1. ITV Report

Essex man jailed over four-foot crocodile and 23 snakes in bedroom

Lee Thompson kept 23 snakes and a four-foot crocodile in his bedroom.

A man who kept a four-foot crocodile and 23 snakes in "appalling conditions" in the bedroom of a rented house has been jailed for 26 weeks.

Lee Thompson, 36, of King Edward Road, Laindon, Essex, failed attend his trial at Basildon Magistrates’ Court in August.

The four-foot spectacled caiman, 23 snakes and fat-tailed scorpion had no food, water or heat source and the snakes were in poorly-ventilated plastic boxes.

Essex Police said the reptiles included cobras, copperheads, pythons and a Madagascar giant hognose.

Seven of the snakes died and had been left to decompose, with the survivors taken into the care of the RSPCA.

Lee Thompson was found guilty in his absence of keeping a crocodile without a licence and sentenced to 26 weeks in prison. Credit: PA

Police arrested him in Wallingford, Oxfordshire, on September 11 and he was sentenced at Basildon Crown Court last Wednesday, Essex Police said.

He was convicted in his absence of two counts of breaching a ban on keeping a dangerous wild animal, two counts of causing unnecessary suffering to a protected animal and two counts of keeping a dangerous wild animal without a licence.

Thompson, who is known as "Snake" and has distinctive tattoos including the word "snake" on his neck, was jailed and fined £115.

The force said Thompson had been on their radar since 2015 when they found 45 exotic animals, including spiders, a lizard and a snapping turtle, at a unit he rented in Basildon.

A four-foot spectacled caiman crocodile which is commonly found in South America was discovered by police. Credit: Essex Police/PA

Some of the animals, which had been left without water, food and heat, died, and the survivors were taken into the care of the RSPCA and specially trained handlers.

Efforts to find Thompson, who was not at the unit at the time, were unsuccessful and he remained on the run until January 2018.

He was arrested at an address in Napier Close, Basildon and on the same day officers found a menagerie of exotic animals at a house he rented in Burdett Avenue in Westcliff.

A 4ft spectacled caiman. Credit: Essex Police/PA

During police interview Thompson claimed the animals were his pets and he had no intention of selling them but he admitted neglecting them.

An Essex Police spokesman said: "Thompson kept wild animals in appalling conditions, ultimately causing 17 to die.

"Not only did he keep them without a licence but showed no care for their well-being or their survival."