YOU could have forgiven him for going hisssterical. Mark Saunders, 39, of Seabourne Road, Southbourne, popped out to buy cigarettes and ended up with a snake wrapped around his ankle.

A group of passing revellers wearing sombreros noticed the unwelcome hanger-on and one helped him to pull it off, said Mark.

The man pinned the snake to the pavement while Mark got his nephew to help him capture it in a pillowcase in the drama near the One Stop shop at around 10.30pm on Tuesday.

Animal lover Mark has a hissstory of unfortunate encounters with snakes.

He was bitten twice last year by a Honduras milk snake which invaded his neighbour’s flat and years earlier was hospitalised after being bitten by an adder.

But it is a myssstery where the snake came from as nearby reptile store, Reptiles Plus, has denied that the snake is theirs.

The creature is believed to be a harmless corn snake.

Mark said: “As I walked along I realised there was a tightening on my left ankle. I didn’t think anything of it.

“Then I saw about five guys walking down the road wearing sombreros and one said: ‘That guy’s got a snake around his ankle.’ Panic-stricken, Mark begged the group to get it off him.

He added: “The guy just unravelled it and I said, ‘Thank you very much.’ “I was very panicky because of the situation I had last year.

“They thought it was brilliant. They were taking pictures on their mobiles.”

Afterwards Mark put the snake into a secure tub with air holes and shut it in the bathroom overnight.

“I had to weigh it down with a big rock in case it tried to get out. I had a pretty sleepless night,” he joked.

Mark now plans to pass the creature into the care of the RSPCA.

A spokesperson for Reptiles Plus said: “We did a stock check this morning and there aren’t any snakes missing.”