DRINKERS got more than they bargained for when a woman walked into a pub with a snake in her handbag.
Stunned customers at the Victoria Arms, in Northgate, on Hartlepool’s Headland, could not believe their eyes when the woman casually stopped by for a drink with the snake’s head slithering out of her bag.
The woman, who does not want to be identified, had earlier picked up the non-poisonous snake after it was found in the middle of the road outside The Headland Club, in Throston Street.
It had attracted the attention of a gathering crowd around 10.30pm on Friday and police were called to collect it.
But the woman, who was out drinking with her husband, had picked it up in the meantime and took it to the Victoria Arms in her handbag, apparently to protect it.
After an hour searching local pubs, two police officers eventually tracked down the woman and the black and yellow snake at the Victoria Arms.
Shocked Victoria Arms licensee Christine Alford, 48, who has a phobia of snakes, was scared out of her skin when she learned the one-and-a-half foot long reptile was in her pub.
Christine, whose 21-year-old daughter Sarah Johnson, the pub’s manager, was also present, said: “I nearly had a heart attack when someone said she had a snake.
“I took off upstairs and refused to open the door.
“The woman had it in her bag and was showing a few customers and it was coming out of the bag and wrapping itself around the strap.”
Grandmother-of-two Christine, who is married to Mark, 51, and also mum to Ashley Johnson, 24, and Daniel Johnson, 19, added: “We had a wedding on in the function room and I was standing at the door talking to somebody.
“I saw two policemen go into the room and said to them ‘is everything alright?’
“They said yes and then I saw them get a big bag out of their car.
“I asked them what they were doing and they said the woman had a snake in their bag.
“I told my daughter and she was as scared as me.”
Inspector Bernie Hanson, of Hartlepool Police, said: “The snake was in the middle of the road and a woman picked it up and put it in her handbag.
“Our officers tried several pubs before finding her in the Victoria Arms.”
The RSPCA was called before police contacted Mavis Austin, owner of Stranton Pets, stepped in.
The snake is being kept at the shop until the owner comes forward and can identify it.
The snake’s owner is asked to pop into the shop or call (01429) 235198.