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Last Updated: Friday, 19 November, 2004, 13:25 GMT
Student 'spikings' prompt action
By Catherine Cashmore
BBC News, Leicester

Spike stoppers
Students are being urged to protect their drinks
Aaron's story is typical of many victims of drink-spiking. A night out, that becomes a blur. Waking up in a strange bed.

Only he was one of the lucky ones. He wasn't raped. Or so he believes.

The 22-year-old from south Wales, studying at De Montfort University in Leicester, was out with a young woman.

"We were drinking this wine; I'd probably had a glass of wine, but we didn't finish the bottle.

"She kept trying to get me to go to the toilet.

"When I got back my glass was full, I took my time over it, but I couldn't finish it.

"She was being a bit strange, hassling me to finish the drink.

I don't think anything actually happened, but I don't really want to say that because I don't know for sure
Aaron, drink-spiking victim
"The next thing I remember is waking up on her shoulder in a club.

"I closed my eyes and when I woke up again I was in a bed with my trousers on and her lying next to me looking at me."

Aaron's experience and that of other students has prompted the police and students' union officials to issue warnings and offer a practical way of stopping drugs getting into the drinks of the unwary.

Special bottle stoppers are being introduced in the University of Leicester Student Union and in pubs and clubs across Leicester. They allow only a straw in for drinking, but should keep out anything more harmful.

There have been four suspected cases of drink spiking in the union - with more in pubs and clubs.

Leicestershire Police have joined a handful of other forces nationally to take part in a survey to find the true extent of the problem.

Nightclub attack

During the six-month survey specially-trained officers are to speak to any victim who believes they have been drugged.

Det Supt Graham Thomas, who is leading the inquiry, said: "The problem is if people have a good night's sleep after a night out, by the time they realise that something has happened to them and contact the police then 12 hours has easily passed."

Aaron never reported having his drink spiked.

"I didn't know what was going on. It was as if when you blink and in that nanosecond it was a complete change of location.

"I blinked again and I woke up in my bed with my clothes on.

"I don't know if I was coming in and out of consciousness or if I had my eyes closed for most of the night.

"I don't think anything actually happened, but I don't really want to say that because I don't know for sure."

Bottles with spike stoppers fitted
The spike stoppers only allow room for a straw

Twenty-year-old student Natalie from London also believes she was drugged while drinking wine.

The second year student at the University of Leicester, was drinking happily with friends in a club.

Then she found herself alone in the street outside, being pursued by a man who claimed to be a cabbie.

As she tried to walk away, he followed, gradually quickening his pace.

He caught up with her and hit her across the face.

When she woke up the next day she couldn't remember anything.

It was only because she had managed to call her worried parents in London while she was lost on the streets, that she was reminded of the danger she had faced.

Natalie welcomed the campaign. "It has made people very aware that people in Leicester are spiking drinks," she said.

Symptoms of drink spiking
Not sleeping but slipping in and out of consciousness
Hallucinating or hearing things
Appearing very drunk
Being paranoid

Sarah Stukey, bars manager at University of Leicester Student Union said: "We have a no-drugs policy, but obviously short of doing a strip search then there's not a lot we can do."

Leicestershire Police get an officer to dress as a six-foot hedgehog called Spike.

Pc Rich Johnson, from the violence and disorder team, who chaperones Spike on his nights out said: "Friends really need to be keeping an eye on their friends and if they're acting like they've had 11 drinks when they've only had two then they need to stay alert to it."

One of the night clubs stocking the spike bottle stoppers is Creation.

Manager Clive Davies said: "It's a double-edged sword - you don't want to admit that there's drugs in your club but we need to be safe.

"Drugs are part of everyday living we just don't want them in here."




SEE ALSO:
Device aims to stop spiked drinks
11 Nov 04 |  Southern Counties
'Spiked drink' attacks increasing
30 Aug 04 |  Beds/Bucks/Herts


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