Giant spider on the loose

A BRITISH paratrooper's family has been forced out of their home after a camel spider hitched a ride back from Afghanistan with him.

A BRITISH paratrooper's family has been forced out of their home after a camel spider hitched a ride back from Afghanistan with him.

Terrified Lorraine Griffiths thinks the sandy coloured desert creature killed their pet dog Bella and is now nesting in her 18-year-old daughter's bedroom.

The 37-year-old mum is so scared she has moved out of her four-bedroom army home in Colchester, with children Cassie, 18 Ricky, 16, Ellie-Rose, 4, and is living with her mother.

Mrs Griffiths said the spider appeared after her 32-year-old husband Rodney, returned from a four-month tour in Helmand province, Afghanistan with the 16 Air Assault Brigade in June.

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She said: "My son Ricky was in my bedroom looking for his underwear and he went into the draw under my bed and something crawled across his hand.

"He saw a huge spider and screamed to his sister Cassie. They tried to put a pint-glass over it but it was too big, they poked it with a coat hanger and the spider bit it.

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"The dog came in, jumped on the bed and barked at it. The spider hissed and Bella went running out whimpering.

"There was an electrician in the house and he came and looked but just ran out of the house."

Mrs Griffiths, a care worker, got a description of the creature from the workmen and her children and scoured the internet until they picked out a camel spider which lives in desert areas.

She said: "They said it was the size of a palm, sandy coloured with a pink body and red knees.

"I think it must have hitched a lift back with my husband in June so it's been in my house for seven weeks. He's back out there now, I called him and he said one of his friends had been bitten by one.

"I'm petrified of spiders, I cannot live in that house until it's gone."

Just days after her close encounter with the camel spider last week the family's beloved pet dog Bella, 8, was rushed to the vets with a high temperature and swollen stomach. Blood tests revealed a low white cell count and she had to be put down.

Mrs Griffiths said: "She was an active healthy dog. It seems too much of a coincidence that she died at the same time that we saw the spider.

"I wondered if she had been bitten or if it sprayed something into her face when it hissed at her.

"The vet said they wouldn't know without an autopsy but said there could have been an underlying condition which was brought on with the stress of it all."

An army welfare officer has scoured the house but not found any sign of the intruder. The RSPCA came and caught another spider which they have not been able to identify but which Mrs Griffiths says is a different, much smaller creature.

The camel spider is actually an solpugidnet, an insect, and can grow up to six inches. The speedy bug can run at up to 10mph and lives in holes and burrows in desert regions.

They feed on insects, rodents, small birds, scorpions and lizards using it powerful jaws to seize it's victim before using digestive juices to turn them to pulp.

The petrified family is staying with her mother, Jennifer Meason, until the second spider is caught. They have put out traps and plates of raw mince which have been devoured in Cassie's bedroom.

Mrs Griffiths added: "I've searched the house and can't find it, I don't know what to do, I just want to get back in there but I can't with that spider in there."

Iain Newby of the Dangerous and Wild Animals Rescue Facility in Essex said it is common for travellers to bring back unwanted souvenirs.

He said: "We get calls all the time from people who have unpacked their suitcase and found a gecko from Spain or a frog from Namibia.

"It's perfectly possibly this man has folded up the sand spider in his clothes and accidentally brought it home with him

"Camel spiders are also called sun spiders. They have a huge head and massive mandibles and it gives a nasty painful bite.

"It is venomous but would not kill you."

A spokesman for the RSPCA added: "We understand there is a second spider which the caller could not find. We would advise people with creatures like these to try and contain them other wise they are difficult to catch.

"If it is the spider they believe it is then normally they don't attack humans but they could give a painful bite."

Click here to see video footage of a camel spider in AfghanistanClick here to see video footage of a camel spider in Afghanistan

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