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Horror of sleeping brothers strangled to death by snake

ROB GILES

TWO Canadian boys were strangled to death in their sleep by a 100lb python that apparently escaped from its enclosure in a pet store, slithered through a ventilation system and fell through a ceiling into the room.

The brothers, Connor Barthe aged seven and his brother Noah (5) were visiting the apartment of a friend above an exotic pet store in Campbellton, New Brunswick.

The snake apparently escaped during the night and made its way into the apartment through the ventilation system.

A friend of the boys was sleeping in another room and was unharmed.

The pet store owner, Jean-Claude Savoie, said he did not hear a sound and discovered the "horrific scene" when he went into his living room, where the two boys had been sleeping, on Monday morning.

"I can't believe this is real," Mr Savoie said.

The boys were the children of his best friend and were often at his apartment to visit his son, Mr Savoie said.

The python, which he has had for at least 10 years, had been kept alone in its enclosure and was not handled by anyone else, he added.

The snake is about 15 feet long. Police are looking at whether the store followed the province's regulations on exotic animals.

"It's a criminal investigation," Sgt Alain Tremblay said. "We're going to look at all avenues."

The town's deputy mayor, Ian Comeau, said the Reptile Ocean shop was licensed to operate.

He said he saw alligators, crocodiles and snakes when he toured the shop with the fire department about two years ago.

John Kendrick, a snake expert who manages the Reptile Store in Hamilton, Ontario, said it sounds like the python was not enclosed properly and might have been spooked.

He called the strangling deaths "very unusual".

But he added that African rock pythons tend to be highly strung.

"It's very odd that one would go out and seek out a person.

"They don't recognise us as food," he said.

Stephanie Bernatchez, who shares a mutual friend with the boys' mother, identified the children as Noah and Connor Barthe.

"We're all overwhelmed here," Ms Bernatchez said.

"They could have been hit by a car, but a snake?

"That's not something people around here expect."

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