Women being spiked by injection in nightclubs: Priti Patel demands urgent answers from police

Zara Owen said she found a pinprick on her leg the next day (pictured above). She said she had no hangover, but was suffering a sharp agonising pain in her leg

Zara Owen said she found a pinprick on her leg the next day (pictured above). She said she had no hangover, but was suffering a sharp agonising pain in her leg

Zara Owen said she found a pinprick on her leg the next day (pictured above). She said she had no hangover, but was suffering a sharp agonising pain in her leg

Priti Patel has today ordered an urgent update from police on the UK’s spiking ‘epidemic’, amid reports that women have been drugged by men using needles to inject ‘date-rape’ drugs.

The Home Secretary has ordered police to update her on the situation, following reports of incidents across the UK.

One 19-year-old student in Nottingham said she had blacked out going clubbing, before waking up to find a pin-prick hole in the back of her leg. Police are involved and have arrested a man on suspicion of administering a poison or noxious substance.

Another student in Nottingham, also 19, said how she woke up in hospital with a throbbing pain in her hand after going clubbing. She too believes she was targeted with a needle to the back of her hand.

There have also been as-of-yet unverified reports of incidents in Liverpool and at least two cities in Scotland, where they have been posted by a social media group – sparking a wave of panic on social media.

Police Scotland say they are investigating Edinburgh, Dundee, Glasgow and Aberdeen, though they do not believe the reports to be linked. Merseyside Police say their investigation did not uncover ‘any evidence of criminality’. 

West Midlands Police today said they had received one report of report where the circumstances ‘appear to match the description of someone being spiked by injection’. 

However, the forces says it is ‘unclear exactly what has happened’ and they are continuing to investigation.

Drugs experts, meanwhile, have called for calm on as-of-yet unverified social media reports of injection spiking, saying the use of needles would be difficult for someone without medical training.

They also say the kind of drugs needed for a quick and discreet injection are ‘highly detectable’ within a victim’s system for several days – meaning police would be able to verify if the person had been spiked.

Other experts warned against conflating reports of injection spiking with a verified rise in drink spiking cases across the UK.

It comes as women have say they are now taking measures to protect themselves amid reports of needle spiking in clubs.

Some women say they are now wearing denim jackets in nightclubs and bars because the material is ‘harder to pierce’ with a needle. Others are choosing to wear thick clothing in fear of being spiked. 

Journalist Lucy Ward last night shared a message from her daughter revealing the extent of spiking in UK clubs – along with the recent reports of spiking through injection.

Taking to Twitter, she said: ‘The epidemic of drinks spiking targeting young women – students and not – in nightclubs has a horrific new variant: injecting women in the back or leg with the same drugs.

‘Young women are going to clubs wearing denim jackets and other thick clothing to try to protect themselves from attackers armed with syringes and an apparent desire to harm young women purely for having fun and freedom. 

One spiking victim Zara Owen, 19, (pictured) said she woke up 'with a limp' before finding a 'pinprick' on her leg the morning after attending Nottingham's Pryzm nightclub

One spiking victim Zara Owen, 19, (pictured) said she woke up 'with a limp' before finding a 'pinprick' on her leg the morning after attending Nottingham's Pryzm nightclub

One spiking victim Zara Owen, 19, (pictured) said she woke up ‘with a limp’ before finding a ‘pinprick’ on her leg the morning after attending Nottingham’s Pryzm nightclub

Sarah Buckle, 19, who is also studying in Nottingham, said she discovered she had likely been spiked via a needle to the back of her hand while out in a nightclub

Sarah Buckle, 19, who is also studying in Nottingham, said she discovered she had likely been spiked via a needle to the back of her hand while out in a nightclub

Sarah Buckle, 19, who is also studying in Nottingham, said she discovered she had likely been spiked via a needle to the back of her hand while out in a nightclub

Ms Buckle woke up in hospital with what appears to be a needle mark surrounded by a sore on her hand having been spiked in a nightclub in Nottingham

Ms Buckle woke up in hospital with what appears to be a needle mark surrounded by a sore on her hand having been spiked in a nightclub in Nottingham

Ms Buckle woke up in hospital with what appears to be a needle mark surrounded by a sore on her hand having been spiked in a nightclub in Nottingham

‘I asked my daughter – first year at a UK university – if she had heard of it and she sent me this.’

