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Grisly tale of shark that vomited up human arm in front of horrified crowds at aquarium sparking gangland murder mystery


WHEN an aquarium boss hooked a 14ft tiger shark, he thought he’d be quids in by putting it on show at his failing venue.

But little did he know his innocent catch would end up sparking one of Australia’s most gripping murder mysteries that remains unsolved almost 90 years on.

The arm thrown up by the shark had a distinctive tattoo on


The arm thrown up by the shark had a distinctive tattoo on
The tiger shark in Sydney's Coogee Aquarium in 1935


The tiger shark in Sydney’s Coogee Aquarium in 1935
Victim Jimmy Smith had disappeared days before the arm was vomited up


Victim Jimmy Smith had disappeared days before the arm was vomited upCredit: Getty

Hearing the beast had been snared in April 1935 and was on display, excited crowds flocked to Coogee Aquarium Baths in New South Wales to see for themselves.

At first, visitors were thrilled to see the monster thrashing around in the pool, but within days things took a horrifying turn.

On Anzac Day – April 25 – the mighty shark suddenly became slow and disorientated.

Piercing screams then rang out from terrified onlookers as the shark started convulsing before vomiting up a severed human arm.

Many thought the shark had thrown up a rat at first – but as it floated in the pool it was revealed to be a perfectly intact arm, which filled the room with a rotten stench.

Witness Narcisse Leo Young told The Sydney Herald: “I was three or four meters from the shark and clearly saw come out of its mouth a copious brown froth which smelled really foul.”

Aquarium workers rushed to clear shocked families from around the pool as police arrived at the scene.

Stunned cops initially believed the limb was from yet another tragic shark mauling victim – but, despite tiger sharks having a man-eater reputation, the reality was much more sinister.

A grisly examination revealed the one-tonne beast had swallowed the arm after it had been chopped off with a knife.

Rope was attached to the wrist, and cops soon realised they had a gruesome murder case on their hands.

Horror moment diver savaged by pregnant shark filling aquarium tank with blood

A prominent tattoo inside the forearm of two boxers sparring helped detectives identify the victim as Jimmy Smith.

Smith was an associate of local crime figure Reginald Holmes, who he worked for smuggling drugs from passing ships.

The pair teamed up with Patrick Brady, an ex-serviceman convicted of forgery.

They began to forge cheques from Holmes’ wealthy clients, using both Holmes’ and Smith’s businesses to cash them.

But Smith and Holmes soon fell out and Smith started blackmailing his former partner in crime.

Cops got to work retracing Smith’s final steps, and found out he spent his final night alive drinking with Brady at a hotel.

Just three weeks after Smith’s arm was regurgitated, Brady was arrested for his murder.

But without a body and just a single left arm, cops struggled to find sufficient proof a murder had taken place.

Brady was quick to point the finger at Holmes, who shot himself in the head after being questioned by police.


Reginald Holmes was found dead on the morning of Smith’s inquest
The tiger shark was caught off of Coogee Beach


The tiger shark was caught off of Coogee Beach

Yet in another twist, Holmes miraculously survived the drunken decision as the bullet hit a bone in his head and knocked him out.

After coming around, he drove around Sydney harbour in his speedboat, before eventually surrendering to police chasing him.

He was route marched to the station, where he claimed Brady had turned up at his house late one night clutching Smith’s severed arm.

Holmes told cops Brady had killed Smith, dismembered his body, and placed the parts in a trunk, which was tossed into the sea.

The macabre method was known as a “Sydney send-off” in crime circles in the 1920s and 1930s – with the vast ocean an easy means of disposing of bodies.

Holmes said Brady threatened to blackmail him if he didn’t pay him £500 and so he gave him the money.

The severed arm was left with Holmes, who panicked and drove under the cloak of darkness before hurling it into the sea.

By an extraordinary coincidence, a small shark then ate the arm, which was in turn eaten by a tiger shark.

Nine days after Smith was murdered, aquarium boss Bert Hobson plucked the shark from the water.

Tiger sharks: fact file

TIGER sharks have earned themselves a reputation as man-eaters

The beasts are second only to the great white in record fatal attacks on humans.

They can grow up to 25ft long and can weigh more than 1,900 pounds.

Tiger sharks prefer tropical and sub-tropical waters.

They can be found in the Gulf of Mexico, North America, parts of South America, the Caribbean Sea, and off Africa, China, India, Australia and Indonesia.

Tiger sharks are mostly nocturnal hunters – and eat anything from fish and seals to dolphins and even other smaller sharks.

They are also known as “garbage eaters” as they swallow up many inedible man-made items that end up in the sea.

Detectives built a case against Brady and he was arrested on May 16, before being charged with Smith’s murder.

Brady had been renting a small cottage in Cronulla around the time Smith vanished, and cops believe this is where he was killed.

A taxi driver claimed the day Smith went missing, he had taken Brady from Cronulla to Holmes’ address.

He claimed Brady was “dishevelled, had a hand in his pocket and wouldn’t take it out”, adding that it “was clear [he] was frightened”.

But just as the inquest into Smith’s death was set to get underway, Holmes was found dead in his car after taking three bullets to the chest.

Speculation at the time claimed Holmes had ordered a hitman to take him out in a warped bid to secure a life insurance pay out for his family.

The crime scene was set up to appear he had taken his own life – but cops were certain he had been murdered just hours before he was due to give evidence at Smith’s inquest.

Without Holmes as the star witness the case against Brady soon fell apart and no conviction was recorded.

He walked free, and cops failed to bring a case against him before his death in 1965 at the age of 76.

Brady always denied he had anything to do with either death – and Smith’s body has never been found.

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