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Last Updated: Monday, 1 November, 2004, 17:49 GMT
Wrestler 'left snake to starve'
Aurelian Smith Jr
Jake "the Snake" Roberts was not in court to hear the charge
A US wrestling star left his pet python to starve to death over a period of months, a court has heard.

Jake "the Snake" Roberts - real name Aurelian Smith Jr - had carried his 15-foot sidekick around the ring prior to his wrestling bouts in the 80s and 90s.

Magistrates in St Albans were told the World Wrestling Federation star, 48, neglected the snake - leaving it in a small tank in Hertfordshire.

He was not in court to face a charge of causing unnecessary suffering.

Snake dealer

The snake was seized by RSPCA inspectors at the home of Valerie Burnham, 59, in September last year but later died.

Mrs Burnham, of London Colney, Hertfordshire, was in court on Monday to deny a charge of causing unnecessary suffering to the python.

Snake dealer Kevin Wicks, 30, of Binfield, Bracknell, Berkshire, who allegedly owned the snake, denied permitting unnecessary suffering to the animal.

Bruce Kent, prosecuting, said Mr Smith had allegedly been staying at Mrs Burnham's home and the snake, called Damien, had been kept in a 12ft tank in the garage.

He said when the snake was found it was "severely debilitated and significantly underweight".

Phobia claim

The court was also shown a video made by RSPCA inspectors during the initial search of the premises where the snake was being kept.

In the video, RSPCA worker Mark Martin estimated the snake may not have been fed for seven to eight months.

He was also heard to say: "Jake has quite a phobia for snakes."

Mr Smith, a father-of-seven from America, was a well-known WWF figure in the late 1980s and early 1990s and performed his act around Britain.

The hearing was adjourned until Tuesday.

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