Neighbours have paid tribute to Sutton snake man Gerard 'Jed' Edge, who died in a fire last night.

Mr Edge was well-known as an animal enthusiast who supplied snakes and reptiles for the Steven Spielberg film Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark.

But the 82-year-old died in a fire in his flat in Benhill Wood Road, Sutton, at around 10pm yesterday.

Neighbours tried to save Mr Edge but the flames were too intense and by the time firefighters were able to get the blaze under control at around 11pm, he had died.

Debbie Tarrant was one of those who tried to save Mr Edge. She said: "He was just a wonderful old man.

"He had a fabulous personality, he was a bit cantankerous with a lovely smile.

"He lived here for more than 40 years, everyone knows who he is and everyone loves him.

"He's famous too - he's the reptile man.

"Last night there was a fire and an explosion, I don't know how it happened. My partner and I and some others tried to get him out but the fire was too out of control. It's just so sad."

Kevin Smith, who was also among those who tried to save Mr Edge, said: "He was a lovely bloke. For his days to end like this is just so sad.

"We did what we could, but we couldn't get in.

"He was a lovely chap and for this to happen is just terrible."

Mr Edge's dog, Nelly, did escape the fire and is being looked after by a friend.

Neighbour Sandra Atkins called Mr Edge "a kind-hearted, wonderful man".

Another neighbour, who asked not to be named, said: "He was a terrific old fella. He was always up for a chat, and always had stories to tell."

Police are investigating the fire but say they are treating it as non-suspicious.

Mr Edge got involved with Hollywood when film director Spielberg held a casting in London.

He took a cobra with him and, although Spielberg asked him to keep the snake well away from him, he was recruited to supply snakes and lizards for the film.

Mr Edge's son, Steve, even got to play a part in the movie.

Leading lady Karen Allen was frightened of the animals so Mr Edge's son shaved his legs and donned a dress to double for her.

Mr Edge, who kept a range of animals in his flat over the years including a puma and a chimp, worked at Smithfield meat market for over 40 years while also working as an animal handler for films including Star Wars.

He has three sons and 10 grandchildren.

He was immortalised in paint when his grandson, Ben, did a portrait of him that was selected to go on show at the National Portrait Gallery in London.

Did you know Mr Edge? If you would like to pay tribute to him, contact reporter Mike Pyle on 020 8722 6359, email: or use the comment facility below.