1. ITV Report

Essex man who kept live 4ft crocodile in his bedroom to be sentenced

A man will be sentenced today for keeping a 4ft live crocodile and a number of live snakes in his bedroom.

Lee Thompson, 36, who is known as 'Snake', failed to turn up at court last month and was found guilty in his absence for keeping the caiman crocodile without a licence.

Other dangerous animals including cobras, copperheads, pythons and a Madagascar giant hognose were also found in his bedroom in Westcliff-on-Sea in January.

Thompson failed to appear at Basildon Magistrates' Court on August 17, where he was found guilty of two counts of keeping a dangerous wild animal without a licence, two counts of causing unnecessary suffering to a protected animal and two counts of breaching a disqualification.

An appeal was launched to find him and he was finally arrested in Oxfordshire, yesterday.

Thompson, who has distinctive tattoos including the word ‘snake’ on his neck, is due to appear at Basildon Magistrates’ Court today.

Lee Thompson

At an earlier hearing, Thompson denied being the owner of the animals.

Magistrates heard had been wanted by police since November 2015, when police raided a Basildon address and found the hoard of animals.

At the time, police found a collection of animals including, 35 snakes, seven spiders, a bullfrog and a turtle.

Nine snakes and all the spiders died and the bullfrog and turtle had to be put down.

The dangerous snakes included two horned vipers, two uracoan rattlesnakes, two western diamond rattlesnakes and an indochines spitting cobra.

The remaining snakes were not considered dangerous.

Thompson successfully evaded arrest until January 24 this year, where he disclosed to police a new home address in Westcliff-on-Sea, Essex.

Police then searched the second address and found another hoard of animals.

Before we even entered the room we could smell a strong scent of faeces and rotting flesh.

Inside the bedroom, we found the crocodile contained only in tarpaulin and flimsy wooden boards.

The crocodile had no clean water and its heat lamp was unsecured and the animal could have easily knocked the lamp.

None of the snakes had access to food or clean water and were being kept in plastic boxes with holes in them.

The boxes were just piled on top of each other.

Some of the snakes were alert but several had died and their boxes were infested with maggots.

– Rebecca Benson, RSPCA Inspector

The dangerous snakes included two albino monocled cobras, four spitting cobras, two copperhead snakes, a rattlesnake.

Inspectors also found a live fat tail scorpion in one oft he boxes. RSPCA rescued the live snakes and the crocodile.

Thompson was disqualified from owning dangerous animals at the same court in June 2009.