As part of the Twitter thread, Ms Ward, a former Guardian journalist, goes on to share the message from her daughter, which details the scale of the problem.

In the message, her daughter reveals how she has knows at least ‘half a dozen girls’ who have been spiked and ‘more who suspect having been’.

She says in the message: ‘The injections thing is the most recent thing they are doing now and people are more scared than ever.

‘But the scariest thing to me is how unsurprised we all are.  We go out in groups, we refuse drinks, we keep our phones on and in our hands.

‘Girls are wearing denim jackets because the material is harder to pierce. We simply accept the latest horror and come up with new ways to protect ourselves, and of course remain weak and vulnerable anyway.’  

What do the experts say on reports of injection spiking? 

Is it possible?

Yes – and there are credible reports where people have woken up with needle marks having been spiked.

But the likelihood of it being a widespread phenomena is ‘deeply improbable’, according to one medical consultant. 

David Caldicott, an emergency medicine consultant and founder of drug testing project WEDINOS, told VICE News: ‘The technical and medical knowledge required to perform this would make this deeply improbable. 

‘It’s really hard to stick a needle in someone without them noticing, especially if you have to keep the needle in there for long enough, maybe 20 seconds, to inject enough drugs to cause this.’

Could someone not do inject really fast?

Yes – but they’d need a very powerful drug to do so discreetly

GHB is one of the most well-known ‘date rape’ drug and is also self-administered in small doses by people recreationally.

But Guy Jones, senior scientist at drugs charity the Loop, told VICE it would be a ‘poor candidate’ for injection because of the large amounts of fluid needed. 

‘Therefore (it would require) a thick, painful needle. This means that the substance involved would be something that would be highly detectable for several days in a toxicology screening,’ he said.

Adam Winstock, director of the Global Drug Survey, added: ‘There are very few easily accessible drugs / medicines that could be given intramuscular in a small enough volume that people would not notice and the effects would take some time to come on. 

‘What you see in the movies is not reality. People need to keep their drinks close to them, avoid taking them from strangers and keep an eye out for their mates.’

Can drugs be administered to any part of the body?

Yes – but some parts are more effective than others

Mr Jones told VICE: ‘Where drugs can be injected non-intravenously, there are specific injection sites that do not work well.

‘The back is one of these unsuitable sites due to the low fat-muscle content, and high concentration of pain receptors.’

What about drink spiking?

While injection spiking is still possible, drink spiking is a lot more common.

Incidents of drink spiking in the UK increased by 108 per cent between 2015 and 2018, with 179 incidents taking place in 2017 alone. 

This is only the officially recorded numbers – and is likely to be much higher as it is common for people not to report it to police.

Charity Drinkaware advise: ‘Don’t accept a drink from someone you don’t know and if they’re available, use drink stoppers, which can be purchased online, for the top of your bottle.’

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Ms Ward said students across the country were now holding boycotts of nightclubs in order to persuade nightclubs to take action to better protect women.

The boycotts are due to take place later this month in cities such as Southampton, Brighton, Bristol, Nottingham, Durham and Belfast.

Ms Ward added: ‘I cannot describe the rage I feel at this (situation). These are simply random acts of extreme harm. 

‘I don’t blame universities – my daughter’s has worked hard to help when students have sought help. But there is a culture here that we must acknowledge and address.’

Priti Patel is now said to have demanded an urgent update form police on the situation. 

A Home Office source told Politico: ‘This is absolutely awful. We have asked for an update from the police on this and would encourage anyone to report this behaviour to the police.’ 

Meanwhile, the Night Time Industries Association, the trade body for UK nightclubs, has called for an urgent inquiry into the wide issue of spiking. 

Michael Kill, CEO of the Night Time Industries Association, said: ‘NTIA are very concerned to learn about the reported increase in the number of spiking incidents taking place across the country. 

‘We support all those coming forward to speak about their experiences. It goes without saying that everyone should be able to enjoy a night out without fearing for their own safety, and we are saddened to hear that some don’t feel this way.

‘We have been encouraged to see the progressive approach taken by Devon and Cornwall Police through their drink spiking testing pilot. 

‘The Home Office should launch a formal inquiry to examine the results of that pilot, and the lessons that can be applied to the industry and policing nationally.’

However experts have warned people not to panic, with one medical expert saying the likelihood that injection spiking is a widespread phenomena is ‘deeply improbable’.

