A mysterious smell in a family saloon car led mechanics to a grisly find - a dead snake behind the instrument panel.

Staff at Murketts Garage in Histon Road, Cambridge, said they spent about three hours exploring a Vauxhall Astra before locating a 3ft python.

"It's a bit of a mystery how it got there," said a garage spokesman. "The man who brought the car said he didn't have a pet snake.

"We couldn't understand how it got there and hoped it wasn't a joke."

The garage had dealt with mysteries like this before but nothing quite so exotic.

"We've found mice and rodents in cars before but this was our first snake," the spokesman said.

"Apparently it would have been pretty harmless. People have them as pets."

The garage believe it was a mature royal or ball python which gets its name because it rolls up into a ball if threatened.

It is usually timid and snake experts say it is an ideal pet for the beginner but how it got into the car remains a mystery.