1. ITV Report

Man jailed after keeping crocodile in bedroom

The crocodile, four feet long, was kept in a makeshift pen Credit: BPM Media

A man who kept a live four-foot crocodile in his bedroom and then went on the run from police has been jailed.

Lee Thompson stored the large reptile in a makeshift pen at his rented flat in Westcliff, Southend, as part of a collection which included 23 snakes and a fat-tailed scorpion.

When the shocking menagerie was discovered, seven of the snakes had died and been left to rot. Thompson was jailed for 26 weeks.

Lee Thomson was jailed for 26 weeks Credit: BPM Media

Thompson first came to the attention of police in November 2015 when officers attended a unit he rented in Cranes Farm Road, Basildon.

They found 45 exotic animals in a very poor condition; the creatures had been left without water, food and heat.

There were 35 different species of snake, one Nile lizard, seven species of spider, one bullfrog and one snapping turtle.

The spiders and nine of the snakes were already dead and the turtle had to be put down.

Seven of the snakes found were also classified as dangerous wild animals and could only be kept under licence: two horned vipers, an Indochinese spitting cobra, two Uracoan rattlesnakes and two Western diamondback rattlesnakes.

The animals were taken into the care of the RSPCA and specially trained handlers.

Thompson had previously been convicted of keeping dangerous wild animals without a licence in 2009 and was banned from keeping them for 10 years.

He was not at the unit at the time the animals were discovered and attempts were made to find him, but these were unsuccessful.

Thompson remained on the run until he was arrested at a property in Napier Close, Basildon, on January 24 this year.

On the same day, officers searched a bedroom he rented in a house in Westcliff and found a four-foot long spectacled caiman - a crocodilian reptile.

During his interview with officers, Thompson claimed the animals found at the industrial unit and at the house were his pets and he had no intention of selling them - but he admitted neglecting them.

He was charged with 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.

But Thompson, 36, failed to attend his trial at Basildon Magistrates' Court on August 17.

He was convicted of all the charges in his absence and arrested in Wallingford, Oxfordshire, on 11 September 11.

Thompson, of King Edward Road, Laindon, was sentenced to 26 weeks imprisonment and fined £115.

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 wellbeing or their survival.

"He then twice attempted to evade justice.

"We want to thank the RSPCA, particularly RSPCA inspector Rebecca Benson, for their assistance in helping to ensure the remaining animals were appropriately cared for."