A 45-kg rock python is being blamed for the
strangling death of two young brothers who were sleeping in an
apartment above a reptile store in Campbelltown, New Brunswick,
according to Canadian police on Tuesday.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) said that the initial investigation showed a large exotic snake "had escaped its enclosure at the store" sometime early Monday morning and got into the ventilation system.
From there, the python is believed to have crept up into the upstairs apartment.
"It is believed the two boys were strangled by the snake," police said in a statement.
Police have captured the snake.
The two boys, aged 5 and 7, were spending the night with a friend whose father operated the reptile store. The father called the rescue team Monday morning after he discovered they were dead.
The friend of the two boys and his father, who were sleeping in a different room, were not injured. The mother of the boys lives nearby in the city of 7,000 residents.
"This is a tragedy," Deputy Mayor Ian Comeau was quoted as saying by CBC broadcaster. "The city is in shock."
Police are investigating whether the deaths were an accident or the result of a possible crime. Autopsies were being performed Tuesday.
"I can tell you it's a criminal investigation right now to determine if any criminal act is responsible for the death of the two boys," Campbellton RCMP Corporel Alain Tremblay was quoted as saying.
RCMP identified the snake as an African rock python, as long as 4.5 metres. The snake typically kills by constricting its victims, and is non-poisonous.
A snake expert, Lisa Janes, who operates a private reptile zoo in Ontario told CBC that the python likely did not intend to eat the children, as snakes normally do not see humans as food.
It was possible the python was surprised, or was looking for something else to eat in the room.
New Brunswick province loosened its constraints on the import of exotic house pets in 2009. The move allowed non-poisonous snakes up to 3 metres in length to be sold to private persons.
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