How slither killers are made


MY dear colleague, Tom Foot, what have you done this time?

His story in Thursday’s New Journal about Aesculapian snakes living near Camden Lock has slithered its way into a few nationals since publication. On the way, some of the subtleties of the ecological debate over whether the colony should be eradicated, as a government quango wishes, have been slightly lost. 

caNow, all of sudden, there are reports of snakes climbing your houses and staring us down as they lie hidden in the tree-tops. And run for your screaming lives, folks: The Daily Star takes the base material and delivers a terrifying report of the ‘SLITHER KILLER: Snakes capable of crushing small children are loose in Britain‘. It’s not the greatest PR for snakes looking to defy the troopers from the London Invasive Species Initiative… but if they will be strong enough to ‘take out a small dog the same size as a young child’ then what do they expect.

There was similar bad press on the Mail Online website, the Independent’s site and the Daily Mirror this weekend, with lots of reports of how locals were being ‘terrorised’ and locking up their vulnerable puppies. The print edition of The Sun, meanwhile, seemed to be warning that this scare was not just restricted to little ‘ol Camden. Their headline: “UK hit by 6ft snake outbreak’. This shiz just went code red, people.


In truth, this snake story has actually been around for a while, too long to sensibly be called a nationwide outbreak. The New Journal’s latest story has its origins in a brief mention of ‘the Camden Creature’ by writer and biologist Steve Jones in last weekend’s Sunday Telegraph last week, rather than people being seen sprinting, in terror, from the serpents of NW1. Tom followed it up and a hissing chain of journalism turned full circle in a week.


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