The owner of an African rock python that killed two young Canadian boys in their sleep on Monday didn't have a permit to keep the animal, a new report says.
The boys, aged 4 and 6, have been identified as Noah and Connor Barthe. They were sleeping at a friend's apartment above the Reptile Ocean pet store in Campbellton, New Brunswick.
They were found dead by the friend's father early Monday morning, apparently suffocated by the 16-foot, 100-pound snake.
Royal Canadian Mounted Police Const. Julie Rogers-Marsh told The Star that the reptile appeared to have made its way into a ventilation shaft and then into the living room where the boys were sleeping. The apartment is owned by shop owner Jean-Claude Savoie, a friend of the boys' father.
It fell through the ceiling and might have been startled, CP24 reported. Autopsies were due to be conducted Tuesday.
"My body is in shock. I don't know what to think," Savoie told Global News, describing the children as like his own. "I thought they were sleeping until I [saw] the hole in the ceiling. I turned the lights on and I [saw] this horrific scene," he added.
At a press conference on Tuesday, police said the snake escaped its enclosure in the same apartment, not from the shop below as originally reported.
"The preliminary investigation has determined that the two boys were strangled by the snake," Rogers-Marsh said.
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An investigation has been launched into the incident to determine whether anyone bears criminal responsibility for the boys' deaths, reported Sky News. No charges have been filed so far.
Police said in a statement that they had captured the snake; it was later destroyed.
Snake experts remain baffled by the behavior of the creature, saying it is out of character for the species, according to CBC News.
"It's strange, I'm just trying to piece it together," Lee Parker, a facilities manager at an Ontario reptile zoo, told CBC. "They don't go on killing sprees. … It doesn't make sense to me."
The African rock python is the largest species of snake found in Africa and although non-venomous, is described as possessing a "particularly aggressive reputation," the BBC said.
Pythons hunt by constriction, as they choke the air out of their intended prey, sometimes taking down game as large as warthogs and crocodiles in their natural habitat.