A DAD has described the moment his wife ran screaming from the bathroom after finding a 4ft snake in the toilet.

The ball python is thought to have appeared in Richard Grant's Southampton home after escaping from its owner's house and finding its way into the sewers.

Richard rang a friend, who removed the young male snake using a shoelace and a pillowcase.

The 45-year-old father-of-three said: "My wife went up to use the bathroom and came downstairs screaming. One of my children went to have a look and was shaking and panicking when he came back.

"We were all in a state of shock and not very keen to go back upstairs.

"I called 101 and was put in touch with the RSPCA. They couldn't get anyone out to us until the following day but with three young children in the house we weren't keen to leave the snake in the bathroom overnight.

"I contacted a friend, Cornell Collins, who previously owned a snake, to see if he could help.

"He gently lifted it out of the toilet using a shoelace tied in a bow before putting it in a pillowcase and taking it to a Totton pet shop."

Richard, who works as a crane driver in Marchwood, said the non-venomous snake was probably someone's pet.

He added: "I think they either got rid of it or it escaped and got into the sewers, where it appears to have been bitten by a rat."

Recalling his horror at seeing the snake in the toilet Richard said: "It doesn't get any worse than that.

"I'd the say the shock - on a scale of ten - was about 15. It was horrible - so creepy. Even now I can't talk about it without coming out in goose pimples."

Richard admitted that the frightening encounter had left him nervous about using the toilet.

He said: "I realise it was a very rare experience but every night I close the toilet lid and put a weight on the top."

A Natural History Museum spokesman added: "The snake may have escaped from its owner or a pet shop. Royal pythons are non-venomous although they can bite."

Experts say snakes can travel through a sewer system because much of it is usually dry. Often the only water they encounter is the small amount in the bowl beneath the toilet.

Ball pythons are timid compared with other types of python and are popular in the pet trade, largely because of their docile temperament.