Grahamstown thief escapes with life after snatching cooler bag with boomslang

MARCH 10, 2015

A Grahamstown bag snatcher has reportedly escaped with his life after he stole a cooler bag that had boomslang in a car that was parked along the town’s Dundas Street.

The thief apparently noticed a small unattended cooler bag inside the vehicle. Thinking it was easy pickings; he grabbed the bag and ran off into a parking-lot behind a Clicks store where he intended to examine the loot, according to the Scifest Africa Facebook page.

As he unzipped the bag, he got the fright of his life when he saw that the bag he had stolen contained an angry a metre-long boomslang.

According to eyewitnesses, the thief screamed and threw the bag into the air as he ran while the venomous snake made off between the cars.

Terrified bystanders then asked one of the shop owners on the street to call Grahamstown snake handler, Basil Mills, who was able to catch the snake.


Unfortunately, he noticed that the snake had been badly injured but said it could have been worse if someone had driven over it.

It was not immediately established why the snake was in the cooler bag in the first place, but Mills said it might have been put there by someone who had repeatedly had things stolen from inside his car.

He commented that while this method of crime prevention might be effective, it was extremely dangerous as the boomslang has one of the most potent venoms of all snakes in the country.

If the thief had been bitten, he would have had to wait for the anti-venom to come from Pretoria.

On a positive note, Mills said he was pleased that the bystanders in the car park did not try to kill the snake. He felt that one of his many talks about reptiles and how to deal with them had helped them not to panic and to rather summon a competent snake handler. He stressed that people should contact the fire department or himself rather than try to kill snakes that they might encounter. 

Mills will give a fascinating guided tour of rocky outcrops of Gunfire Hill outside Grahamstown during Scifest Africa from 18 to 24 March. On this short and gentle hike, you will learn more about Grahamstown’s unique natural environment, but also hear tales of some of the authors, playwrights and actors that have passed through the City of Saints.

Image: Scifest Africa via Facebook.