A snake which escaped from a pet shop in the Canadian province of New Brunswick appears to have killed two boys aged five and seven.
The children had been staying at a friend’s apartment above the shop in the city of Campbellton.
The reptile is thought to have slipped out of its cage overnight and climbed up through a ventilation shaft.
Constable Jullie Rogers-Marsh of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police said: “It’s believed the two boys were strangled by the snake.” She added that she was unaware if the boys were asleep when the attack occurred.
The snake was later captured by the pet shop owner and is in the custody of police. They would not identify its species.
Experts say attacks by exotic snakes are extremely rare.
“It’s really not in their nature,” said Terry Phillip, curator of reptiles at Reptile Gardens, a wild animal park in South Dakota.
“Snakes, even large pythons, are far less dangerous than family pets like dogs,” he said.
The shop, which is called Reptile Ocean, did not respond to a request for comment. On its official Facebook page the retailer calls itself “an exotic pet store open to the public for purchase and viewing”.
Autopsies on the boys were due to be carried out on Tuesday.