Authorities across Europe are grappling with a dangerous new trend, indiscriminate needle attacks against unsuspecting victims.
In France more than 300 people have reported being pricked with a needle while at a nightclub or attending a concert. The reports have prompted doctors and multiple prosecutors to investigate; however no one has been able to determine who the perpetrators are or why the attacks are happening.
It is unknown whether victims have been injected with anything and so far tests for hepatitis and HIV have come back negative.
The attacks are not limited to France either. Authorities in Britain, Belgium and the Netherlands are investigating scattered cases as well.
CBS News reported that on May 4, Tomas Laux, 18, attended a rap concert in Lille in northern France. Upon returning home, he felt dizzy and had a headache. That’s when he discovered a strange puncture and bruise on his arm.
The following day, when his symptoms continued to persist he sought medical attention and his doctor advised him to attend an emergency room. Medics confirmed evidence of a needle prick.
“I’ve given up going to concerts since it happened,” he said.
Another incident involves a young woman, Leanna Desnos, also 18-years-old. In April she attended a night club in the southwest city of Bordeaux. The morning after her night out she felt dizzy and had hot flashes while out to get a bite to eat.
Upon returning home she discovered an injection mark on her arm. Having heard about a wave of indiscriminate needle attacks on social media she went to a clinic to get tested for infections. She is awaiting the results.
People from numerous cities across France are reporting needle attacks including, Paris, Toulouse, Nantes, Rennes and Nancy.
So far, targets appear to be mostly women, show visible marks of injection, bruises, and report symptoms like feeling groggy and fatigued.
Over 300 people have filed official formal complaints and several police investigations are ongoing in different regions, however no suspect has been apprehended nor has a needle been found. The perpetrators’ motives remain a mystery.
There have been no reports of sexual assualt however one victim reported being robbed in Grenoble in April, Le Monde, a local newspaper reported.
Two victims test positive for GHB
According to officials, two victims of the needle attacks have tested positive for the powerful anesthetic GHB. GHB is used by predators seeking to sexually abuse or assualt victims and is not detecable in someone’s system just 12 hours after being exposed. However, the drug needs to be injected over several seconds, something an unsuspecting victim would notice.
Dr. Emmanuel Puskarczyk, head of the poison control center in the city of Nancy said, “We didn’t find any drugs or substances or objective proof which attest to … administration of a substance with wrongful or criminal intent. What we fear the most is people contracting HIV, hepatitis or any infectious disease,” from the attacks.
The attacks have become so common in Nancy that a local hospital has implemented a special procedure to optimize care for victims. Patients exhibiting symptoms like grogginess are treated, and blood and urine samples are taken and kept for five days in case victims want to press charges.
“Each case is different. We see injection marks, but some people don’t have symptoms. When potential victims have symptoms like discomfort or black holes (in their memory), they are not specific,” Puskarczyk said.
One police official, who was not authorized to speak, said, “At this stage, we can’t talk about a specific modus operandi. There aren’t any similarities between cases. The only thing similar is that people are being injected with a needle in a festive context in different places in France.”
Nightclub and concert goers are expressing their fears on social media, fueling panic over the incidents prompting the French Interior Ministry to launch a national awareness campaign which will be implemented this month. Police are handing out informational flyers to party goers and are discussing prevention measures with club owners.
In April, the UK Parliament issued a report on drink and needle spiking in pubs and nightclubs following a sudden surge in incidents last year.
Police reported around 1,000 cases of needle attacks across the country around October 2021, just as COVID-19 restrictions were lifted and students returned to campuses.
However, the report indicated that there was a lack of data available to gauge just how serious of a problem it is.
“No-one knows how prevalent spiking is, whether by drink, drug or needle, and no-one knows what causes perpetrators to do it. Anecdotal evidence suggests the practice is widespread and dangerous,” the report reads.
Last month in Belgium, the Brussels prosecutor’s office opened two investigations into incidents tied to the Belgian pride parade prompting organizers of the march to urge potential victims to get checked at hospitals.