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Tuesday, 7 August, 2001, 11:33 GMT 12:33 UK
Swizzle stick to detect drugs
Date rape graphic
A new invention could help combat the recent rise in the number of so-called drug rape cases in Oxfordshire.

In the past year, there have been six cases in Banbury of women reporting that their drinks were spiked, leaving them drowsy or unconscious.

Scientists have developed a high-tech cocktail stirrer, which can detect the presence of certain drugs and changes colour to alert drinkers.

Detective Chief Inspector Peter Sturman, the chairman of the Drug Rape Trust, said it could become an important part of everyday bar and club culture.

Rohypnol rape

DCI Sturman said: "It's being looked at and evaluated by the scientists at the moment but the technology is there.

"The idea is eventually they will be mass-produced and my hope is bar staff, when they make a drink, will automatically put one of these sticks into the drink and if any drugs are added later on, it will detect it."

Rohypno
Rohypnol leaves people paralysed
The Drug Rape Trust, a charity set up to help victims, said it has dealt with 1,500 cases in the past 12 months compared with only 780 the year before.

Steve Dennis, director of PR at Luminar Leisure which owns the Chicago Rock Cafe chain, said the company is backing the scheme.

"The idea of giving people a device that they can pop into their drink and know that their drink is not contaminated is an idea we must be working with."

The sticks are being developed by toxicologists in conjunction with the Department of Trade because of the rising number of date-rape cases.

It is hoped the device will detect drugs like Rohypnol, which once ground-up becomes tasteless and odourless, but leaves its victims paralysed and helpless.

See also:

24 May 01 | Wales
Warning after date rape claims
20 Feb 01 | Scotland
Rape attack woman's drink 'spiked'
17 May 00 | UK
The date rape menace
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