When car mechanic Michael Noonan answered the telephone nothing could have prepared him for what the person on the other end of the call was about to say. The person making the call was Dave French and his request was like nothing Michael had heard in his 25 years fixing cars.
“I’ve been a mechanic for 25 years and I’ve never come across anything like this,” said Michael. “I thought to myself how does a snake get about and where does it go? ‘I said to the Mrs - You’re not going to believe what’s going on at work tomorrow - I’ve got to retrieve a snake.’ I was really excited to go into work.”
The snake in question was a three foot albino corn snake called Antoinette who had disappeared during a car journey to Glaisdale, near Whitby. Dave French was helping his daughter, Sienna, move into her new home from where she used to live in Skelton-in-Cleveland.
Sienna, 26, who is an artist and life model, wasn’t going anywhere without her beloved pet snake Antoinette. Dad Dave helped to pack all his daughter’s belongings, including Atoinette’s vivarium, into his hybrid Hyundai Kona and the trio set-off on the 18 mile trip to Glaisdale.
On arrival, both father and daughter, noticed something was amiss. They could see the vivarium was precisely where they left it but Antoinette was nowhere to be seen. Had she escaped before they left Skelton - could she have somehow exited the vehicle while it was in transit - it was time for Dave to dust down his dad detective skills.
Dave and Sienna searched both inside and outside the car. The duo even returned to Skelton in the hope six year-old Antoinette was still there but to their dismay she had disappeared.
“It wasn’t the first time she’d escaped,” said Sienna. “Last time she had burrowed underneath the carpet, so I knew that she could be literally anywhere.”
Dave and Sienna put food and water in both houses and also the car, but all remained untouched and they were at a loss as to where the elusive corn snake could be. The breakthrough came when Dave drove to Leicestershire to collect a family friend.
He said: “The journey was uneventful until we got back to Glaisdale. I unloaded the cases from the car and there was Antoinette, looking at me.
“I quickly emptied out a bag and went to grab the snake, but she was too quick for me - maybe my friend’s scream scared her! It gave a whole new meaning to the phrase: ‘There’s a snake in my boot!’”
Now knowing the location of Antoinette, Dave drove straight home and called the RSPCA to ask them for advice. “They said they don’t have snake traps in North Yorkshire… apparently there’s not much call for them!”
“We put down food and a hot water bottle - even put the vivarium back in the car - but still no joy. In the end I had to call the garage to ask for help.”
Mechanic Michael Noonan, 43, who works at SG Petch in Middlesbrough, said: “I couldn’t quite believe it when I was asked to work on the vehicle. It’s a bit different - I had to ask again when they told me - and then I asked again a second time!
“I thought to myself how does a snake get about and where does it go? I said to the Mrs - ‘you’re not going to believe what’s going on at work tomorrow - I’ve got to retrieve a snake.’ I was really excited to go into work.
“It took about 20 minutes to locate her - she had gone underneath the high volt battery beneath the rear seats and we had to take out both the seats and disconnect the battery to get to it. I turned round to her owner and jokingly said: “will it kill me? I’ve been a mechanic for 25 years and I’ve never come across anything like this.”
Sienna, who had been growing increasingly worried during the search, said: “I couldn’t believe it when they said they’d found her. I was so relieved. I put my hand down to her and she smelt it and then she nose bumped it - which is her way of saying hello. I picked her up and she went straight under my coat and cuddled in.”
Dave, who drives a minibus for adults with special needs, said: “The whole thing drew quite a crowd. When they said they’d found her, I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a big smile on anybody’s face. The staff at SG Petch were absolutely brilliant and I can’t thank them enough”
Antoinette is none the worse for wear after her adventure and is home safe and sound in her (tightly secured) vivarium. After bathing herself, she enjoyed a hearty meal of fresh chicken and curled up by her heatpad to sleep.