Ray Hirst at his Kangarilla fish farm with a Koi carp. Picture: Calum Robertson
Source: The Advertiser
Police got more than they bargained for when they responded to a house break-in yesterday.
THE break-in and a stolen car led police yesterday to an alleged car thief trapped in a maze of dead-end streets and … five illegal, highly sought-after Japanese koi fish in a bucket.
It is a list of clues that even Sherlock Holmes would struggle to connect.
But one thing led to another yesterday when police were called to Mawson Lakes for what they thought would be just a run-of-the-mill crime report.
They were wrong.
About 12.30am, residents of a Hinchinbrook Ave home were awoken by the sound of their Toyota Prado 4WD driving away.
They gave chase and searched the streets until the sheepish alleged thief – stumped by the suburb’s maze of cul-de-sacs and dead-ends – returned to the street 15 minutes later and parked the car 40m away from their home. He was detained until police arrived.
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The car owners, who moved from Afghanistan four years ago, described the incident as “strange”.
“They stole a laptop, mobile phone, milk, shampoo, tissue, drinks,” one family member said.
“We are still missing the keys (to the car) and the mobile phone. It’s not good.”
Then things got stranger.
When police checked the area around the stolen vehicle for evidence, they made a bizarre discovery in the garden area of a house nearby – five 10cm-long Japanese koi fish in a red bucket filled with water. Four were alive, one was dead.
Police said it was not known if the koi and the car theft were connected. But there is little chance the fish’s owners will come forward.
They are illegal to own in South Australia and the most colourful and sought-after koi sell for millions of dollars in Japan when fully grown.
Adelaide Koi Goldfish owner Ray Hirst said the brightly coloured European carp and the little fish were big business.
Mr Hirst, who is licensed to breed koi and goldfish, exports about 10,000 koi each year to Western Australia. WA along with New South Wales are the only two states where koi can be legally owned.
But Mr Hirst said koi could be smuggled easily into SA.
“The Government has done a survey through all the fish breeders, aquarium societies and shops … they reckon there’s probably 20,000 kept here illegally in SA now,” Mr Hirst said.
“There are so many out there, they can bring them across the border so easily.”
However, he said there was little danger of koi joining their duller European carp cousins in SA waterways.
“Because of the dollar value, no, they are worth so much more – people sell them or hang on to them,” he said. The hapless alleged car thief, meanwhile, added further to yesterday’s mystery when he told the car owners: “I’m going to Hungry Jack’s” before allegedly apologising and offering to give them his details. He was then detained by a neighbour until police arrived.
Optimistic police have asked the owner of the koi to contact Salisbury police station on 8207 9900.
Other residents told The Advertiser a nearby resident has a fish pond in their back yard containing fish strikingly similar to the koi. No one answered when The Advertiser rang the front door bell yesterday.
The surviving koi, meanwhile, were taken to the Golden Grove Veterinary Hospital, Wynn Vale, for safekeeping, but they were later transferred to another address.
In one final twist, the car owner said the vehicle was broken into again twice in the following hours.
“At 5am the car was opened and it was messy. At 8am it was messy again,” he said.
A Fisheries SA spokeswoman said individuals caught keeping koi faced fines of up to $120,000, while bodies corporate could be slugged with up to $250,000.
It is illegal to return European carp to SA waterways.
A Mawson Lakes man, 21, has been charged with theft and illegal use of a vehicle. He was released on bail to appear at Elizabeth Magistrates Court at a later date.
– with Amy Noonan