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Page last updated at 11:35 GMT, Thursday, 2 July 2009 12:35 UK

Pet python strangles US toddler

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Authorities removed the snake from the home

A pet python broke out of its holding tank and strangled a two-year-old girl in the bedroom of her home in Florida, local authorities said.

The 8ft (2.5m) albino Burmese python had also bitten Shaiunna Hare on her forehead several times.

Charles Darnell, the snake's owner and boyfriend of Shaiunna's mother, stabbed the python and prised the child away, but she died before paramedics arrived.

Authorities removed the snake from the home after obtaining a search warrant.

Officials said Mr Darnell did not have a permit for the snake. He could face child endangerment or other charges.

Everglades breeding

According to police, Mr Darnell said he had put the snake in a bag in an aquarium container on Tuesday night, but awoke the next morning to find it missing.

Bobby Caruthers, from the sheriff's office in Sumter County, central Florida, said Mr Darnell "ran immediately to the infant's room" and discovered "the snake on the child".

"He also said he observed bite marks on the forehead of the child," Mr Caruthers said.

Wildlife officials say they are growing increasingly concerned by the proliferation of pythons in the Florida wilderness.

It is believed that some have been released by pet owners who can no longer care for them.

The snakes are breeding in the Everglades, where they have no natural predators.

Burmese pythons can reach a length of 16ft (5m) and live for 30 years.

The US Humane Society told Associated Press news agency that at least 12 people have been killed in the US by pet pythons since 1980, including five children.



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