Cat out of the bag
Jesse Hooker stole a four-weekold meer-kitten from Perth Zoo and has been fined $4000 after pleading guilty.
THE man who stole a baby meerkat from Perth Zoo did it because he thought it would be “cool” to have the animal as a pet.
Jesse Ray Hooker (23) took the four-week-old meer-kitten from its enclosure on September 19 and smuggled it out of the zoo grounds in a cooler bag while playing loud music to prevent its distressed sounds being heard.
He pleaded guilty to a stealing charge on Wednesday and was fined $4000.
Hooker’s lawyer Chad Silver told the court the baby meerkat came over to Hooker, who leaned over a hip-high glass fence and picked her up.
“He fell in love and made the stupid decision to put it in his cooler bag,” he said.
However, the police prosecutors disputed this version of events, saying Hooker jumped into the enclosure.
After Hooker put the meerkat in his cooler bag, he left the zoo with a friend and visited a South Perth food outlet before driving to their home in Beverley.
The police prosecutor said the baby meerkat was kept at a property in Beverley, along with four dogs and a cat, despite the Zoo’s public pleas for its return.
When police executed a search warrant two days later, Hooker made a full admission to police.
Magistrate Brian Gluestein deliberated over the value of the meerkitten before confirming Hooker’s penalty. Previously, the court heard the value of a meerkat pup was $21,281.
However, this was said to be the annual cost of keeping a meerkat at the zoo and the magistrate, with agreement from the prosecutor and the defence lawyer, determined Hooker’s penalty should be based on the potential cost of a meerkat as being between $1000 and $10,000.
“This was a blatant act of stealing at a public facility, Perth Zoo, and a very deliberate endeavour by Mr Hooker to enter a closed area,” Mr Gluestein said.
He accepted Hooker was unlikely to reoffend but refused a request for a spent conviction.
The maximum penalty available was two years’ imprisonment.
Hooker’s friend, Aimee Cummins (23), did not appear in court last week to face a charge of receiving.
Ms Cummins was ordered to appear in court on January 16.
A third person was also charged over the theft last week.
A 31-year-old Beverley woman was charged with possessing stolen property.
Jesse Hooker leaving Perth Magistrates Court.