One night in August, Babs Brandon heard a crash from her son’s room in their home in Church Crookham, England, southwest of London.
She assumed Daniel Brandon, 31, had dropped a dumbbell or knocked something over. But when she checked on him later, she found her son face down on the floor, reported The Telegraph. Tiny, an 8-foot African rock python – one of 10 snakes and 12 tarantulas Daniel Brandon kept in his room – was missing from her tank.
An inquest this week ruled that Tiny, acquired by Daniel Brandon as a baby small enough to fit in one hand, had wrapped around his neck and asphyxiated him Aug. 25, according to The Telegraph. Coroner Andrew Bradley found that Daniel Brandon died by misadventure.
“The most likely scenario is that Tiny was engaged with Dan – I have no doubt about that,” Bradley told the publication. “She was coiling around him, at which point I have no idea. There was a point at which either she takes hold of him unexpectedly or trips him up or some other mechanism.”
African rock pythons are the continent’s largest snake, reaching up to 20 feet in length, according to Arkive. The snakes are not venomous and kill prey by constriction, normally feeding on rats, monkeys, antelopes, dogs, goats and even crocodiles. There are a few recorded cases of African rock pythons hunting humans.
Babs Brandon told the hearing that her son never felt threatened by Tiny, which he called his “baby,” although the snake sometimes struck at her when she entered his room, according to the BBC. After Daniel Brandon’s death, his friends found Tiny coiled under a cabinet and returned her to her tank.
“I cry every day and night and relive that evening all the time,” she told the BBC.
Friends have started JustGiving pages to raise money for animal-related charities in Daniel Brandon’s name. “We have struggled when looking for photos for his funeral to find any when he isn't holding a spider, snake, small bird, toad, slow worm, hedgehog, feeding a fox, stroking cattle, befriending a cat or dog so these charities seemed the perfect choice,” they wrote.