‘Mass poisoning’ at high-security prison as staff taken ill after inmates 'spiked' canteen curry with ‘zombie drug’

16 May 2024, 15:31 | Updated: 16 May 2024, 15:38

Staff at a high-security prison have fallen ill after a 'mass poisoning'.
Staff at a high-security prison have fallen ill after a 'mass poisoning'. Picture: Alamy

By Jenny Medlicott

More than 20 prison officers have been taken ill after a curry served to the staff at a high-security jail was allegedly spiked by prisoners with a ‘zombie drug’.

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Emergency services were called to the HMP Swaleside in Sheppey, Kent, on Thursday 9 May following what the Criminal Justice Workers Union has described as a “mass poisoning of staff”.

It is suspected that prisoners added the synthetic ‘zombie drug’ Spice, also known as NPS, to a curry that was dished out to staff in the high-security jail.

Andy Hamlin, an official for the CJWU, said: “Prisoners preparing food in the staff canteen spiked a ‘staff special curry’ with what is believed to be a New Psychoactive Substance (NPS).

“Twenty-five staff were affected and were witnessed under the influence of NPS.”

Mr Hamlin said those affected experience symptoms such as breathing difficulties and increased heart rates.

He continued: “South East Coast Ambulance Service (SECAmb) sent nine ambulances to attend the incident with a makeshift incident unit set up within the establishment.”

A SECAmb spokesman confirmed three people were taken to Medway Maritime for further checks following the incident.

The CJWU said it believed five officers needed hospital treatment.

The incident occurred at HMP Swaleside.
The incident occurred at HMP Swaleside. Picture: Alamy

It also said that prisoners at the jail are employed to prepare and serve food in the staff canteen, a role which they had been required to complete an employment risk assessment for.

HM Prison and Probation Service have since faced calls to launch a ‘full investigation’ into the matter.

HMP Swaleside is a high-security that holds men convicted of serious offences and who pose a high risk to the public. It has about 1,100 prisoners.

More than 40% of its inmates are serving sentences of more than 10 years. It also has one uni specifically allocated for men convicted of sexual offences.

Following its last inspection, His Majesty's Inspectorate of Prisons found that drugs were too easy to obtain in HMP Swaleside and that it had high levels of violence.

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The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) said: “A number of staff were taken ill following an incident at HMP Swaleside last week and those who attended the hospital were soon discharged.

“There is an ongoing investigation and it would be inappropriate to comment further at this stage.”

The MoJ confirmed that nobody had been taken to the hospital in critical condition.

It comes after the prison made headlines in December 2016 when a prison riot broke out, which saw inmates smashing up a wing and starting fires within the institution.

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