Diver’s body found in Newcastle’s Hunter River with nearly 50kg of suspected cocaine

A dead diver and more than 50 kg of what is suspected to be cocaine triggered a major investigation into Newcastle.

The man was wearing sophisticated scuba gear when he was found unconscious on the banks of the Hunter River at around 9.30am yesterday.

Port workers tried to give him CPR, but he died at the scene.

NSW Police carry a package containing white powder, believed to be cocaine, to shore. (9News)

Police said they then found packages containing more than 50kg of white powder, suspected to be cocaine with an estimated street value of $20million.

A large vessel that had traveled from Argentina was moored near where the man and the suspected drugs were found, and two smaller vessels were seen heading there on Sunday.

The ship was carrying soybean powder and police are investigating whether the drugs were attached outside the ship.

“There are obviously more people involved than the dead,” Superintendent Rob Critchlow said today.

“As most people realize, people don’t dive alone.

“There are obviously safety protocols even with people involved in offending.

“It was quite complicated, some of the devices they used and the presence of two boats indicates at least two other people.

“It is very concerning that this man was left for dead, either to die or when he died these people fled.

“So that’s pretty disgusting…no matter what he was involved in.”

Newcastle diver dies
A diver was found dead on the banks of the Hunter River yesterday morning. (9News)
Newcastle cocaine drug bust Hunter River dead diver
The dead diver and the suspected drugs were found near this large vessel moored in Newcastle. (9News)

Critchlow asked anyone selling scuba gear in the area to contact police.

“The man was wearing scuba gear – including a Sharkskin brand wetsuit – which may have been purchased in Australia,” he said.

“We are asking anyone from dive shops who may have sold a set of dive gear to someone in the past few days to contact us.

“The equipment was outstanding. It was a high-end rebreather, which is specialized diving equipment used by people with a high level of training.”

The man and the suspected drug were found “in the immediate vicinity”. (New South Wales Police)
Police said they found packages containing more than 50kg of a white powder suspected to be cocaine. (New South Wales Police)

Newcastle Police were first on the scene before being joined by detectives from the Organized Crime Squad, while Border Force and AFP officers also joined the investigation.

The man has not yet been identified.

A police spokeswoman said a post-mortem investigation would be carried out this week.

She could not detail exactly where the suspect drugs were, but said they were close enough to the man for investigators to believe they were related.

Police and ABF divers will continue to search the area today.

Helen L. Cuellar