Desperate shop owner appeals for return of rare breeding shark stolen in daring aquarium raid

Posted on 12:33 PM by Sameer Shah

With a joint value of around £50,000, Feargal and Sharkey are head and gills above anything you'd find in an average fish tank.

They are so valuable because they are the UK's only captive breeding pair of Australian Marbled Catshark, a little known species of shark much sought after by fish-fanciers with a penchant for the exotic.

Examples of the species are advertised for sale on the internet in America for around £50 each.

But their stock here looked set to soar - after it was revealed Sharkey, the female of the pair, has been stolen from her aquarium.

Devastated owner Peter Newman, 68, who runs an aquatics shop in Farnborough, Hampshire, fears the thieves may now demand a huge ransom for the return of his prized 2ft long, mottled brown shark.

As police investigated the case of the suburban Jaws snatchers, Mr Newman said: 'The person who took this shark knew exactly what they had come for. They must have come prepared with a crow bar, net, container and gloves.

'Because of their value I'm expecting someone to phone me up and say we have your shark, now pay us a ransom if you want to see it again.'

Feargal and Sharkey - named after pop star Feargal Sharkey, the former lead singer of The Undertones - were kept in a 160-gallon tank in a locked garage behind Mr Newman's shop.

He imported Sharkey after a customer ordered the shark but failed to collect her three and a half years ago.

He then spent two years trying to source a male from Indonesia to keep her company.

The pair, which are both around five years old, only started to breed in January this year and have had six babies.

The thieves struck late on Friday or in the early hours of Saturday while Mr Newman and his wife June, 65, were asleep in their flat above the shop, called The Marine Centre.

It is thought the crooks forced the door open with a crowbar and used a net to scoop Sharkey out and steal her alive.

Mr Newman is concerned the culprits may return in a bid to steal Feargal as well and is stepping up security on the premises by installing CCTV.

He added: 'They would have had incredible difficulty taking them both at the same time because as soon as Sharkey became stressed Feargal would have used his pointed head to bury himself in the rocks where the net could not get him.'

Mr Newman, who started his company in 2003, imports sharks, fish and stingrays and makes fish tanks.

'The sharks aren't advertised in the shop but I do take customers out to the garage occasionally to sell them live coral,' he said.

'I was also on local TV recently talking about the breeding programme and how rare the sharks are so that may have sparked a burglar's interest.'

As for Feargal, Mr Newman said he 'seems a bit lost and is not swimming around or eating so much' since Sharkey's sudden disappearance, but their babies are doing well.

PC Stephen Court, of Farnborough police station, said: 'We believe this may have been a targeted burglary of a shark that is extremely rare in the UK.

'The victim is desperate for the fish to be returned and we urge anyone with information about the burglary to contact us.

Due to the unusual type of shark it will be difficult to sell in this country.

'We would ask anyone who has been offered one to buy to contact police as soon as possible.

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