SYDNEY - A crocodile is "highly likely" to have killed an elderly woman who wandered away from her aged-care home on Australia's northeast coast, police said Friday.
Clothing and a walking stick belonging to 79-year-old Anne Cameron were found along with human remains by a creek near the tourist town of Port Douglas on Thursday.
Cameron, who was last seen on Tuesday and suffered from dementia, had wandered from her care facility in the past but police said they are not yet sure how she came to be in the remote bushland.
"We strongly suspect now that there has been involvement of a crocodile attack given the location of those items and the human remains located close to a watercourse," Queensland Police Acting Inspector Ed Lukin told reporters Friday.
"There are no other persons missing in the Port Douglas area, so it is highly-likely to be those of the missing person," he added, referring to remains found at the site.
Forensic tests are still to be completed but Lukin said police were confident the woman was taken by a crocodile, which are common in the area.
Authorities are conducting a search by air and boat to locate the offending reptile.
"We are looking for an animal that is showing a level of abnormal behaviour," Queensland's department of environment wildlife director Michael Joyce said.
"They may show a level of boldness that is different from the other crocodiles in that river system."
Joyce said a decision would be made on the fate of the animal once it was captured.
Cameron's family said they were devastated by the loss. They had only recently moved her to the area and said she would often go for afternoon walks and get lost.
"Mum even said to me when we were out for walks if I actually turned the wrong direction I am frightened I would lose my way," her son Craig Eggins told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
"We are certain she got disorientated... then she became confused as to which way she was suppose to go."
In August a 2.6-metre (8.5-foot) long saltwater crocodile was reportedly caught at Dickson Inlet near Four Mile Beach in Port Douglas.
The beach was closed in April when a four-metre croc was spotted swimming offshore, while there had been several attacks by the reptiles on dogs in the area this year.
Saltwater crocodile numbers have exploded since they were declared a protected species in the 1970s, with recent attacks reigniting debate about controlling them.
The "salties", which can grow up to seven metres long and weigh more than a tonne, are a common feature of the vast continent's tropical north and kill an average of two people a year.
© Agence France-Presse