THE world's largest venomous snake could be to blame for the rising number of cats that have disappeared from a West Sussex town.

A king cobra has been spotted outside East Grinstead's Queen Victoria Hospital by resident Trevor Gamble. 

He immediately dialled 999 but was told the incident was not an emergency and then advised to call the RSPCA. 

Mr Gamble, 49, said he recognised the creature, which can grow up to 18ft by its tell–tale hood.

He told a national newspaper: "I had my heart in my mouth. I just kept completely still. Then I legged it."

Mr Gamble said be believed the snake could be responsible for the increasing number of cats which have gone missing locally. 

An RSPCA spokesman said: "If anyone sees it, they could monitor it from a safe distance so we can come out and collect it quickly and take it into safe care."

Dave Breden, of the East Sussex Reptile and Amphibian Society, thought Mr Gamble must be mistaken.

He said: "Quite often I've been called out to deal with a 10ft python on the loose, only to find a three–foot corn snake."

Mr Gamble said his friends have been somewhat sceptical of his claims.

He said: "I told a few friends what I saw and they said 'Trev, had you been drinking?' I said 'no, but I needed a couple of pints afterwards'."