Minibus filled with exotic snakes, meerkats and poisonous spiders stolen from outside church

The minibus was later found but two snakes are still unaccounted for

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The Independent Online

A minibus containing more than 30 exotic animals including meerkats, snakes and poisonous spiders was stolen from a church car park in Dudley.

The converted LDV convoy minibus which belonged to the animal welfare group, Natural History Presentations, a company that tours the Midlands displaying their animals to schoolchildren, was stolen outside St Andrews Church in the Sedgley area of Dudley last night.

It is believed that the total cost of the animals inside the minibus was in the region of £20,000.

Paul Beech, the head of Natural History Presentations, had left the minibus in the church’s car park when he went to visit a friend in the Bulls Head pub to discuss a potential job opportunity.

When he returned two hours later he found his minibus and all the animals inside had been taken.

"When I saw they were gone I went blank, it was sheer panic," he said.

After hours of trying to track down the minibus, police were eventually able to locate it near a row of garages.

Releasing a statement to The Independent, a spokesperson for the police said: “The stolen minibus was found abandoned in Central Drive, Lower Gornal. There was no damage to the vehicle and nothing was stolen.”

According to owner Paul Beech, 59, he was able to retrieve the majority of his animals when police contacted him this morning; however, he did say that two of his snakes – a carpet python and California king snake – were still missing.

Following the incident, Beech spoke of his relief at being reunited with his animals.

"The animals were the main thing," Mr Beech said, "You can always get another vehicle. It was a big relief."

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