British snake enthusiast was ‘cuddled’ to death by his pet python ‘Tiny’, coroner rules
Dan Brandon kept 10 snakes and 12 tarantulas in his bedroom and was said to be responsible owner
A lover of exotic animals in Britain was killed when his 2.4-metre (8 foot) pet African rock python – named Tiny – “affectionately” wrapped itself around him and strangled him to death, a coroner has ruled.
Dan Brandon of Hampshire in England was found dead by his mother, Babs, in his bedroom in Hampshire, with the python concealed close by.
Coroner Andrew Bradley, recorded a verdict of misadventure, saying he believed the python was “instrumental” in Brandon’s death.
He made clear he did not believe the snake had been aggressive towards its owner, but the most likely scenario was that the reptile had been coiling around him in an affectionate way.
Brandon, 31, died in the village of Church Crookham last August. As well as Tiny, his bedroom was home to another nine snakes and 12 tarantulas.
The inquest in Basingstoke was told that Brandon was a responsible snake owner who loved his pets. His mother told the inquest that Tiny sometimes appeared aggressive.
She said: “She would get cross and hiss and pretend to strike. He [Brandon] would say: ‘For goodness’ sake, Tiny.’ At other times he would tell me: ‘mother, you’ve got to come and look, she is being really good today.’ I don’t think he ever got bit by Tiny.
“He was more wary of Tiny than the other snakes. He said she is very strong. He had stopped putting her round his neck because she was so strong and unpredictable.”
Since her son’s death, Babs has been caring for the snakes. She showed the court a hand injury she had recently suffered when another of the snakes bit her.
She said her son had kept snakes since he was 15. When Brandon got Tiny he could hold it in his hand. “She was his baby. She loved him,” she said, adding that if she was in her son’s bedroom with him the snake would strike at her “as if to say ‘leave him alone’.”
Babs Brandon told the court that on the evening of her son’s death she was cooking dinner when she heard a crash in his bedroom.
She found him face down on the floor and Tiny was missing from its vivarium. Paramedics were called but Brandon, a landscape worker, could not be saved. She told the court that she had no idea how he had died.
A postmortem carried out by the pathologist Dr Adnan al-Badri found that Brandon’s lungs were four times heavier than would be expected and he had suffered pinpoint haemorrhages in one of his eyes – signs of asphyxia. He also had a recently fractured rib.
Badri said: “It’s possible that some sort of pressure was applied to the neck or chest that caused him to asphyxiate.” However, there were no marks around his neck or chest.