‘the love of his life’ Jessie Ho (pictured together)
Mrs Seager stressed: ‘Simon always loved the sea. He was always very close to it. He loved wildlife and the world. He had a real love affair with nature’
Mother-of-three Mrs Seager said: ‘He told his mum he was going to travel to Australia and that was that. He loved it so much that he stayed. He met his girlfriend Jessie out there. They’re around the same age and instantly hit it off. They’ve been together for years.
‘She is totally in bits, as are his parents. I spoke to them last night and they are beyond belief. They will never get through this – ever – as this is something you keep with you for life. I just feel so sorry for them. They are planning to get out there as soon as they can but need to sort visas out. Everyone was going to fly out there to see him get married in June or July but sadly it is now in much sadder circumstances.’
Mrs Seager stressed: ‘Simon always loved the sea. He was always very close to it. He loved wildlife and the world. He had a real love affair with nature. He was a very kind and considerate man who just loved life. He was a strong guy and did two tours of Afghanistan. His mum said how could he return from the frontline unscathed to then go to Australia, go out for a swim and get killed.’
Experts believe the shark which killed Mr Nellist on his daily swim was at least 10ft long and might have mistaken his wetsuit for a seal.
He had been training for a swimming event on Sunday but it has now been cancelled. Dr Chris Pepin-Neff, of Sydney University, said such shark attacks were incredibly rare, with just ten or 12 of its kind in 30 years around the world.
Mr Nellist’s friend Della Ross described the diving community’s devastation, saying: ‘Everything that is connected to Simon is connected to the ocean.
‘The news hit us like a truck because he was one of the people who make this Earth lighter.’
The chilling reason behind Sydney’s deadly shark attack: Expert explains why killer 4.5metre great white was so close to the area – as graphic reveals how the terrifying ‘vertical’ mauling unfolded
A great white shark that fatally mauled a swimmer may have been lured to the idyllic spot by fishing bait and mistaken its victim for a seal, a leading expert has claimed – as a startling graphic showed how the predator launched the ‘vertical attack’.
The 4.5m shark attacked its victim, believed to be a 35-year-old man from Wolli Creek, at Buchan Point, near Little Bay in Sydney’s south east about 4.30pm on Wednesday in the city’s first fatal attack in almost six decades.
Witnesses described seeing the great white ‘attack vertically’ and land ‘like a car’ in the water, before dragging the man’s body out into the ocean.
An illustration shows how the shark pounced on the helpless victim less than half its size, before turning the ocean red with blood – sparking panic on the shore.
A great white shark that fatally mauled a swimmer may have been lured to the idyllic spot by fishing bait and mistaken its victim for a seal, a leading expert has claimed – as a startling graphic showed how the predator launched the ‘vertical attack’
Authorities are not believed to be planning to kill the shark, and will instead chase the animal away from the mainland if it is picked up by drum lines set up at the scene.
The frenzied attack took place only 150m away from the main beach, which was packed with dozens of swimmers, paddle boarders and rock fishermen.
The circumstances of the tragedy emerged as an animal welfare advocate claimed the shark responsible for Wednesday’s attack probably mistook its victim for a helpless seal.
Lawrence Chlebeck, of Humane Society International, said the ferocious attack was incredibly rare.
He believes the shark probably mistook the swimmer – reportedly wearing a wetsuit – for a seal when it launched the attack.