A Shark and A Dead Man

Sound like something that happens every day, doesn’t it? Oh so another shark attack. You will be sadly mistaken. This attack, however, was very different. It sparked an investigation that was all over the news. You see the question is: “Where did it find this limb?” If we dig further, we discover something extraordinary. So how did this Australian shark spark one of Australia’s most infamous murder investigations?

In the year 1935, just off the coast of Cogee Beach, Sydney a tiger shark had got caught in the nets of local fisherman and researcher, Bert Hobson, in Mid-April. When the shark was sent to Cogee Aquarium and Swimming Baths, it was acting strange–swimming lazily and irregularly. 48-hours later, after suffering from terrible indigestion, in a great brown-yellow froth it spat out two fish accompanied by an unidentified arm. At first everyone thought the shark had eaten it, but when a coroner and shark expert took a closer look at the arm, they soon realized that there was no evidence on the arm to show that it was in fact eaten by the shark. The poor shark was merely the one who discovered it. The arm was severed by a blade and not a bite (there was no evidence of tooth marks). A tattoo was soon discovered on the arm which led to the identity of the missing arm as belonging to James Smith.

James Smith was no angel. He was a bookie, amateur boxer and a small time criminal. His story was far more tragic than just being a petty criminal, he was a bankrupt builder as well as being a former SP bookmaker (bookie for the horse races). He had been missing for weeks after going drinking and playing dominoes with his friend, Patrick Brady in Cronulla.

Further to the suspicious situation surrounding James’ disappearance is a cab driver who witnessed that both men were uneasy, especially Brady. He also witnessed that he was instructed to drive from Cornulla to the home of one Reginald Lloyd Holmes at McMahons Point, Lavender Bay. Soon after Smith’s disappearance, Brady vacated his rented bayside cottage, but not before cleaning the walls and his boat, as well as replacing some furniture items. Since there was no concrete evidence connecting either men to the murder, the judge was forced to give a verdict of not guilty.

This calm only lasted a few weeks, when on May 20th Reginald Holmes tried to kill himself. His attempt, however, was unsuccessful and ended in a boat chase between him and police officers until he was eventually caught and relented to testify to Brady murdering James Smith. However, before the case even went to trial Holmes was found slumped over his steering wheel dead. But further things came to light, it soon surfaced that James Smith was an informant who had informed on a man called Eddie Weyman which led to him being caught red-handed raiding a bank. Eddie Weyman was one of the most dangerous criminals in 1930s Australia with connections to the cocaine trade.

So the question remains, how was James Smith murdered? The modus operandi of gangsters in the 1930s would probably have been something like what had happened to Smith–his body cut into pieces and dumped in the ocean so no one would find his body. This was what they called “sleeping with the fishes”. They could’ve even hoped that a shark would come across the loose body parts and eat them–that would backfire on them in a big way later on. Whatever the case, here we find ourselves with a tiger shark who helped bring one of the most dangerous criminals to justice.

God bless all of you, my precious avidReaders.

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