AN ABBEY Wood family got the ssssscare of their lives when a 3ft snake slithered out of the chimney and attacked police as they tried for an hour to capture it.
Officers used containment tactics and avoided repeated attempts by the animal to sink its fangs into them before eventually capturing the creature with the help of a bin, a takeaway pizza box and some gaffer tape.
The red-eyed reptile (pictured above) - believed to be an aggressive albino desert kingsnake which feeds on rattlesnakes and mammals - was first discovered by cat Missy at the Camrose Street home in the early hours of July 14 as three friends sat drinking in the front room.
After Missy's hair stood on end and she began hissing at the fireplace, one of the men looked up into the chimney and came face to face with the reptile.
Annie Cox, 53, was woken up by her terrified son who was sweating and white in the face.
She said: "First I told him to clear off. I thought he'd been drinking heavily."
She went on: "I marched into the front room in my pyjamas, in all my glory and looked into the chimney.
"It put its nose about two inches from my face. Then I kind of went into panic mode."
Mrs Cox's 21-year-old neighbour and nightclub bouncer Rob Buckingham, phoned the RSPCA but, when there was no answer contacted the police instead.
He said: "First it started poking its head out, then it was just getting longer and longer as it came down the chimney.
"By the time police arrived it was out and wrapped around an ornament."
Three officers arrived on the scene armed with a box, but it took at least an hour to capture the beast.
Mrs Cox said: "It was very fast and every time someone approached it, opened its mouth and showed its fangs.
"They managed to get it into a box and we were all standing there, quite relieved, but then it escaped again and started zig-zagging across the floor."
Eventually, they managed to trap it using an upturned bin, sliding a pizza lid underneath and sealing it with tape.
The animal was later taken in by Willow Wildlife Rescue in Chislehurst.
Jack Cox was terrified when he saw the snake
Mrs Cox said: "The scary thing is we're hoping it hasn't laid eggs somewhere and baby snakes aren't going to start creeping out."
She added: "I'd gone to bed thinking life's a bit boring, everything's the same and then you're up chasing a snake around the front room.
"The police were really good. They showed a lot of concern for it. I think they were more frightened than it was, though they wouldn't admit to it."
Inspector Darren Cox: "This was a very unusual call. When we turned up we couldn’t believe the length, strength and velocity of the snake.
"Eventually we caught it, after moving several pieces of furniture and deploying containment tactics. It tried to bite me too. It was a really slippery suspect."
Wayne May from Artisan Rare Breeds in Farningham said: "I probably deal with, at the most, three snakes a year.
"Most of the time they're escaped pets that no one will own up to having responsibility for."
He said: "I'm pretty sure its an albino desert king snake. If it is what I think it is, it will be the first one I've seen in the UK."
Desert kingsnakes are more commonly found in the southern states of the USA.
Non-venomous, they are constrictors and feed on rodents, lizards and smaller snakes.
They can grow up to 6.8ft long.