Reports of “needle sticks” are increasing in France, Belgium and Great Britain
” We went out [the bar] for some fresh air… then I ended up losing all control of my body, the ability to walk, to hold my head up, I couldn’t speak — I was throwing up everywhere,” Keeling told the Washington Post .
A few days after her April party, she still felt ill and, while getting dressed, noticed that her arm was swollen. Feeling “petrified”, she rushed to the hospital for blood tests and was tested for illnesses such as HIV. Doctors informed her that she had been injected with a “dirty needle”, causing the infection and swelling.
“I was so overwhelmed and shocked that this was happening to me,” she said.
Keeling is one of hundreds of people across Britain and Europe who have come under suspicion “needle injection” – an injection given without consent or knowledge, often in a bar or nightclub, in an attack similar to the more common crime of contamination of alcoholic beverages.
Authorities are grappling with how to prove and combat this hard-to-trace type of attack and are seeking to raise awareness of the small but growing number of reported cases.
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French police have received more than 300 complaints of injections in various regions since the end of March but have made no arrests, according to local media. Victims – many of them women – often report losing their memory or not noticing injuries until later. Neighboring Belgium has seen reports similar incidents at a nightclub, a football game and a Pride festival.
It is not known if medication is administered during the attacks. Doctors have previously told the Post that razor-thin needles that are “thin as hair” are readily available online, as are prescription medications, including painkillers and opium-based medications.
Nils Marzolf, 21, said he avoided nightclubs because of the news, but still found himself jabbed at a metro station in the French city of Lyon last month. He checked his pockets after a stranger approached him and then found a mark on his arm, he told the BFM television channel.
“When doctors say it’s a needle mark…it’s hard to accept,” he added. “It’s hard to…go back to public places.”
The mysterious surge around France has puzzled authorities, who have yet to determine a motive or whether the reported injections contained drugs. It also prompted the Home Office and police to issue security warnings urging vigilance.
In Strasbourg, eastern France, police called on witnesses to provide information after eight people appeared to have been injected at a rap concert. In the northern region of Pas-de-Calais, the authorities have given advice to the alleged victims to submit to toxicological examinations.
The authorities are looking for answers and the motives remain unclear.
Dawn Dines, founder of the association Stamp Out Spiking, which works to tackle drink doping in Britain, told the Post that needle doping remains “tiny” compared to drink contamination, but the effects can be similar. Victims often feel “embarrassed and ashamed,” she said, and may feel guilty about not being able to remember events – contributing to a lack of reporting even if they are not at fault.
“It’s a really tough crime,” she said. Possible motives could include assault, rape, human trafficking or even personal vendettas, she added. Dines called for better education of bar workers, security officials and those involved in the nightlife economy to stem crime.
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Merlijn Poolman, the night mayor of the Dutch city of Groningen, whose council work includes preventing sexual harassment, told the Post that his team has set up an online helpline for residents to report abuse. such incidents. While the Dutch media have reported a handful of possible cases in the country, he said it was difficult for doctors to confirm reports in his city, including whether needles were involved.
One theory was that “there could have been attempts or imitators” with other objects or “perhaps even with a needle without something in it”, to instill fear without actually injecting drugs, a said Poolman. “We can’t conclude anything yet,” he added. “We take this seriously, but we certainly don’t want to cause panic either thinking there are needle sticks all around.”
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Keeling said she had a scar on her right arm. “I don’t like looking at it and being reminded of it. …I’m still dealing with it, mentally.
She stays wary of going to big events – she couldn’t take the metro immediately afterwards, she said, due to suspicions about strangers. She laments the lack of support for victims after the incident, but said publicizing the crime helps:
“I want to talk about it as much as possible because I want something to happen to help the girls.”