Sometimes you come across a mystery that is so cooked, you know it must be Australian. There’s just these certain elements that scream ‘Straya and you come over all proudly patriotic as well as really disturbed by the actual mystery itself. Folks, the Shark Arm Case is one of those deeply Australian murders.
In the latest episode of PEDESTRIAN.TV‘s unsolved mysteries podcast, All Aussie Mystery Hour, we dive headfirst into this wild tale.
This isn’t just me plugging the podcast (okay fine, it is), but this story needs to be heard in full. I cannot do in justice in the short time I have to bash out this article, but here’s an appetiser.
Back in 1935, the Coogee Pavilion was called the Coogee Palace and was not owned by Justin Hemmes, but rather an enterprising chap called Charlie Hobson. Ol’ Chuckles was fishing with his brother in Coogee Bay when he spotted a 4-metre long tiger shark and decided to catch it and pop it in the Palace’s aquarium, charging people a fee to come and gawk at it.
Just a few days after it arrived, the shark became listless and unwell. As people looked on, it thrashed around in its tank and vomited up several things including a human arm. The shark, RIP, was killed and his stomach opened, but no other body parts were recovered. And it soon transpired that he hadn’t bitten off the arm, but someone else had severed the limb before he chowed down. So a police investigation got into full swing.
The male, Causcasian arm conveniently had a very distinctive tattoo on the forearm of two boxers squaring off, and a bloke came forward to say that he believed the arm belonged to his brother, Jim Smith — which fingerprints then confirmed. Known to police, Jim was small-time criminal who was involved in some dodgy business including insurance fraud.
Smith had helped well-t0-do boat builder Reginald Holmes with insurance scams, setting fire to various boats and claiming the money. But Holmes denied knowing Smith or the last person Smith was seen with, Patrick Brady — even though a cab driver told police he’d dropped Brady (carrying a leather bag big enough for a human arm) off at Holmes’ house around the time detectives believe Smith was murdered.
The tale gets more and more twisted, with an attempted suicide, a high-speed boat chase, a second execution-style murder and ultimately, a trial that went nowhere. But you’ll have to listen to the episode to find out more. You can subscribe on iTunes HERE, or on Spotify HERE. Or, you can just listen / download below.
And as always, join the All Aussie Mystery Hour Facebook group HERE when you’re ready to share your own theories on this and other famous Australian murders and mysteries.