A man has been arrested as Nottinghamshire police investigate reports of women being injected with needles on nights out in the past fortnight, and there have been calls for a boycott of nightclubs in at least 30 towns and cities.
Police said a 20-year-old man was arrested after one woman reported “a scratching sensation” and suspected her drink had been spiked at a club in Nottingham city centre on Saturday. He was later released on bail.
A 19-year-old university student said on social media that she had woken up with “zero recollection” of her evening at Pryzm nightclub. She had no hangover but had a “sharp, agonising pain” in her leg and could not walk without limping.
She found a pinprick mark on her leg and went to hospital, but “after eight hours of only having a triage and background info taken” she went home at 2.30am.
She urged other women to be aware of the threat, writing that losing her memory was a “thing that never, ever happens to me and it really confused me”.
In a separate incident days earlier, a woman who was in a club 10 minutes from Pryzm believes she was spiked in a similar manner.
The woman, also 19 and a student, felt a “pinch on the back of her arm” as she left Stealth nightclub on 12 October, her sister said. She later blacked out and was taken to A&E where she was put on drip and underwent blood tests.
Supt Kathryn Craner, of Nottinghamshire police, said: “We are currently investigating reports of individuals suspecting that their drinks have been spiked. 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 added: “We have also arrested a 20-year-old man on suspicion of possession of class A and class B [drugs] and cause [to] administer poison or noxious thing with intent to injure, aggrieve and annoy following a report of an incident in Lower Parliament Street, Nottingham city centre, on 16 October 2021. This arrest comes as part of our ongoing investigations into alleged spiking reports in the city. The man has now been bailed with conditions as we continue to investigate.”
Craner said she was treating the incidents “very seriously” and urged people to come forward if they had gone through similar experiences.
“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,” she said.
Nadia Whittome, the MP for Nottingham East, said she was horrified, describing the reports of spiking by injection as “especially distressing given the added risks of infection and injury”.
Incidents of spiking by needle have been reported across the country in the past few months as student nightlife has returned after lockdowns. There have been social media reports of incidents in Dundee, Stirling and Nottingham.
The campaign group Girls Night In is calling on people to boycott local bars and nightclubs on particular nights to put pressure on venues to do more to prevent spiking. The group wants measures including providing lids for drinks, and first aid and drug misuse training for staff.
A petition calling for clubs to be legally required to search guests for spiking paraphernalia on entry has collected more than 90,000 signatures.
In a statement, Stealth said it had received two reports in the past two weeks from customers who suspected they had been spiked.
A spokesperson said: “Both were seen by our on-site medic, and we are currently liaising with police to aid in their investigations.” The club said it was “unacceptable for women to have to live in fear of being spiked”.
A Pryzm spokesperson said they planned to make anti-spiking bottle stoppers, protective drink covers and drug-testing kits freely available and will redouble searches on entry.
“While these incidents are incredibly rare, we take all reports of this nature very seriously and will do all we can to make sure that they don’t happen in our clubs.”