A shocked landlord discovered a room filled with poisonous snakes and a £30,000 cannabis farm when he went to fix a flooding problem.

The man called police after he uncovered the drugs and reptile haul in an industrial unit in Heron House in Cranes Farm Road, Basildon.

Officers and representatives from the RSPCA found 24 snakes, including two deadly horned vipers as well as a bullfrog, when they visited the unit on Tuesday.

Six snakes, including two albinos, had died.

The reptiles were kept on a makeshift third floor in vivariums, plastic boxes and trays.

Sergeant Ben Woollard, from the Basildon Proactive Team based at Pitsea, spent two days at the scene with his team to dismantle the operation and take away the snakes and drugs.

He said: “The police were called on Tuesday to an industrial unit where there was flooding going on. We were called by the landlord who attended the scene and forced entry to one of his properties.

“He then found the large cannabis cultivation and the snakes. It was very strange. He was completely shocked and devastated.

“The snakes were all in different trays but they weren’t very well stored.

“Lots of trays were open and some of the snakes were too big for their little trays and some were just in little plastic boxes which slid into a shelf.

“At one point when we were dealing with it, one of their tongues was sliding out of the top of the box. It was hissing.

“It was shocking to see the horned vipers. If they bit you would be dead within the hour.”

Sgt Woollard said his team was still searching for the man who rents the unit.

The RSPCA will now conduct its own investigation into the neglect and storage of the snakes, which are currently in their care.

The 56 cannabis plants, which were at medium growth and worth about £30,000, were destroyed.

Anyone with information, can call Essex Police on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.