A swimmer was rescued by his wife after a huge saltwater crocodile clamped its jaws around his head and shoulders as he snorkelled near a reef.

Sgt. Jeff Tanswell, a policeman, was swimming in waters off Thursday Island in the Torres Strait between northern Australia and Papua New Guinea, when he was attacked by the crocodile measuring 10-feet.

It locked its jaws around Sgt Tanswell’s upper body, pulled him under and dragged him into deeper waters. A short time later they both surfaced and Sgt Tanswell managed to free himself from the creature’s jaws.

He owes his life to the quick thinking of his wife, Jane, also a police officer, who maneuvered the couple’s boat between her injured husband and the crocodile and pulled him to safety.

His face and ear were lacerated in the attack. He was treated by a paramedic on a police launch that had been sent to help and then taken to a hospital on Thursday Island. His injuries were not life threatening.

Parents on the island had voiced fears about their children’s safety nine months ago after a 15-foot crocodile was sighted by local people and a second crocodile was seen in a bus shelter opposite a high school.

Another swimmer was attacked near the town of Kununurra in the north of Western Australia, on Saturday. Kerry York, 27, was swimming in a river when a crocodile lunged and bit him on the neck, chest and arm.

“I had waded into the water to about my shoulders and then a crocodile grabbed me from under water,” York said. “It bit me on my chest and on my neck . . . and had another go and bit my arm. I didn’t even see the croc. I just felt it grab me and then it took off.”

York was taken to hospital where he was treated for wounds to his neck and arm.

York said that he had felt uneasy as he had entered the water. “I had a bit of déjà vu that a crocodile was going to get me . . . so I didn’t really want to be there.”

A police spokesman on Thursday Island said that the crocodile had attacked Sgt Tanswell and his wife while they were swimming near a reef a few yards from the shore of Adolphus Island with two other off-duty police officers.

“He was attacked from behind by the crocodile which grabbed him by the head and shoulders and pulled him under the water,” he said. “Both surfaced again shortly afterward and the crocodile then swam away from him into deeper water. Jane Tanswell was able to position the boat between her husband and the crocodile. She then picked up the other people who were still in the water.”

Last month officials in Western Australia gave warning of a heightened danger from crocodile attacks in the north, as the humidity and higher temperatures of the wet season encouraged the animals to breed, thus becoming more aggressive in behavior.