UK & World News
Brits Fined For Stealing Dirk The Penguin
Two Welsh tourists have been fined by a court in Australia after a drunken night out ended with them stealing a penguin from a theme park.
Rhys Owen Jones, 21, a former Royal Marine, and 20-year-old bricklayer Keri Mules pleaded guilty to trespass, stealing and keeping a protected animal.
The friends had been to a beach party and were drinking heavily when they decided to break into Sea World on the Gold Coast in the state of Queensland.
After swimming in the dolphin enclosure and letting off a fire extinguisher in the shark tank, they then picked up a penguin, taking him back to their rented apartment.
Dressed in a penguin tie, lawyer Bill Potts told Southport Magistrates Court his clients meant no harm to Dirk.
And when they woke with hangovers and found the bird in their room they tried to care for it by feeding it bread and putting it in the shower.
"These were young boys, grossly stupid and grossly affected by alcohol," Mr Potts said after the hearing.
"They've apologised to the court and to the people at Sea World and most importantly to Dirk. They are very pleased that he wasn't harmed."
He said their actions were immature and stupid, but there was no malice involved.
The lawyer likened his clients' experience to the recent Hollywood movie The Hangover where a wild night out in Las Vegas ends with a group of friends waking to find a tiger in their hotel room and no recollection of how it got there.
It was a reference lost on the magistrate who was unaware of the film.
The morning after the theft the pair, who are on a working holiday, released the penguin into a nearby canal.
Beforehand though, they took photos and video and bragged on Facebook about their antics. A friend saw the updates and alerted the police in Australia who then arrested the young men.
Dirk was eventually spotted under a jetty by a member of the public who had heard about the theft on the news and called Sea World.
Magistrate Brian Kucks accepted an appeal not to record convictions against the pair, because it would ruin their hopes of one day living in Australia.
But he fined them $1,000 each (£650) and said they had been lucky not to have drunkenly stumbled into the shark or polar bear enclosures.