David Caldicott, an emergency medicine consultant and founder of drug testing project WEDINOS, told VICE News: ‘The technical and medical knowledge required to perform this would make this deeply improbable. 

‘It’s really hard to stick a needle in someone without them noticing, especially if you have to keep the needle in there for long enough, maybe 20 seconds, to inject enough drugs to cause this.’

Meanwhile, Guy Jones, senior scientist at drugs charity the Loop, told VICE most ‘date rape’ drugs would need to be administered in large quantities with thick needles.

He said GHB, one of the more well known ‘date rape’ drugs, which is also used recreationally by some users, was a ‘poor candidate’ for injection because of the large amounts of fluid needed.

‘Therefore (it would require) a thick, painful needle. This means that the substance involved would be something that would be highly detectable for several days in a toxicology screening,’ he said. 

Adam Winstock, director of the Global Drug Survey, added: ‘There are very few easily accessible drugs / medicines that could be given intramuscular in a small enough volume that people would not notice and the effects would take some time to come on. 

‘What you see in the movies is not reality. People need to keep their drinks close to them, avoid taking them from strangers and keep an eye out for their mates.’

It comes as student Zara Owen claimed she was spiked by injection inside a Nottingham nightclub.

Ms Owen, a 19-year-old university student, said she was spiked while out at Nottingham’s Pryzm nightclub on October 11 before waking up the next morning with a limp and a ‘pinprick’ on her leg.

She recalled entering the venue with friends and made her way to the bar, but added that was the last thing she could remember before waking up in her bed the next day.

Ms Owen tweeted: ‘I woke up fine, no hangover or anything but a sharp agonising pain in my leg.

‘I told my mum and she thought it might’ve been a pulled muscle but then I realised I didn’t remember anything.

‘I had to go to campus and I realised I had a massive limp. If my memory was there I would’ve neglected this but this is a thing that never, ever happens to me and it really confused me. 

The entrance to Nottingham's Pryzm nightclub, where Ms Owen claims to have been spiked by a needle amid similar reports elsewhere in the UK

The entrance to Nottingham's Pryzm nightclub, where Ms Owen claims to have been spiked by a needle amid similar reports elsewhere in the UK

The entrance to Nottingham’s Pryzm nightclub, where Ms Owen claims to have been spiked by a needle amid similar reports elsewhere in the UK

‘I decided to go to hospital to get checked out but after eight hours of only having a triage and background info taken from me, I decided to go home.

‘The next morning I felt my leg and examined it to a further extent as I didn’t get any help medically. I touched the part where I was in the most pain and I found a pinprick. I had been spiked.

‘I was in jeans. A needle went through thick denim straight into my leg.’

A 20-year-old man has been arrested by Nottinghamshire Police on suspicion of drug offences and causing or administering a poison or noxious substance following three reports of women being spiked by injection at two nightclubs in the city within the last fortnight. 

Where are the nightclub boycotts taking place? 

October 25

Exeter

October 26

Durham

October 27

Southampton

Belfast

Bournemouth

Nottingham

Brighton

Bristol

October 28

Swansea

Edinburgh

Stirling

Aberdeen

Newcastle

November 3

Leeds 

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Women in Liverpool, Edinburgh and Dundee of victims have reported being pierced with a needle in their leg, hands and back before waking up with no recollection of the night before – symptoms similar to those who have had their drinks spiked with

Detectives say they are currently reviewing CCTV footage as well as toxicological reports to identify what substance was contained within the needles.

A police spokesperson added, though, that the force does not believe the incidents are targeted and they are ‘distinctly different’ from anything seen previously due to victims disclosing ‘a physical scratch-type sensation before feeling very unwell’. 

A statement said: ‘This is subtly different from feelings of intoxication through alcohol according to some victims.’ 

Another 19-year-old, who is also studying in Nottingham, said she discovered she had likely been spiked via a needle to the back of her hand while out in a nightclub.

Sarah Buckle told ITV she arrived at the nightclub around 11pm, but later had to be taken home by friends who though she had drunk too much.

Speaking to ITV, she said: ‘The taxi home I started being sick all over myself and my friends could sense something was wrong.’

Her friends called an ambulance and she was taken to hospital where she woke up the next day with no recollection of the night before. 

‘My hand was throbbing really bad. I also knew I wasn’t intoxicated on a stupid level or overly drunk, she sad.

