A man died of asphyxiation after his eight-foot African rock python called Tiny wrapped itself around him, a coroner said.
Dan Brandon was found dead by his mother, Babs Brandon, in his bedroom in Hampshire, England, with the python close by outside of its cage, The Guardian reports.
The coroner for north-east Hampshire, Andrew Bradley, said he believed the massive snake was "instrumental" in Brandon's death. He also stated that he did not believe the python was acting aggressively toward Brandon, and that instead the most likely scenario was that the reptile had been coiling around him in an affectionate way.
The 31-year-old exotic animal lover died on Aug. 25 in his bedroom, which was also home to nine other snakes and 12 tarantulas.
Babs Brandon told police that her son was a responsible and loving snake owner but that sometimes Tiny would act aggressively toward him.
"She would get cross and hiss and pretend to strike," Babs Brandon said. "He [Dan Brandon] would say: 'For goodness' sake, Tiny.' At other times he would tell me: 'Mum, you've got to come and look, she's being really good today.' I don't think he ever got bit by Tiny."
She also added that Tiny had become too strong for Brandon to wrap around his neck anymore.
"He was more wary of Tiny than the other snakes. He said she's very strong. He had stopped putting her round his neck because she was so strong and unpredictable," she said.
She said Brandon had been caring for snakes since he was 15, and that he had Tiny since she was a baby. Babs said Brandon could hold Tiny in his hand when he first got her.
Professor John Cooper, a vet and snake keeper, said he had visited Brandon's bedroom and examined Tiny. He said he had been impressed by the conditions Brandon kept his snakes in.
"He was an experienced herpetologist who cared for his reptiles and would have had a good relationship with his animals. He did not have them for macho reasons," Cooper said, adding that Brandon would have known how to unwrap a python that was wrapped around him, explaining that the trick was to start with the tail.
During a postmortem, pathologist Dr. Adnan al-Badri found that Brandon's lungs were four times heavier than would be expected and he had suffered pinpoint hemorrhages in one of his eyes – signs of asphyxia. He also had a recently fractured rib.
"It's possible that some sort of pressure was applied to the neck or chest that caused him to asphyxiate," Badri said, adding that there were no marks around his neck or chest.
The coroner said he did not believe the snake had been aggressive towards Brandon.
"The most likely scenario is that that Tiny was engaged with Dan. I have no doubt she was coiling around him. There was a point at which either she took hold of him unexpectedly or trips him up or there is some other mechanism. She then makes off maybe because of the shock of him falling or the shock of his reaction. I have to accept that Tiny is instrumental in Dan's death," Bradley said.
Bradley said he believed that in a "moment of peace" Brandon was "communing" with the snake and it "went wrong" for some reason. "He is asphyxiated as a result of his contact with Tiny."
Outside court, Babs Brandon told The Guardian that she constantly relives the evening of her son's death. She said: "All the family wanted was answers to our questions and I have no idea yet whether we have that or ever will."
A fundraising page has been created for the World Wide Fund for Nature in Brandon's name.0comments