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hissy fit Derry mum says finding snake in hot press has left family living in fear

'You’re constantly checking shoes, the toilet bowl...'


A Co Derry mum has been left terrified in her own home after discovering a corn snake in the hot press.

It was found in Joann Montgomery’s house in Ballysally, Coleraine, three months after her neighbour’s pet serpent went missing. It is believed to be his.

After her neighbour was unable to retrieve the snake, Ms Montgomery (32), a single mum of five, approached the local council, the USPCA and the Housing Executive for help but said their replies were “useless”.

She then contacted an exotic animal specialist, who laid traps with dead mice under her floor in a bid to lure out the reptile.

But the traps have left a “vile” smell and, according to the specialist from Casey’s Creatures, some snakes can go for a year without food.

The Housing Executive said it visited the home on Thursday and efforts to resolve the problem were ongoing.

But Ms Montgomery said the “only effort that they had gone to was to lift up two floorboards”, which ripped the carpet. “They keep saying on the phone ‘I take my hat off to you. We’re thinking about you because we wouldn’t sleep in a house with a snake’,” she explained.

“I’m like ‘Well, that’s alright for you to say that, but I have to. I have no other option. I have nowhere else to live.”

The householder, who has lived in the property for 14 years, said her children “won’t go to the toilet without you having to check the bowl”.

“You have to take them to go for a bath. I’m having to tell the kids ‘Make sure your bags are zipped up so that it doesn’t get into your bags which you take to school’.

“It’s not fair on them and they’re not sleeping. The first night, my middle wee girl — she’s autistic — told us that she went to sleep at ten to six in the morning and then I had to get her up and go to school.”

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The children have also been checking their shoes before putting them on.

“It’s just really a waiting game. You’re constantly checking,” said Ms Montgomery, whose story first featured in the Coleraine Chronicle. The Ballysally mum suffers from mental health issues and takes medication to help her sleep, but because her children are only getting three to four hours of sleep each night, she has stopped taking it.

Ms Montgomery said she once suggested that the Housing Executive send someone to check the attic, “but they weren’t willing to send anybody in case their workers got bit. I was like ‘So it’s alright for you not to send workers [because you don’t want them] to get bit, but it’s alright for me or my children to get bit?’”

The corn snake is a common pet breed which can bite if it is under stress or when it smells food, but it is not venomous and its bite is said to be no more painful than a pinprick.

“I still don’t fancy the chances of being bit by a snake,” said Ms Montgomery, and nor does she fancy it for her children, with her eldest being just 12 years old.

The Housing Executive said: “While this pet is ultimately the responsibility of its owner, we have been assisting the tenant to have it removed.

“We have engaged with professional experts and animal welfare officers to return the pet to its owner and efforts will continue over the coming days.”

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