‘I knew I had clearly been spiked but it would have never occurred to me it was via injection if my hand wasn’t throbbing. I thought how? I never take a drink away from the bar.

‘You think spiking is to do with your drink, you don’t think something would go into your body.’

Stealth, another Nottingham nightclub, said it had also received reports of two women feeling unwell within the last fortnight as a result of being spiked. 

One 19-year-old woman said she was targeted with a mystery liquid as she left the venue in on October 12.

Ellie Simpson said her sister felt a ‘pinch on the back of her arm’ before blacking out and being taken to hospital, where blood samples were taken.

Ms Simpson, 21, added that she was ‘in shock’ and her sister had not been out clubbing since the incident took place.

She told the BBC: ‘Normally she’s the type of person that would stick up for herself, so I think if it could happen to her it could happen to somebody who is more vulnerable,  

‘I don’t think it’s quite yet sunk in what’s happened to her. It’s really frightening because I don’t know how you’re meant to prevent it.

‘Obviously you can put your hand over your drink but how do you stop somebody stabbing you with a needle?’  

The entrance to Stealth, another Nottingham nightclub, which says it also received reports of two women feeling unwell as a result of being spiked with needles

The entrance to Stealth, another Nottingham nightclub, which says it also received reports of two women feeling unwell as a result of being spiked with needles

The entrance to Stealth, another Nottingham nightclub, which says it also received reports of two women feeling unwell as a result of being spiked with needles 

Nottinghamshire Police has said a local male has been arrested, but did not state which incident this is in connection with

Nottinghamshire Police has said a local male has been arrested, but did not state which incident this is in connection with

Nottinghamshire Police has said a local male has been arrested, but did not state which incident this is in connection with

What have police forces said about injection spiking? 

Nottinghamshire Police

A 20-year-old man has been arrested by Nottinghamshire Police on suspicion of drug offences and causing or administering a poison or noxious substance following three reports of women being spiked by injection at two nightclubs in the city within the last fortnight.  

A spokesperson said: ‘We are currently investigating reports of individuals suspecting that their drinks have been spiked.

‘Linked to this a small number of victims have said that they may have felt a scratching sensation as if someone may have spiked them physically. Consequently, we are actively investigating all these reports. 

‘We have a dedicated group of officers currently carrying out CCTV enquires at various venues where we have received such reports.

‘Our enquiries into these incidents are ongoing but we understand people may be concerned about incidents like this and want to reassure the public we are working incredibly hard to investigate.’  

Police Scotland

A Police Scotland spokesperson said: ‘We are aware of posts circulating on social media about spiking incidents involving injections in Scotland.

‘Officers are carrying out enquiries, and a small number of reports from the Edinburgh, Dundee, Glasgow and Aberdeen areas are being investigated.

‘These do not appear to be linked.

‘We take all reports seriously and we would encourage anyone who believes they have been a victim of spiking in any form to contact Police via 101.’

West Midlands Police

A West Midlands Police spokesperson said: ‘We’re aware of posts circulating on social media about drink spiking, particularly those involving injections.

‘At present we’ve had one report where the circumstances appear to match the description of someone being spiked by injection. However, it’s unclear exactly what’s happened and we’re in the process of trying to speak to the woman to gather more information.

‘A separate drink spiking incident involving a Birmingham-based university student is under investigation, and we’ve had a small number of reports from Birmingham city centre over the last few months.’   

Merseyside Police

Media reports emerged of a woman wearing a backless dress being injected in the back in Liverpool.

However, Merseyside Police said it could not find any evidence ‘that any criminality occurred’.

A spokesperson told MailOnline: ‘We have been made aware of a social media post reporting that a woman was injected in the back in a Liverpool city centre nightclub and a report was received by Merseyside Police.

‘We have worked closely with the club and examined CCTV footage. We have fully investigated the matter and we can’t find evidence that any criminality has occurred.

‘No formal statement has been made by the woman and no other persons have come forward.’ 

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A statement from Stealth said: ‘We, much like our customers, are concerned by the national news reports about spiking in bars and nightclubs around the UK, and believe it is absolutely unacceptable for women to have tp live in fear of being spiked on nights out.

‘Here at Stealth, in recent weeks two of our customers have reported feeling unwell and suspected they may have been spiked. Both were seen by our on site medic who made sure they were appropriately looked after, were able to safely leave the venue, and we are currently liaising with police to aid in their ongoing investigations.

