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Tiger shark who vomited severed arm inside aquarium sparked mystery murder probe

Ashley Bautista April 13, 2022
Female diver dares to Swim with Tiger Sharks near Fuvahmulah, Indian Ocean
Photo credit should read� Andrey Nekrasov/Future Publishing via Getty Images


The investigation into how a shark vomited a tattooed arm has become one of the world’s most bizarre murder probes. And there is still a shroud of mystery over what truly happened.

On April 25, 1935, a shark surprised spectators at Coogee Aquarium after vomiting a tattooed human arm.

Here’s everything that is known today about the ‘Shark arm mystery’ which captivated Sydney, Australia.

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Who did the arm belong to?

Photo by Fairfax Media via Getty Images via Getty Images

A month later, it was discovered the arm belonged to a man named James Smith.

According to Trove, the young man was a “one-time promising lightweight boxer and a man with seemingly not an enemy to the world.”

Reported by Truth, which at that time was a popular Australian newspaper, this horrific incident became known as the “shark arm mystery”.

As it reads on the column, James told his mother he was going fishing without giving any other explanation.

But, there was something more behind the death of James Smith, which helped to uncover how his arm ended up inside the shark’s stomach.

Police determined the arm hadn’t been bitten off in a shark attack but rather sliced off.

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James Smith’s last night alive

Photo by Fairfax Media via Getty Images via Getty Images

Jimmy wasn’t a saint either. It was discovered he was an associate of local crime figure Reginald Holmes.

According to The Sun, Holmes and Smith teamed up with Patrick Brady (known for his skills in forging checks). They began forging cheques from Holme’s wealthy clients.

Days before James Smith was found dead, it’s reported he argued with Reginald Holmes. But it was revealed that Brady had killed James after police traced his final movements.

The two of them went out for a night of drinking and ended up staying in a hotel, and then he killed him.

How did the arm get into the shark?

Photo credit should read� Andrey Nekrasov/Future Publishing via Getty Images

Brady told Holmes everything about what happened and gave him James’ arm. Panicking, he threw his arm into the ocean, and then the infamous shark vomited it three days later.

The aquarium owner Bert Hobson had captured the shark in a bid to attract more customers.

Holmes couldn’t contain his guilt over the incident and later killed himself. Days later, he was found dead inside his car. On the other hand, Brady was released for lack of evidence by the police. Without a body, a single-arm wasn’t enough to prove a murder had taken place.

Up until Brady passed away in 1965, he denied he had anything to do with James Smith or Reginald Holmes’ deaths.

Ever since the case came to light, the other parts of the body of James Smith have never been found.

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What happened to the shark after the incident

Photo by Fairfax Media via Getty Images via Getty Images

According to Snopes, the shark later died after falling ill. But it was not from consuming James’s arm, but from ingesting another shark.

An article by Brisbane Telegraph in 1952, said: “Nothing would have been known of the tragedy had the shark not swallowed the tattooed arm. It was amazing that, of all sharks in the deep, this particular one has been caught.”

Although it happened decades ago, the shark arm mystery is still known as one of the most unique cases ever.

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Ashley is a journalism graduate from Kingston University, currently writing for HITC, Reality Titbit and The Focus. She loves to travel and learn new languages and cultures. She also has an interest in celebrity news and the entertainment world. When she’s not writing, she’s on social media, watching K-dramas or shopping.