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Police raiding a flat to search for drugs got a big surprise when they stumbled upon a zoo of exotic creatures – including up to 20 pythons – and a collection of samurai swords.

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Officers from the Highbury West Safer Neighbourhoods team found large tanks containing tarantulas and pythons – one of which was 18 feet long – in the property on the Stephens Ink Estate, off Gillespie Road, Highbury.

They also discovered a fearsome arsenal of bladed weapons, including ninja stars, knives and four samurai swords.

Pc Neil Hodgman, of the Highbury West Safer Neighbourhoods team, said: “I have never been involved in a warrant like it.

“There were huge heated tanks dotted all over the place that seemed to take up most of the room. There were three or four really big pythons, one 18 feet long. These things were massive, they had heads as big as fists.”

Two officers taking part in the operation on Tuesday morning were so scared of the animals they opted to stand outside and wait.

As the team forced entry to the flat, they were confronted by two dogs which had to be controlled with shields and fire extinguishers.

Pc Hodgman added: “We knew the dogs would be there, but we didn’t know anything at all about the reptiles.” The officer said the animals appeared to be well looked after.

Residents were amazed at what was in the flat. Paul Richards, 41, of the Stephens Ink Estate, said: “It’s a bit of a shocker. You never know what’s behind someone else’s door.”

Bags containing cannabis and cash were seized in the raid, but the animals and weapons were left. Two men, aged 47 and 23, were arrested for possession with intent to supply and have been bailed to return to police.

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