Simon Nellist regularly wore a full body wetsuit even swimming while the waters were warm. Almost ‘no one’ else does, a local told Daily Mail Australia
A swimmer mauled by a great white was virtually the only beach regular to wear a wetsuit into the warm summer waters – something that may have led the 4.5m shark to mistake him for a seal.
Locals flocked back to Little Bay in Sydney’s south-east on Friday morning pledging not to ‘live our lives in fear’ two days after a 4.5m beast mauled British diving instructor Simon Nellist.
The 35-year-old diver was preparing for a charity ocean swim this weekend, which has since cancelled, when he was killed by the apex predator.
He is now the first confirmed fatal victim in Sydney in 60 years.
As the coastline reopened today, beach-goers said they now feel safer due to patrol boats, police and helicopters monitoring the area – with many plunging into water.
Swimmer Barbara went for her usual swim on Friday and told Daily Mail Australia the situation was ‘unbelievable’ and that it would take the community a long time to get over it.
The swimmer said she regularly saw Mr Nellist, who lived about 10km north-east of the beach in Wolli Creek, heading down to the sand from time to time, and they always said hello.
‘He always wore a wetsuit, but the water here is quite warm and no one else really wears one,’ Barbara explained.
Emma, 27, (pictured) said she’s sometimes swims three times a day, and the attack is not going to stop her
Locals flocked to the beach on Friday morning (pictured), despite the horror shark attack on Wednesday afternoon
On Thursday, experts said the wetsuit may have meant the shark mistook Mr Nellist for a seal before it struck.
No one else really wears one (a wetsuit)
Great white sharks rely on seals for their blubbery fat to give them the high energy they need for their hunter-killer life, and are believed to gorge on a seal every few days.
Lawrence Chlebeck, of Humane Society International, said: ‘Great white sharks are obviously large predators that expend a lot of energy so they need a lot of high energy food and the blubber of a seal is perfect for that.’
Barbara said the vicious attack wouldn’t deter her. ‘There’s one fatal attack in 60 years so it doesn’t put you off, and I’m not going to be around in 60 years,’ the 85-year-old explained.
Local swimmer Emma, 27, said she sometimes swims two or three times per day and never thought she’d see a sign warning swimmers about sharks on the beach.
However, she said it’s not going to stop anyone.
Emma said she never thought she’d see a sign warning swimmers about sharks on the beach (pictured)
Some Little Bay residents said they felt safer swimming two days after a shark attack because it’s being patrolled
On Friday morning, a single red rose could be seen in a gate on the beach at Little Bay (pictured)
‘I think if I were swimming on my own I definitely wouldn’t go in but we swim as part of a group – it’s a really tight-knit community here and nothing has ever stopped us from swimming before,’ she said.
The young woman pointed to the boat patrolling the area on the outskirts of the bay – where the shark struck – and said knowing it’s there it makes her feel more comfortable.
‘[Mr Nellist] was definitely swimming further out, so that’s one of the reasons why I’ve been able to come back and swim – I think if it was in the shallows I definitely wouldn’t, but it was a little further out than we would normally go so I feel safer.’
Horrifying video from the scene shows local fishermen watching on helplessly as the former Royal Air Force serviceman is attacked by the monster shark, which they saw ‘swallow parts of his body’ after ripping it in two.
Emma said she saw the footage, but wished she hadn’t.
‘Stuff like that doesn’t normally bother me, but I was really affected by it and just feel really sad for his fiancee – just really shocked – but yeah it doesn’t stop people from coming here.’
Emma, 27, said she watched the footage of the gruesome attack, noting how badly it impacted her
A patrol boat could be seen beyond the bay on Friday morning (pictured), where the attack took place
Mr Nellist , 35, (pictured) was an experienced diver who regularly swum at the beach
Matthew, 55, (pictured) said he is going to get on with things, and doesn’t want to live in fear
Mr Nellist planned to marry his long-time partner Jessie Ho, whom the British expat met not long after arriving in Australia as part of his travels six years ago, but the Covid pandemic got in the way.
