Police probe suspected needle spiking attacks - with dozens reported in one area

21 October 2021, 10:59 | Updated: 21 October 2021, 15:14

Devon & Cornwall Police, and Nottinghamshire Constabulary are investigating reports of spiking via injection.
Devon & Cornwall Police, and Nottinghamshire Constabulary are investigating reports of spiking via injection. Picture: Alamy

By Megan Hinton

Detectives have launched investigations across the country following reports of women being spiked with needles in nightclubs - with dozens of attacks reported in one area.

Nottinghamshire Police said it is investigating 12 separate incidents of young women and men being spiked with "something sharp" in less than a month.

The force said a number of the victims reported being spiked by some sort of injection and have reported effects "consistent with a substance being administered".

More officers will be deployed into Nottingham city centre following the reports, with a police dog operation planned for Saturday night.

Meanwhile, Devon and Cornwall Police confirmed they are investigating an incident where a woman was assaulted in the Fever & Boutique club in Exeter on Saturday, October 16.

It comes after similar attacks have been reported across the UK, including in Yorkshire, Scotland, Northern Ireland and most recently Devon.

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Superintendent Antony Hart, local commander for Exeter, East and Mid Devon, said it is the only incident of its type that has been reported to police in Devon and Cornwall.

"There has been a lot of media and social media coverage in relation to drink-spiking, plus the understandable fear following a woman being attacked with a needle in a bar in Nottingham," he said.

"We are investigating an incident in Exeter and progressing inquiries to identify and arrest those responsible.

"Whilst assaults using needles are very rare, we ask that people are vigilant when in crowded spaces and notify premises staff or police of any suspicious behaviour.

"This incident has also raised the wider issue of drink-spiking and what can be done to combat this.

"Women must be able to feel safe across all aspects of their lives and that includes when out socialising."

In a bid to make clubs a safer environment, the force said drink testing kits will be made available in bars across Devon and Cornwall and urine testing kits will also be available in all police stations to allow officers to obtain evidence.

Superintendent Hart continued: "Those who think it's acceptable to assault women, whether that be verbally, subjecting them to physical attacks or by drink-spiking, must be challenged and will be brought to justice where a criminal offence has been committed.

"We are asking for the public to help us to tackle this issue head-on. That means if you have witnessed something suspicious in a bar, then you must report this to door and bar staff immediately.

"We also need people who believe they have been spiked or assaulted to come forward to door staff and the police as soon as possible.

"Not only does this give us the best chance in catching those responsible, but it will also allow us to get medical treatment for the victim at the earliest opportunity."

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Student campaigner Izzy Broadhurst from Girls Night In, Leeds told LBC's Nick Ferrari: "Well it’s just been happening for so long, we’ve heard so many stories. It’s really a nationwide problem and we see it so much in Leeds and we just felt like it was time that something needed to be done we’d seen the movement going fourth in Edinburgh and Nottingham.

When asked "How do these boys get away with it?" Miss Broadhurst replied: "Well it’s really hard obviously when you are in a club and its really dark there’s a lot of people around. Sometimes something can brush past you and suddenly they're gone and as soon as you’ve realised, they are lost in the crowd and you wont find them again."

Following several reports of injection spiking across the country, Home Secretary Priti Patel has asked police forces to assess the scale of the problem.

Groups from more than 30 universities around the UK have joined an online campaign calling for the boycott of nightclubs, with campaigners seeking "tangible" changes to make them safer, such as covers/stoppers for drinks, better training for staff and more rigorous searches of clubbers.

A student who was spiked with an injection on a night out shared details of the harrowing ordeal with LBC on Tuesday.

Zara Owen, a 19-year-old first year student at the University of Nottingham described entering Pryzm nightclub on October 11, using the photo booth and then heading to the bar and ordering drinks.

"Everything was fine," she said. But Zara told LBC that after getting to the bar she didn't remember anything for the rest of the night until she arrived home.

"I don’t remember anything. It’s not a blur of memory, it was almost like I wasn’t there. "It was a complete blackout and that never happens to me."

A petition has now been launched to make it a legal requirement for nightclubs to thoroughly search guests on entry and has already gained more than 120,000 signatures.