JADE LE DELHI, Associated Press
PARIS (AP) — Across France, more than 300 people have reported being unexpectedly stabbed with needles in nightclubs or concerts in recent months. The case is handled by doctors and several prosecutors, but no one knows who is doing it or why, or whether the victims were drugged or anything at all.
Club owners and police are trying to raise awareness, with the rapper even interrupting his recent performance to warn concertgoers of the risk of a surprise needle attack.
It’s not just France that’s affected: the British government is investigating a wave of “needle sticks” there, and police in Belgium and the Netherlands are also investigating isolated cases.
On May 4, 18-year-old Thomas Laux attended a rap concert in Lille in northern France, where he smoked some marijuana and drank some alcohol during the performance. When he got home, he told The Associated Press that he was dizzy and had a headache and noticed a strange little skin puncture on his arm and a bruise.
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The next morning, the symptoms persisted, and Lo went to his doctor, who advised him to go to the emergency room. Doctors confirmed the presence of a needle stick, and Lauks was tested for HIV and hepatitis. His results came back negative, as did the results of other victims.
“I’ve stopped going to concerts ever since that happened,” Lo said.
Hundreds of kilometers (miles) away, Lynn Desnos recounted a similar experience after going to a club in the southwestern city of Bordeaux in April. Desnos, also 18, collapsed the next day, felt dizzy and had hot flashes at a fast food restaurant. When she returned home, she found that she had an injection mark on her arm. After seeing testimonies on social media about the mysterious injections, she went to the clinic to get tested for infections. She is still waiting for the results.
Residents of Paris, Toulouse, Nantes, Nancy, Rennes and other French cities report being stabbed with a needle without their knowledge or permission. Target individuals, mostly women, have visible injection marks, often bruising, and report symptoms such as feeling weak.
The French National Police Agency reports that 302 people have filed formal complaints about such needle sticks. Several police investigations are ongoing in different regions, but so far no suspects have been apprehended, a needle has not been found, and the motive remains unclear.
No victims reported sexual abuse; one said he was robbed in Grenoble in April, according to Le Monde newspaper.
According to a national police spokesman, two people tested positive for GHB and they could have swallowed the drug in a drink. GHB, a strong painkiller used by predators seeking sexual violence or assault, can only be detected in urine for up to 12 hours, a police spokesman said.
An official and a doctor leading the fight against the phenomenon questioned whether the nightclub injections contained GHB, noting that the drug had to be injected within seconds to penetrate the needle, which most victims would notice.
“We did not find any drugs or substances or objective evidence of … the use of a substance with unlawful or criminal intent. What we fear most is people getting HIV, hepatitis or any other infectious disease,” said Dr. Emmanuel Puskarczyk, head of the Poison Control Center in Nancy, in eastern France.
The Nancy Hospital has created a special procedure to optimize patient care. Patients who show symptoms such as lethargy are treated and blood and urine samples are kept for five days in case anyone wants to press charges.
“Each case is individual. We see injection marks, but some people have no symptoms. When potential victims have symptoms such as discomfort or black holes (in their memory), they are not specific,” Puskarczyk said.
The police officer, who was not allowed to publicly reveal his name in accordance with the policy of the national police, said: “At this stage, we cannot talk about a specific course of action. There are no similarities between cases. is that people are given needle pricks in a celebratory context in different places in France.”
With clubgoers expressing fear on social media and media coverage heightening anxiety, the French Interior Ministry launched a national awareness campaign this month. The police hand out leaflets to clubbers and discuss prevention measures with club owners.
In the UK, Parliament released a report in April on alcohol and needle use in pubs and nightclubs following a sudden spike in similar incidents last year. It says police reported 1,000 cases of needle injections across the country around October 2021, as groups of students returned to campuses after coronavirus-related restrictions were eased.
However, the parliamentary report says that there is not enough data to judge the severity of the problem. It is not clear if anyone was prosecuted for inserting the needle or how many victims were injected with drugs or other substances.
“No one knows how common alcohol, drug or needle use is, and no one knows what makes criminals do it. Anecdotal evidence suggests that this practice is widespread and dangerous.
A series of similar incidents involving people being pricked by needles at nightclubs, at a football match and during the Belgian pride parade have been reported in neighboring Belgium. Last month, the Brussels prosecutor’s office launched two investigations into complaints by women who said they had been stabbed during a gay pride parade in central Brussels. March organizers said in a statement that they had been told of several cases and urged potential victims to be examined at hospitals.
Back in France, as the investigation continues and no perpetrators have been found, rapper Dinos interrupted his concert in Strasbourg this week to warn his fans of the risks and insisted, “This has to stop.”
Sylvia Hui from London and Samuel Petrekin from Brussels contributed.
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