Matthew, 55, said his friend swam at the beach on Thursday as a sign of respect, even though it was closed.
‘I didn’t want to swim while the beach was closed, but I’ve decided to get back on with it,’ he explained.
‘It’s an important part of my day, doing the swim across the bay and back, and people are saying they’re not going to live in fear.’
On Friday morning, bunches of flowers could be seen in a fence by the stairs leading down to the sand.
A single red rose had also been carefully placed in a gate on the beach – as helicopters circled and police surveyed the rocks at the edge of the bay, looking for sharks and Mr Nellist’s remains.
Authorities closed the beaches on Thursday (pictured) but locals weren’t deterred
Bunches of flowers were fastened to a fence leading down to the beach on Friday morning (pictured)
Bondi Salties had a minute of silence on Bondi Beach on Friday morning, as a way of paying respect to Mr Nellist
Experts say the predator has likely already swam at least 100km away, and it’s understood that even if it was found – it wouldn’t be culled, but encouraged to leave the area.
Matthew agreed with the experts and said the ocean is the shark’s home.
‘There’s been discussion over whether we should hunt it down, but the water is it’s home, and the majority are saying let it be,’ he explained.
Bondi Salties, a swim club at Bondi Beach – 13km north of Little Bay, had a minute of silence on Friday morning to pay their respects to Mr Nellist – standing on the sand with their heads bowed.
‘Rest in Peace,’ the picture caption said.
An eerie graphic seen by Daily Mail Australia shows that the diving instructor jogged for an hour from his home in Wolli Creek to Little Bay on the day of the tragedy.
Simon Nellist (pictured with his fiancée Jessie Ho in Sydney) was due to marry the love of his life after Covid-19 threw their wedding plans into chaos last year
Simon Nellist was no stranger to sharks and would also post footage of his diving expeditions with them (pictured)
Mr Nellist’s social media feed was littered with photos and footage of him on his ocean adventures, which included diving expeditions and swimming with sharks.
He was also an advocate for the predators and expressed strong views about shark nets and drumlines – which are used to alert authorities about their presence – just six months ago.
The diving instructor regularly shared memories of his ocean adventures with fellow enthusiasts online.
‘Lots of sharks today at Bushrangers Bay diving with the Scubathlon team. Vis wasn’t too bad, a bit patchy but good at the gravel loader. We counted around 10 Grey Nurse Sharks,’ he captioned footage he filmed while diving with sharks.
Shortly before Sydney was plunged into Covid-19 lockdown, Mr Nellist and his fiancée headed north to dive with sharks off Rainbow Beach near Fraser Island, an experience he highly recommended to others.
‘We had a great couple of dives today. Awesome and professional crew, and a couple of lovely dives,’ he wrote.
‘Lots of pregnant grey nurse heaps of different schooling fish, whip ray, bull ray, puffers, snapper, crocodile needle fish chilling near the surface. We could hear the humpbacks singing and watched them on the surface interval.
‘A great day out, check it out if you come up this way!’
Other posts revealed his caring nature for all marine life.
‘A friend of mine saw this rather sick looking turtle at the steps, Kurnell today. I’ve contacted Australian seabird rescue as they also rescue turtles,’ he wrote.
Simon Nellist and his partner Jessie Ho pictured after a diving expedition off Queensland’s Rainbow Beach last June before Sydney was plunged into lockdown
Simon Nellist (right) often encountered sharks on his frequent diving expeditions and he was a very experienced ocean swimmer
Since the attack, six drumlines have been put in place between Little Bay and Malabar as part of a shark incident response plan.
It’s an issue Mr Nellist felt strongly about.
The experienced ocean swimmer and dive instructor knew of the potential dangers every time he did the swim, and expressed his disgust with controversial techniques used to keep sharks out of swimming areas.
