Unspeakable Crimes A Shark Regurgitated A Human Arm - And It Led To A Murder Investigation  

Trilby Beresford
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It's not every day that human body parts are found in animals. But in 1935, a 14-foot tiger shark regurgitated a human arm at an Australian aquarium and prompted a murder investigation. The shark was caught by a fisherman when it got tangled in his line, and he brought it to the aquarium for show. And what a show it turned out to be. The mangled arm was vomited out along with a bird and a rat, and investigators were immediately called to the scene.

This shark arm case was particularly unusual, because it appeared that the shark hadn't bitten the arm off a person. So if there was no attack on an unsuspecting swimmer, where did the shark find the arm? And most importantly, who did it belong to? As detectives explored the case, they found details far more grisly than the random arm.

A Shark Expert Concluded That The Shark Had Not Bitten The Arm Off

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Photo: gmayster01 on & off .../flickr/CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0

When you find a human arm in the belly of a shark, chances are that shark attacked a swimmer and things ended in a bloody mess. But when shark experts were called in to examine this particular arm, they found that it had not been bitten off. In fact, there were no tooth marks on the arm at all. Instead, a blade had been used to remove the limb from the shoulder. This was very troubling, as it indicated they were not dealing with an accidental death. They had a homicide on their hands. The case opened up as detectives further examined the arm for clues.

The Tattoo Was A Crucial Clue In Cracking The Case

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Photo: Internet Archive Book Images/flickr/No known copyright restrictions

When the homicide investigation was launched, the arm was examined for unusual marks or scars. There was a rope tied around the wrist, which suggested something sinister. It also had a tattoo of two boxers in sparring position, which they desperately hoped someone in the public would recognize. A man named Edwin Smith came forward and identified the tattoo, and the arm it belonged to. It was that of his brother, James Smith, a boxer who had recently gone missing. But how did Smith's arm end up in a shark? And where was the rest of the body?

The police used the information to trace his last movements and try to find a suspect. Pretty quickly, they found one of Smith's friends who was up to no good.

The Police Found A Suspect In Local Small Time Crook

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Photo: State Library Of South Australia/Flickr/Creative Commons

When James Smith's final movements were tracked, the police found that he'd been playing dominoes with a friend named Patrick Brady at a local pub. He had a few prior convictions and was known to be a little shady. Looking into it further, they discovered that Brady had vacated his apartment right after Smith had gone missing. His apartment had been cleaned and scrubbed. Furniture and bedding had been replaced, including a brand new trunk. There was even a rowboat there, and it had been cleaned from top to bottom. This was suspicious, to say the least. Brady became the prime suspect in the murder investigation, but there was no motive yet.

The Aquarium Killed The Shark and Messed Up The Investigation

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Photo: Flickr

Just three days after the severed arm was found in the tiger shark, the aquarium killed the shark and gutted it. This hampered the criminal investigation, as every inch of it was supposed to be examined for medical evidence. Still, no other human remains were reported to have been found in the shark, which later corroborated Reginald Lloyd Holmes's story about Patrick Brady dismembering the body and throwing most of it away.