‘Customer safety is our top priority and our aim is to create a safe environment for people to come together and enjoy a night out.’ 

A police spokesperson, speaking about the incident in Lower Parliament Street, involving Ms Owen, said: ‘We are currently investigating reports of individuals suspecting that their drinks have been spiked.

‘Linked to this a small number of victims have said that they may have felt a scratching sensation as if someone may have spiked them physically. Consequently, we are actively investigating all these reports. 

‘We have a dedicated group of officers currently carrying out CCTV enquires at various venues where we have received such reports.

‘Our enquiries into these incidents are ongoing but we understand people may be concerned about incidents like this and want to reassure the public we are working incredibly hard to investigate.’  

The statement continued: ‘What we need is that if any person experiences such an incident whilst on a night out that they or their friends make contact with us immediately in order that we can investigate at the earliest opportunity and secure evidence quickly.’   

It follows reports from Edinburgh and Dundee, too. Police Scotland said it is also investigating reports of a female being spiked by injection and enquiries were at an early stage. 

A Police Scotland spokesperson said: ‘We are aware of posts circulating on social media about spiking incidents involving injections in Scotland.

‘Officers are carrying out enquiries, and a small number of reports from the Edinburgh, Dundee, Glasgow and Aberdeen areas are being investigated.

‘These do not appear to be linked. We take all reports seriously and we would encourage anyone who believes they have been a victim of spiking in any form to contact Police via 101.’

Victims have reported waking up with a pinprick surrounded by a giant bruise, as well as no memory of the night before.

Those targeted with needles also carry the risk of shared or unclean needles being used, posing threats of HIV, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C. 

One woman who claimed to have been spiked said she now has to go for monthly blood tests following a night out with friends last week.

She tweeted: ‘So after seeing recent posts and thinking back to the weekend when I was out I phoned my doctor who confirmed it’s likely that I was spiked by injection.

‘I now need to go for monthly blood tests. Please please just be so vigilant when out. I can’t confirm where it happened sadly.’

Another woman also took to social media to report being targeted with a needle. 

She added: ‘Please be careful on nights out. Last Saturday I was spiked in a club in through an injection in my hand.

‘Luckily I was with people I trust who looked after me, but it was terrifying. I was sober when this happened and it shows protecting your drinks isn’t enough.

‘I don’t remember the evening at all but was very unwell the next few days. Please be careful on nights out and if you do not feel right tell somebody.. Stay safe. X’ 

A petition calling for nightclubs to be legally required to search guests on arrival for weapons and ‘date rape’ drugs has now reached more than 75,000 signatures following the reports.

@Edi_Anonymous, an Instagram page that publishes anonymous submissions, said it had received multiple reports of women being spiked at nightclub venues

@Edi_Anonymous, an Instagram page that publishes anonymous submissions, said it had received multiple reports of women being spiked at nightclub venues

@Edi_Anonymous, an Instagram page that publishes anonymous submissions, said it had received multiple reports of women being spiked at nightclub venues

It says: ‘There are too many cases of weapons and ‘date rape’ drugs being used in clubs. 

‘It begs the question, why aren’t nightclubs required to do more to prevent harmful items making it into their clubs?’

Nottingham East MP Nadia Whittome added that she is in contact with police following Ms Owen’s report of being spiked with a needle.

She tweeted: ‘I’m aware of extremely concerning reports of suspected spiking in Nottingham nightclubs, including by injection, and am in discussion with @nottswomenscent.

‘If you have any information, please get in touch with @nottspolice, @nottswomenscent or me.’

Social media reports also emerged of a woman wearing a backless dress being injected in the back in Liverpool.

However, Merseyside Police said it could not find any evidence ‘that any criminality occurred’.

A spokesperson told MailOnline: ‘We have been made aware of a social media post reporting that a woman was injected in the back in a Liverpool city centre nightclub and a report was received by Merseyside Police.

‘We have worked closely with the club and examined CCTV footage. We have fully investigated the matter and we can’t find evidence that any criminality has occurred.

‘No formal statement has been made by the woman and no other persons have come forward.’ 

Larissa Kennedy, president of the National Union of Students (NUS), said: ‘It’s absolutely disgusting that in the past few days a number of students have reported instances of women being spiked on nights out.

‘My rage, love and solidarity goes out to all those who have been impacted by these violent acts, and all other women and marginalised folks who experience sexual violence on our campuses and in our communities.’  

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