‘Shark nets and drumlines protect no one and kill all kinds of marine life each year,’ Mr Nellist posted on Facebook six months ago.
Shark nets and drumlines are usually deployed near popular swimming beaches with the aim of reducing sharks in the vicinity.
British expat Simon Nellist (pictured) was an experienced ocean swimmer and diver who swam in the area of Little Bay regularly
Six drumlines have temporarily installed between between Little Bay and Malabar. Simon Nellist shared strong views on drum lines just six months ago
Authorities have since revealed Little Bay Beach was scheduled to have the SMART drumline technology installed within two weeks as part of the NSW government’s new shark management program.
The technology is designed to provide greater protection to swimmers by alerting authorities to a shark’s presence.
The system involves a bait dangling in the ocean attached to a buoy, so that when the shark takes the bait it triggers a magnet which sets off a solar-powered beacon to alert officials on the shore.
The communication unit, attached to the drumline, sends an email and text message to researchers and contractors within minutes of a shark tripping the line.
‘We’re rolling SMART drum lines out in the Sydney region, around where this incident happened, in about two weeks,’ DPI principal research scientist Paul Butcher told The Australian.
‘Our biggest priority is getting those drumlines in the water straight away.’
The search for the great white shark that killed Simon Nellist continued on Thursday – but experts say it is likely already 100km away
Other shark enthusiasts urged people to not blame the predator as they paid tribute to Mr Nellist.
‘He was an instructor, he knew how to handle sharks but you know your expertise doesn’t always work on animals,’ one wrote on Facebook.
‘It was neither his fault nor the shark’s.
‘It was the fault of greed. They put drumlines so close to shore & that’s the price they paid today.
‘Hope they learn not to mess with the nature.’
Heartbroken friends flooded social media with tributes to the 35-year-old.
‘It’s just horrendous,’ one close friend told The Sun. ‘We spent most of yesterday just hoping and praying it wasn’t him. It’s still incredibly raw.’
A close friend back in the UK told Daily Mail Australia he was the ‘most wonderful man’.
Shattered friends have shared heartfelt tributes about Simon Nellist (pictured left with friend)
Police remained on patrol at Little Bay Beach on Thursday, which was closed to beachgoers
‘He is our son’s godfather from afar’, the friend said.
‘We are all absolutely heartbroken by this. He was experienced in the water and respectful of the wonders of the water. He loved it.
‘A huge loss to the world.’
Another friend told The Sun that Mr Nellist fell in love with Australia during his travels six years ago as they remembered him as ‘the nicest, kindest human.’
They added he ‘really knew the water’ and was respectful of wildlife.
The friend added Mr Nellist was due to marry ‘the girl of his dreams’ last year but had their plans ruined by Covid-19 and lockdowns.
He grew up in Penzance, in England’s south-west, but hadn’t been able to go back to visit family in the last few years due to the pandemic.
Simon Nellist (pictured) loved adventure and was popular in the local diving community
Friends say Simon Nellist was about to marry the love of his life Jessie Ho (pictured together), who he lived with in Sydney
Friends in Australia have also expressed utter shock.
‘Everything that is connected to Simon is connected to the ocean,’ friend Della Ross told Seven News.
‘The news hit us like a truck because he was one of the people who make this earth lighter.’
He was also an experienced dive instructor who was calm and patient and told his students to respect the ocean.
‘He loved the water, he loved diving,’ Ms Ross added.
He previously dived at a scuba centre in Kogarah, which was rocked by the drowning of Ms Ross’ son Dmitriy while freediving in Brighton Le Sands four years ago after he got caught in shark nets.
Other friends say Mr Nellist lived in Wolli Creek with his partner and was a regular at the nearby Plus Fitness 24/7 gym.
The Sydney Dive Buddy Network urged Facebook group members on Thursday night to give Mr Nellist’s family the time and space to endure this traumatic process without excessive communications.
