Women are scared to go out clubbing as police investigate reports of spiking through injection, campaigners have warned.
Nightclub boycotts are planned across UK cities next week as students call for tighter security in nightclubs amid reports of women being attacked with needles.
Police in Nottinghamshire and West Yorkshire have both received reports of spiking with injections. Officers in Scotland are also reportedly investigating alleged incidents.
Zara Owen, 19, told The Independent she woke up after a night out in Nottingham last week with a “sharp, agonising pain” in her leg, a limp and no memory after a certain point.
“I said to my mum that my leg was sore. She initially thought I had pulled a muscle or something,” she says. “And my friends were confused as well because they know I didn’t drink much.”
The first-year student at the University of Nottingham says: “I thought maybe I’d been spiked, because it seems horrible to jump to the conclusion but it seemed quite likely.”
The day after, she found a “pinprick” on her leg and pressed it, triggering a shooting pain.
“The main thing that is really terrifying me as well as being spiked is that it was by an injection,” she says. “Naturally, I could be a carrier of HIV or hepatitis if this needle in use was a dirty one.”
Zara Owen says she believes she was spiked during a night out in Nottingham earlier this month
She says she gave up waiting in A&E after it took eight hours and is still waiting for her nearest available GP appointment. She says her doctor advised her to go to a local sexual health clinic.
Ms Owen says she has been in contact with police.
Another student from the University of Nottingham has spoken about fears she was spiked through an injection, telling ITV she woke up after a night out during Freshers’ Week with memory loss and a pain in her hand, where a pinprick mark was found.
“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,” Sarah Buckle told ITV. “I thought how? I never take a drink away from the bar.”
Students are organising boycotts of nightclubs next week across the UK – including in Nottingham, Edinburgh, Bristol and Exeter – in a call for clubs to do more to tackle spiking at venues, including tighter checks on entry.
“We deserve to have FUN on our nights out,” Edinburgh’s Girls Night In campaign posted on Instagram. “It’s not fair that our club experiences are being tainted by the fear, worry and anxiety that we are going to be drugged.”
Organisers of the Girls Night In boycott in Nottingham told The Independent they first thought stories of women being spiked by injection were “hearsay” and “like a horror story”.
“Then we heard it happened to people we know and people we can actually put a name and a face to,” says Laura*, a third-year student who is behind the campaign.
“I didn’t even think it was a thing,” Frankie*, another third-year organising the boycott, told The Independent, adding that she always thought spiking involved putting something in drinks.
“It sort of changed the game a bit, the fact you can be conscious about keeping your drink close. But then you can’t really stop someone injecting you,” she said.
“So I think it has created a different level of fear for girls in Nottingham and across the UK.”
Laura told The Independent she thinks “a lot of people are scared” to go out in Nottingham in the current climate.
Frankie added: “We’re all frustrated that after a year and a half inside and now we can go out, we feel like we’ve been forced to stay inside.”
Nottinghamshire Police is currently investigating reports of individuals suspecting their drinks have been spiked, said Superintendent Kathryn Craner.
“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,” she said on Tuesday.
Supt Craner said a 20-year-old man has been arrested following a report of an incident in Lower Parliament Street in Nottingham on 16 October. He has been released on bail as investigations continue. “This arrest comes as part of our ongoing investigations into alleged spiking reports in the city,” she said.
She added: “We do not believe that these are targeted incidents; they are distinctly different from anything we have seen previously as victims have disclosed a physical scratch type sensation before feeling very unwell. This is subtly different from feelings of intoxication through alcohol according to some victims.”
The University of Nottingham was “extremely concerned” by reports of spiking by injections and was working with police and nightlife venues “to monitor, review and learn from incidents and experiences in the city centre”, a spokesperson said.
“We have contacted them about the specific concerns raised and will continue to liaise with them to actively tackle societal problems and challenge behaviours.”
West Yorkshire Police said it has one report of “spiking by injection”. This was reported to have occurred in Leeds city centre on 13 October.
“We have spoken to the victim about this matter and enquiries are currently ongoing into the incident,” the force said.
Detective Superintendent Paula Bickerdike from West Yorkshire Police said: “We understand the genuine concerns that women have around their safety, particularly in the night-time economy, and we remain absolutely committed to doing everything we can alongside our partner agencies to make the county a safer place for women and girls.”
Police in Scotland are also investigating allegations of spiking by injection in clubs in Glasgow, Stirling, Edinburgh and Dundee, according to media reports.
Priti Patel, the home secretary, has also asked police forces to urgently assess the scale of drink spiking at nightclubs and parties after some said they had seen more spiking incidents in recent months.
Spiking drinks can lead to up to 10 years in prison, even higher if other offences like rape, robbery or another assault has taken place.
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*Not their real names as they did not wish to be identified