Cobra reported missing in Sunderland taxi sparks alert across city
Taxi drivers had a tail to tell after they were warned a snake could be in their cab.
Station Taxis took a call from a man saying he got into a taxi at a rank in the city - but left a bag holding a cobra in the boot.
The man, calling from a withheld number and claiming his name was Johnson, rang twice saying he couldn’t remember which firm the white car had belonged to and said he needed the venomous reptile for his work.
While the Southwick-based firm was wary the calls could be a trick, they made sure all its cars were clear by sending out a message reading “This is a real message - somebody has left a snake in a car. Please check.”
Despite searching the fleet, no snake was found.
Natalie Bland, the company’s marketing manager, has pieced together what happened during the calls, which were made late on Saturday and into Sunday morning.
She said: “This was certainly one of our most weird and wonderful phone calls, but as you will expect we do get some strange queries.
“The first time we thought it was a prank, but when he rang back we thought it would be best to double check just in case this was actually real.
“The guy in question, who said he had booked a taxi under ‘Johnson’ from the Barnes pub to Houghton, which he had put a canvas bag in the boot of the taxi.
“He asked us to find out who the driver was because it was really important, but stressed that the driver ‘be careful’ when opening the boot.
“The operator asked why and he explained that he had a snake in the bag.
“He then phoned back to see if it had been found and said it was really important to him and that it was a cobra.
“Emma, our operator, said to him ‘Why would you have a cobra in a pub if you mind me asking?’ to which he explained that he was ‘using it for a show he was doing in Silksworth’
“Then went on to say that we really need to check because he said ‘not being funny but if the snake bit someone I would be in deep trouble.’
“Even though we still thought this could be a prank, we made sure we messaged the drivers on their dataheads just in case he was actually being serious – he was deadly serious on the phone.
“As you can imagine, some of the responses from drivers were hilarious.
“Some called and some sent messages back.”
Notes the firm’s base received included one from driver Peter Kirby, who has worked for the firm for more than a decade, who replied with: “Might just stick it through his letter box when passing,” while others joked ‘Are you taking the HISS?.”
Others replied to the firm’s Facebook post about the incident, including Robert Berry, who said: “Twenty years driving a taxis, snakes are the least of my problems, some of the things that have been left in my taxi.”
*Was it you who left your snake in a taxi? Call our newsroom on 0191 501 7225.