Bizarre story of the tiger shark that vomited up a human arm – sparking a MURDER mystery that gripped Australia

A SEVERED arm with a distinctive tattoo on it vomited up by a shark at an aquarium led to gangland murder mystery.

The limb found at Sydney’s Coogee Aquarium and Swimming Baths was soon identified as belonging to Jimmy Smith, and the story of his killing gripped Australia.

The tiger shark that vomited up the arm


The tiger shark that vomited up the arm
Victim Jimmy Smith's was blackmailing a major Sydney criminal


Victim Jimmy Smith’s was blackmailing a major Sydney criminalCredit: Getty
His arm had a distinct tattoo on it


His arm had a distinct tattoo on it

The bizarre case began to unravel when the owner of the aquarium, Bert Hobson, caught the tiger shark in a bid to attract customers.

The one ton, 13ft beast was snared two miles offshore and crowds soon began flocking to see it swimming around.

But around 4.30pm on the ANZAC Day holiday the shark began convulsing and the shark first vomited up a rat, then a bird before the arm came out, as the watching crowd recoiled in horror.

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.”

The left arm had a prominent tattoo on the inside forearm of two boxers sparring and rope was attached to the wrist.

Police soon discovered that the arm had not been bitten off as initially thought but had been cut off.

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 who had been 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 soon began blackmailing his former partner in crime.

Smith spent his final night alive drinking with Patrick Brady at a hotel and police were able to trace his final movements.

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

But without a body, a single arm was not sufficient proof that a murder had ever taken place.

Brady pointed the finger at Holmes and was questioned by police but shot himself in the head after getting drunk.


In another twist to an already strange story, Holmes actually survived after the bullet hit a bone in his head and knocked him out.

After he came round he drove around Sydney harbour in his speedboat as police have chase before he eventually surrendered to them.

Holmes began to reveal all and told them Brady turned up at his house late one night holding Smith’s severed arm.

He explained to Holmes how he had killed Smith, dismembered his body and placed the parts in a trunk, which was tossed into the sea.

This 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.

Brady threatened to blackmail him if he didn’t pay him ₤500 and Holmes gave him the money but left him the arm.


A panicked Holmes drove under the cloak of darkness and tossed the arm into the ocean.

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

Nine days after the murder, Ron Hobson plucked this shark from the ocean.

As the inquest into Smith’s death was about to get underway Holmes was found dead in his car, three bullets in his chest.

There was speculation Holmes himself ordered a hitman to take him out in a bid to secure a life insurance pay out for his family.

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

Nobody was ever charged over the deaths and until his death in 1965, aged 76, Patrick Brady denied he had anything to do with either.

Jimmy Smith’s body has never been found.

John Brady's mugshot after he was arrested


John Brady’s mugshot after he was arrested
Reginald Smith took his own life before he could give evidence


Reginald Smith took his own life before he could give evidenceCredit: Getty
Coogee beach with the Aquarium and Swimming Baths in the distance


Coogee beach with the Aquarium and Swimming Baths in the distance

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