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ON THIS DAY…… 24th August 1942

Detectives hope to be able to say whether a man found drowned in the Yarra on Friday was associated with the murder of Mrs. Catherine Whitley aged 65, in a lane behind a hotel at the northern end of Elizabeth Street, City, near Gratten Street, Carlton. By his finger prints, the dead man was identified as James William Whitelaw aged 44.

Fingerprint experts at police head quarters in a Russell Street, used a recently developed method of taking after-death prints to fix his identity. The skin of the hands was crinkled by having been so long in the water. Fluid was forced in under the skin to fill out the fingertips to their natural shape and then readable prints were obtained.

The Shark Arm case refers to a series of incidents that began in Sydney, Australia on the 25th of April 1935 when a human arm was regurgitated by a captive 3.5-metre tiger shark, subsequently leading to a murder investigation.

The tiger shark had been caught 3 kilometres from the beach suburb of Coogee in mid-April and transferred to the Coogee Aquarium Baths, where it was put on public display. Within a week the fish became ill and vomited in front of a small crowd, leaving the left forearm of a man bearing a distinctive tattoo floating in the pool. Before it was captured, the tiger shark had devoured a smaller shark. It was this smaller shark that had originally swallowed the human arm.

Fingerprints lifted from the hand identified the arm as that of former boxer and small-time criminal James (Jim) Smith, (born England, 1890), who had been missing since April 7, 1935. Smith’s arm and tattoo were also positively identified by his wife Gladys and his brother Edward Smith. Jim Smith led a high-risk lifestyle, as he was also a police informer. Examination revealed that the limb had been severed with a knife, which led to a murder investigation. Three days later, the aquarium owners killed the shark and gutted it, hampering the initial police investigation.

Early inquiries correctly led police to a Sydney businessman named Reginald William Lloyd Holmes (1892-1935). Holmes was a fraudster and smuggler who also ran a successful family boat-building business at Lavender Bay, New South Wales. Holmes had employed Smith several times to work insurance scams, including one in 1934 in which an over-insured pleasure cruiser named Pathfinder was sunk near Terrigal, New South Wales. Shortly afterward, the pair began a racket with Patrick Francis Brady (1889-1965), a convicted forger and ex-serviceman. With specimen signatures from Holmes’ friends and clients provided by the boat-builder, Brady would forge cheques for small amounts against their bank accounts that he and Smith would then cash. Police were later able to establish that Jim Smith was blackmailing the wealthy Reginald Holmes.

 

ON THIS DAY…… 24th August 1942

 

Detectives hope to be able to say whether a man found drowned in the Yarra on Friday was associated with the murder of Mrs. Catherine Whitley aged 65, in a lane behind a hotel at the northern end of Elizabeth Street, City, near Gratten Street, Carlton. By his finger prints, the dead man was identified as James William Whitelaw aged 44.

Fingerprint experts at police head quarters in a Russell Street, used a recently developed method of taking after-death prints to fix his identity. The skin of the hands was crinkled by having been so long in the water. Fluid was forced in under the skin to fill out the fingertips to their natural shape and then readable prints were obtained.

The Shark Arm case refers to a series of incidents that began in Sydney, Australia on the 25th of April 1935 when a human arm was regurgitated by a captive 3.5-metre tiger shark, subsequently leading to a murder investigation.

The tiger shark had been caught 3 kilometres from the beach suburb of Coogee in mid-April and transferred to the Coogee Aquarium Baths, where it was put on public display. Within a week the fish became ill and vomited in front of a small crowd, leaving the left forearm of a man bearing a distinctive tattoo floating in the pool. Before it was captured, the tiger shark had devoured a smaller shark. It was this smaller shark that had originally swallowed the human arm.

Fingerprints lifted from the hand identified the arm as that of former boxer and small-time criminal James (Jim) Smith, (born England, 1890), who had been missing since April 7, 1935. Smith’s arm and tattoo were also positively identified by his wife Gladys and his brother Edward Smith. Jim Smith led a high-risk lifestyle, as he was also a police informer. Examination revealed that the limb had been severed with a knife, which led to a murder investigation. Three days later, the aquarium owners killed the shark and gutted it, hampering the initial police investigation.

Early inquiries correctly led police to a Sydney businessman named Reginald William Lloyd Holmes (1892-1935). Holmes was a fraudster and smuggler who also ran a successful family boat-building business at Lavender Bay, New South Wales. Holmes had employed Smith several times to work insurance scams, including one in 1934 in which an over-insured pleasure cruiser named Pathfinder was sunk near Terrigal, New South Wales. Shortly afterward, the pair began a racket with Patrick Francis Brady (1889-1965), a convicted forger and ex-serviceman. With specimen signatures from Holmes’ friends and clients provided by the boat-builder, Brady would forge cheques for small amounts against their bank accounts that he and Smith would then cash. Police were later able to establish that Jim Smith was blackmailing the wealthy Reginald Holmes.

 

The English first began using fingerprints in July of 1858, when Sir William James Herschel, Chief Magistrate of the Hooghly district in Jungipoor, India, first used fingerprints on native contracts. On a whim, and without thought toward personal identification, Herschel had Rajyadhar Konai, a local businessman, impress his hand print on a contract. The idea was merely “… to frighten him out of all thought of repudiating his signature.” The native was suitably impressed, and Herschel made a habit of requiring palm prints–and later, simply the prints of the right Index and Middle fingers–on every contract made with the locals. Personal contact with the document, they believed, made the contract more binding than if they simply signed it. Thus, the first wide-scale, modern-day use of fingerprints was predicated, not upon scientific evidence, but upon superstitious beliefs. As his fingerprint collection grew, however, Herschel began to note that the inked impressions could, indeed, prove or disprove identity. While his experience with fingerprinting was admittedly limited, Sir William Herschel’s private conviction that all fingerprints were unique to the individual, as well as permanent throughout that individual’s life, inspired him to expand their use.

 

 

ON THIS DAY…… 1st Janurary 1904

On this day in 1904, all prisoners had to have their finger prints taken on arrival at the Geelong Gaol. But it wouldn’t be until 1913, that a criminal case in Victoria was won on finger prints.