One of Texas’ most bizarre manhunts has come to a close after three suspects were accused of stealing a live shark from an aquarium by pretending it was a baby, wrapping it in a blanket, and wheeling it away in a kid’s pushchair.
The sharknapping occurred at the San Antonio Aquarium in Texas on the afternoon of July 28, according to a public announcement by the aquarium. That’s right, the crime was carried out in the most sacred of weeks: Shark Week.
Following a few sleepless nights, Miss Helen the horn shark was returned home on July 30, amazingly alive and well.
“We are beyond excited that the police found the shark and have allowed us to pick her up,” Ammon Covino, owner of the San Antonio Aquarium, told IFLScience.
“I do not know why someone would take a shark from my aquarium. I think Shark Week might have had something to do with it,” added Covino.
The strange situation came to light when the aquarium’s staff spotted three people acting suspiciously with a pushchair near one of their interactive shark petting pools. Management followed the suspects into the parking lot, but they refused to have their property searched and quickly made off in their car.
CCTV footage appeared to show that the group had indeed stolen a horn shark, a small species of bullhead shark that measures no longer than 40 centimeters (16 inches).
The video shows the thieves staking out the petting pool for over an hour, waiting for the staff to leave the room. While aquarium staff are distracted by an accomplice, another of the suspects reaches into the pool and grabs something with a net. They then head into an empty backroom where they allegedly poured a solution of bleach, which is used by the aquarium to disinfect the tanks, into a cold water exhibit filtration system. Luckily, thanks to the rapid action of the staff, the marine life narrowly avoided being harmed.
According to the aquarium, the trio then placed the shark into a bucket, covered it with a wet blanket, and pushed it away in a children’s stroller.
One man has been charged after confessing to the theft and two other individuals have charges pending. Police believe that the shark was not kidnapped for profit, but to be added to the suspects' extensive private collection of marine life.
“The arresting officer said that the suspect had one of these sharks but lost it and wanted another one,” Covino added.
As for Miss Helen the shark, she is currently being held in quarantine at the aquarium to allow her to acclimatize and recover while staff evaluate her health.