On an indomitable day at Sydney’s Coogee Aquarium on April 25, 1935, their latest attraction – a 4.4 meter (14.4 feet) tiger shark – threw a human arm, playing with two boxing scattered tattoos. In confusion and shark vomiting, detectives rush to the aquarium and face a question that may haunt them for the rest of their careers: “How did the tattooed hand end up in an aquarium shark tank?” It may sound like an urban legend or a poorly written episode of the 1980s Cop Show, but newspaper clippings from the 1935 Sydney Truth newspaper suggest that the story was just as impossible as it was then.
In their words, the story was a “wonderful tragedy – a tragedy like Edgar Allan Poe’s never dreamed of in his strange fiction.” Thanks to distinctive tattoos and fingerprints, the victim was able to identify the body part as the left arm of Brother James “Jimmy” Smith, a 45-year-old England-born amateur boxer who worked at a wet billiard salon in Sydney. It was later revealed that Jimmy was a bit of a “funny black”, as locals say he had several connections to the city’s criminal underbelly – especially businessman Reginald Holmes. Through Holmes, Jimmy got involved in the lucrative business of using boats to integrate drug drops off the coast of Sydney.
However, their “business partnership” escalated when the pair became embroiled in a scandal involving the sinking of a happy cruiser called Pathfinder. By the mid-1930s, Australia was beginning to feel the pinch from a really great depression. Jimmy Holes was threatened with blackmail in exchange for cash and in bad terms with his former business associate, and tensions within the criminal network continued to grow. Jimmy was last seen drinking and playing cards with a man named Patrick Brady at the Cecil Hotel in Cronulla in April 7, 1935.
When enough beer was flowing in the veins, they returned to a small cottage rented on Brady Tallombi Street. A cab driver later told police he had brought Brady from Tallombi Street to Holmes’ residence. The driver further stated that Brady was visibly nervous and had something hidden under his jacket. Three weeks after the tiger shark grabbed the weak old Jimmy’s arm, on May 16, 1635, Fast Brady was quickly arrested by police on suspicion of murder, and he quickly blamed Holmes. Police questioned Holmes, but he denied knowing Brady.