A man jailed for breaking into a zoo and attempting to steal a monkey says love pushed him to steal the primate for his girlfriend as a birthday gift.

John Owen Casford, who was 23 at the time, was imprisoned for almost three years for smashing his way in to the squirrel monkey enclosure at Wellington Zoo, New Zealand, at 3am on April 7, 2018.

After his release, Casford revealed that a special moment between the monkey and his girlfriend drove him to break into the zoo.

The pair were on a date earlier that day and Casford said the squirrel monkey ‘stuck it’s little paw up on the glass like something out of a movie’.

‘I thought f**k, that’s what I’m gonna get her,’ he told New Zealand Today. ‘I’m gonna go get her that monkey.’

The adorable encounter was enough to convince Casford, who was admittedly ‘high as a kite’ at the time, to enter the zoo through an unsecured gate and smash two padlocks to sneak into the enclosure.

‘I was too scared to put my hand in there, so I lit the lighter, I saw his little eyes look at it, and I grabbed it and shoved it in my bag,’ he recalled.

The misguided lothario tried to flee the zoo over an electric fence, but got too close to the wiring and ‘panicked’, dropping the monkey and plunging 9m onto a concrete track below.

‘I blew all my teeth out, broke my leg. I landed on my feet but the force of it was like headbutting the ground,’ he said.

‘I’m starting to think at this point it’s not a good idea. I tried to stand up but my leg just folded.

‘I sat down and rung the ambulance. They fixed my teeth and put my leg in a cast.’

Casford says his girlfriend called him a ‘dumb s***’ as the two immediately went on a date after paramedics tended to him, before a police car found him.

The 26-year-old said he then attempted to run from the cop with his broken leg but was easily caught.

The injured monkey was later found hiding in the exhibit and frightened. According to the zoo, it is still traumatised as a result of the attempted ape-napping.

Casford said he felt ‘rat s**t’ after being arrested but also ‘relieved’ that it now ‘could all be dealt with’.

He was sentenced to two years and seven months’ jail on his girlfriend’s birthday after pleading guilty to a multitude of charges.

He was already facing charges for several other incidents, including an unprovoked road rage attack, an alcohol-fuelled assault at a dairy and assaults on a community safety officer and resident at a night shelter who wouldn’t give him cigarettes.

Wellington District Court judge Bill Hastings noted when sentencing Casford how unsuccessful his attempt was and its affect on the monkeys.

‘I don’t know what happened in the squirrel monkey enclosure. The squirrel monkeys know. You say you couldn’t find them and I don’t speak squirrel,’ he said.

‘What I know is that by daybreak all the monkeys were distressed, two of them were injured, and you had a broken leg, two fractured teeth, a sprained ankle, and bruises on your back. You targeted a living creature.’

He was no longer dating the girlfriend he went to jail trying to impress, but said he is still in love with her and wants her back.

At the end of the piece with New Zealand Today he re-enacted the famous 10 Things I Hate About You Scene singing in a cricket stadium, complete with a brass band, to attempt to win his ex back.

His effort appears to work, at least somewhat, as the pair embrace on the bleachers after he sings to her and sit together watching the cricket match.



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