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Last Updated: Wednesday, 8 September, 2004, 21:43 GMT 22:43 UK
Prisoners 'injected spider venom'
Redback spider
The redback bite causes nausea, pain, fever - and sometimes death
Inmates in an Australian prison are said to have farmed deadly spiders to use their venom as a narcotic.

Four redback spiders - whose bite could kill a child - were found in a jar at a prison in New South Wales.

Inmates were said to have milked the spiders for venom and watered it down before injecting it to obtain a high.

Opposition politicians said the prison records showed prisons were like "holiday farms", but prison officials said there was no proof of the claims.

The New South Wales prison records were obtained by the Liberal Party - the opposition party in the state - under freedom of information laws.

Andrew Humpherson, the party's justice spokesman, used the findings to mount an attack on the Labour Party-led state government's law and order policies.

"It just shows how comfortable they [inmates] are - actually accessing and in this case breeding their own source of venom - their own source of drugs," he told reporters.

The report showed the state's prisons were "more like a holiday farm", he said.

'Pets'

But a prison spokesman, Brian Kelly, was sceptical about the veracity of the claim the venom was used as a narcotic, saying it had come from a single unreliable inmate.

Mr Kelly said the spiders were more likely to have been kept as pets.

Additional records obtained by the opposition showed prison authorities found quadruple the number of weapons and double the amount of drugs in prisons last year.

A 40cm (16-inch) marijuana plant was discovered at another prison in February.




SEE ALSO:
Australia: Deadly paradise
05 May 01  |  Asia-Pacific


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