Dear Zoo theatre van theft: Man jailed

Dear Zoo theatre set Image copyright PA
Image caption The stage shows were cancelled after props and the set were stolen

A man who admitted stealing a van causing the cancellation of a 56-show children's play tour has been jailed for two years and four months.

Darius Diminskas was a "key player" in the theft of three vans, one of which belonged to the Dear Zoo production, Peterborough Crown Court heard.

The van was stolen on 27 April and contained £41,000 worth of stage props, costumes and merchandise.

Dear Zoo's theatre producer said: "I would have fed him to the lions."

Police said Diminskas, 34, of Eaglesthorpe, had stolen the van from Dogsthorpe Road and drove it towards the A1 before a tracking device on the vehicle was removed and its number plates cloned.

Image copyright Cambridgeshire Constabulary
Image caption Darius Diminskas has been jailed for 28 months
Image copyright Dear Zoo
Image caption The truck was stolen in Peterborough and had a tracking device fitted

The van contained the set, costumes and puppets used in the Dear Zoo Live show - a stage production of the book by Rod Campbell about a child who writes to a zoo asking to be sent a pet.

A further two glazier's vans - containing power tools - were taken on 8 May from New Road and Palmerston Road, Woodston, police said.

The cost of the contents from all three vehicles was £125,000.

Image copyright PA
Image caption The play is based on Rod Campebell's children's book which has sold more than eight million copies

Officers investigating the thefts linked Diminskas' own vehicle to the incidents - and discovered blank vehicle keys, number plates, a GPS tracking unit and registration documents for multiple vehicles at his home.

Diminskas pleaded guilty to conspiring to steal a motor vehicle at Peterborough Crown Court on Wednesday.

Dear Zoo theatre producer Chris Davis said five actors and the stage manager were made redundant after 56 shows in the tour were cancelled.

"The misery that this man and his accomplices have caused stealing our van and preventing the thousands of children from seeing the Dear Zoo Show and only getting two and half years in jail really doesn't seem justice," he said.

Image copyright Dear Zoo Live
Image caption In the story the child is sent a number of inappropriate pets

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