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Last Updated: Friday, 2 September 2005, 13:40 GMT 14:40 UK
Giant centipede 'was escaped pet'
A giant centipede, Scolopendra gigantea
The centipedes have grown as long as 18 inches
A giant venomous centipede captured by a man at his home may have been bought in a pet shop by one of his neighbours.

Aaron Balick handed over the nine-inch Scolopendra Gigantea to the Natural History Museum after finding it behind his TV set in Islington, north London.

The largest species of centipede, it was thought it may have arrived from America in a cargo of fruit.

But after media coverage, a neighbour who collects exotic pets has come forward claiming to be the owner.

A spokeswoman for the museum said that if checks show the man to be its rightful owner, his pet would be returned.

'Potentially dangerous'

She said a local pet shop had vouched that it had been bought there.

"The centipede is venomous and potentially dangerous.

"It is essential that the museum takes the best possible advice, before proceeding with any action for the sake of all involved and the wider public," she said.

I saw this prehistoric-looking animal skitter away behind a stack of books
Aaron Balick

Museum entomologist Stuart Hine said he had heard reports of one such creature growing to 18 inches in Venezuela.

Their sting, which is given through the front claws, can result in a blistering rash, nausea and fever.

No antidote to the venom exists, but the sting is very rarely life-threatening.

Mr Balick, 32, earlier told of how he discovered the creature.

"The sound was coming from under some papers which I lifted, expecting to see the mouse scamper away," he said.

"Instead, I saw this prehistoric-looking animal skitter away behind a stack of books.

"I was shocked. I thought, 'there's no way this thing is in my house, this is not for real'."

He trapped the centipede with a container against a wall and left it there overnight.

The next day he took it to the Natural History Museum who have been caring for it ever since.

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