Wales

Theft of Dirk the penguin: Rhys Jones and Keri Mules fined

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Media captionThe BBC's Duncan Kennedy says the theme park is relieved to get Dirk back in one piece

Two Welsh tourists who stole a penguin named Dirk from a theme park following a night out have each been fined 1,000 Australian dollars (£637).

Rhys Owen Jones, 21, and Keri Mules, 20, admitted the theft when they appeared before Brisbane magistrates.

The friends, from south Wales, broke into Sea World on Queensland's Gold Coast, swam with dolphins and let off a fire extinguisher in a shark enclosure.

The pair were told the prank could have seen them end up "in a morgue".

Jones, 21, and Mules, 20, pleaded guilty to trespassing and stealing and keeping a protected animal, Australia's Department of Justice said.

Jones, reported to be a former Royal Marine and Mules, reported to be a bricklayer, were in Australia on a working holiday visa when the incident took place on 14 April.

They got into the animal park, allegedly with an 18-year-old Australian man, after attending a beach party.

The two Welshmen admitted snatching a seven-year-old fairy penguin called Dirk from an aquarium, before waking up with the flightless bird in their apartment the following day.

Image caption Dirk was bred in captivity and is part of a breeding colony

The friends' legal representative told Southport Magistrates' court they meant the animal no harm.

They tried to care for it by feeding it and putting it in the shower when they woke up with hangovers.

They later released Dirk into a canal, but were spotted by locals who called police.

Dirk was later rescued and returned to Sea World unharmed, before being reunited with partner Peaches.

Letter of apology

Magistrate Brian Kucks was told the tourists' actions were immature and stupid, but there was no malice involved.

He also heard how they had written a letter of apology to Sea World and the Australian public, and how they deeply regretted their actions.

Mr Kucks accepted an appeal not to record convictions against the pair and fined them 1,000 Australian dollars each.

He said: "You could have found yourselves in a morgue if you'd gone into the wrong enclosure.

"Perhaps next time you are at a party you will consider drinking a little less vodka."

The 18-year-old Australian, who is facing a single charge of trespassing, had his case adjourned to 27 June.

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