Australian police apprehended a massive python that had set off a burglary scare at a charity store in in Queensland.

The 5.7-meter (19ft) reptile, weighing 17kg (37lbs), was captured with the help of a snake handler at the St Vincent de Paul store in the city of Ingham.

"Its head was the size of a small dog," Sgt Don Auld said.

When he arrived to investigate reports of a break-in, Auld said he was puzzled by the chaotic crime scene.

The shop's ceiling was broken, goods were scattered all over the place and a smelly pool of filthy liquid was on the floor.

"We thought a person had fallen through the ceiling because the roof panel was in half," Auld said.

"When they hit the floor, they vomited and then staggered and fallen over. That's what we thought anyway."

They left empty-handed but were called back the next morning by staff who had spotted the animal alongside a wall.

"Then we knew no one had broken in and it was a snake all along," Auld said.

"It must have been hiding when we went there the first time."

Local snake-catcher Virginia McGrath was called.

"There was crockery scattered all over the place, smashed, and a big doo-doo on the floor," she said of the crime scene.

Police believe the python came in through the roof, which was damaged in a cyclone two years ago. The snake then plummeted through the ceiling, knocking over dishes, clothes and other items, before relieving itself on the floor.

The animal has been relocated to nearby wetlands.