Friday, January 8, 2010

Coincidence of the Regurgitating Shark

 One of the most gruesome and unlikely origins for a crime investigation began at an Australian aquarium at Coogee Beach near Sydney on April 25, 1935. 

sharkA three and half meter tiger shark, recently caught off the coast had been brought back alive and displayed at the local aquarium. Around that time, there had been several fatal shark attacks and public interest brought crowds to see this dangerous predator close up.

On that particular afternoon, the shark appeared to be in some distress and, much to the disgust of the small crowd of viewers, vomited up the undigested remains of a human arm. The appendage was so preserved that a tattoo of two boxers wearing red shorts was clearly visible.

With only this clue in hand, investigators were able to identify the owner of the arm as one James Smith, a forty year old former boxer. Smith had  vanished about two weeks prior, after telling his wife he was going on a fishing holiday with an associate, Patrick Brady.

According to a reconstruction of the crime, Smith had been hired to sink a heavily-insured yacht and then, attempted to blackmail the drug-smuggling gang that owned the vessel. The gang abducted Smith, murdered him, stowed the body inside a trunk which was then thrown into Port Hacking in Sydney Harbor.

As if this were not unbelievable enough, one of the suspects, Reginald William Lloyd Holmes, charged with involvement in this murder attempted to commit suicide by shooting himself in the head with a .32 caliber pistol. Somehow, however, the bullet flattened against the bone of the forehead and he was merely stunned. Police found him steering his speed boat erratically around Sydney harbor. After he was revived, he revealed all he knew of the crime to the authorities. That is that Brady had indeed murdered Smith at a cottage on the coast and disposed of the body in the ocean.

Whether by suicide or murder, on the day of the inquest into the crime, Holmes was found dead under the Sydney Harbor bridge. After forty witnesses had testified at the coroner's inquest, lawyers obtained a order from the Supreme Court to stop the hearing on the grounds that a severed arm was no proof of death. Brady, who died in 1965, was acquitted of the crime for lack of evidence and maintained his innocence to the end.,9171,749069,00.html

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