Simon Nellist (pictured bottom left with fellow Scubathon divers) loved the ocean and swam regularly
Mr Nellist was training for the Malabar Magic Ocean Swim, which was due to be held on Sunday but has since been cancelled.
‘The organising committee extends our thoughts and prayers to the family of the swimmer who was so tragically taken yesterday,’ event director Robert Lloyd said.
‘Out of respect for the swimmer and his family, and following wide consultation with Randwick Council and experienced, senior Surf Life Saving personnel, we believe that cancelling the 2022 swim is appropriate.’
More than a dozen beaches between Bondi and Cronulla were closed on Thursday but will reopen on Friday after no further shark sightings.
Lifeguards spent the day surveying the beaches on jet skis and used drones to check for shark sightings along the coast.
The Department of Primary Industries has temporarily installed six SMART drumlines between Little Bay and Malabar.
Little Bay Beach (pictured on Thursday) will reopen on Friday following the fatal shark attack
Witnesses recalled the horrifying moment the swimmer was mauled by a great white shark on Wednesday, with shocking footage (pictured) captured at the scene
‘To provide increased swimmer safety over the weekend, DPI will continue deploying drumlines on Friday, Saturday and Sunday from Little Bay Beach to Long Bay, a DPI spokeswoman told Daily Mail Australia on Thursday night
‘Surf Life Saving NSW will also be providing additional drone and helicopter surveillance during this period at Little Bay Beach and Maroubra.’
Mr Nellist could be heard screaming for help and struggling to fight off the shark – estimated by witnesses to be four-and-a-half metres long.
Mr Nellist’s remains were found in the water an hour afterwards. Parts of a wetsuit were also recovered.
‘Footage clearly shows a body, half a body being taken by a shark,’ a police officer told colleagues over a scanner.
‘They have found some remains.’
The horrifying scenes occurred in front of dozens of fishermen and other beachgoers, who heard the swimmer’s screams before the attack unfolded, sparking panic on shore.
‘Someone just got eaten by a shark. Oh man! Oh no! That’s insane. That’s a great white shark,’ one fisherman can be heard yelling in footage.
‘The person’s still there!’
‘I just saw a four to five metre great white explode on the surface just here on a swimmer and it was like a car landing in the water.
‘F*** man, I heard a scream and the shark was just chomping on his body and the body was in half just off the rocks here.’
‘It came back and swallowed parts of his body and that was it. It disappeared.’
Fatal shark attacks in Australia since 2020
January 5, 2020: Diver Gary Johnson, 57, was killed by a great white shark while diving with his wife near Esperance in WA
April 6, 2020: Wildlife ranger Zachary Robba, 23, was mauled to death by a shark while swimming off the Great Barrier Reef in Queensland
June 7, 2020: Surfer Rob Pedretti, 60, was killed by a great white shark while he was boarding at Salt Beach near Kingscliff in far northern NSW
July 4 2020: Spearfisher Matthew Tratt, 36, was mauled to death by a suspected great white shark in a ‘provoked’ attack on Fraser Island in Queensland
July 11, 2020: Surfer Mani Hart-Deville, 15, was boarding when he was killed by a suspected great white shark at Wooli Beach, near Grafton on the NSW North Coast
September 8, 2020: Surfer Nick Slater, 46, was mauled to death by a suspected great white at Greenmount Beach on the Gold Coast
October 9, 2020: Father-of-two Andrew Sharpe was killed by a shark while surfing at Kelp Beds in Wylie Bay, near Esperance on WA’s south coast
November 22, 2020: Cable Beach, WA: Charles Cernobori, 59, who worked at a Cable Beach hotel was killed by a 4m suspected tiger shark while bodyboarding 2km north of the main tourist section
November 6, 2021: Paul Millachip, 57, was believed to have been taken by a shark while swimming at a beach in North Fremantle in Perth – with the attack witnessed by multiple people
January 17, 2022: A swimmer is killed off Little Bay in Sydney’s east, believed to have been attacked by a four-metre-long great white
Read more at DailyMail.co.uk