Drink spiking in Medway towns
24th November 2021
Medway towns have seen an increase in drink spiking over the past month with numerous girls stepping forward with their stories. Our reporter Libby Greenall investigates whether this local increase is becoming a bigger issue.
It was a last-minute night out on October 22nd that changed everything for 19-year-old Olivia Calvert. Rochester is home to one of the main clubs in Medway- The Casino Rooms, it was here she was out with friends and after having her second drink when she began to feel uncomfortable with hot flushes, uneasiness, and difficulty standing.
After being sick she was told to leave and was taken out of the club for being “too drunk” this is where the vulnerable Olivia was left, outside on the street.
She describes “By this point I had completely stopped responding and had passed out kind of fallen asleep outside on the floor outside the club for an hour and my friend just sat with me,”
she said: “I had thrown up a lot outside the club, a lot of people said they saw me throwing up, someone even said they’ve never seen someone thrown up so much. This made me feel so embarrassed because I know my limits and usually when I drink, I'm not really one to throw up. That’s when we knew this was something more than just having too much to drink.”
After being initially dismissed by the bouncers, they came over to offer the young girl help. An on-site first aider came to check over Olivia while he was doing this, he proceeded to smoke his cigarette over her.
A friend of Olivia's told the first aider that she thinks this was more than her just being drunk “I think she's been spiked.” This is where the girls were met with the same comment made by the bouncers earlier “no she's just too drunk, get her home.” Her concerned friend called an ambulance but due to a busy night they couldn’t get one sent out quick enough, so Olivia's father was called.
Olivia filed a police report on the following Monday, officers requested a urine sample from her, Olivia shared her regret of not carrying out the urine sample quicker, however she was left unwell for about five days after the incident. She couldn’t keep anything down or make the journey to the hospital for tests to be done.
She said: “It was disgusting I felt awful and even in the morning I felt really spaced out still and like I wasn’t actually there. I was really disorientated, everything was really hazy, and I didn’t think anything of it, I didn’t want to go to hospital because I wouldn’t be able to manage the journey without throwing up.”
Olivia shared her story online to raise awareness about drinking spiking, she wanted to give more people a chance to speak out about their own drink spiking stories. When she thinks back to that night she is filled with doubt and never wants to feel this way again.
She describes how “all I was thinking of the next day is did I do something to make me look like an obvious target to them. It just makes you doubt everything. If there was a chance, I was left alone, would the person who did it know and come up to me like was people looking at me and waiting for me to pass out or be alone and vulnerable.”
Casino Rooms have made a statement to Kent Online in relation to this incident saying, ‘the safety and welfare of customers has always been and continues to be our priority’ and is doing “Everything that we can to create a safe experience, we take any allegation of drink spiking very seriously and urge anyone who sees suspicious behavior, or suspects they have been affected by this, to seek assistance immediately from a member of our staff or security team. Our trained staff are here to help and have the support of our on-site First Aider.”
Although claims have been made that The Casino Rooms does not hand over their CCTV to the police a statement on their website suggests otherwise “We will always assist Kent Police with any investigates, using our full resources, including our extensive CCTV systems.”
Both Olivia and her mother are now worried about when she eventually does go back out again. Wondering how they can control something that is so common and can be easily missed.
Olivas's mother says, “it is actually very unsettling to think about your child going out and something happening to them, and them just being left to sort themselves out on their own in the street.”
The Casino’s Rooms have claimed to have customer safety as its top priority however, Olivia claims that her “Bag didn’t even get checked when I went in that night, and I've never once seen anyone with a drink cover or have I ever been offered one by bar staff. They need to make sure everyone knows about them and maybe it could stop it happening to another girl.”
Olivia looks back on the night and is left with questions such as who was around her and what were their intentions? She is left feeling paranoid and anxious about the lack of security measures in place at the club.
She explains “At first, I don’t think I processed it properly. I was like oh I was just spiked but then after talking to the police, I was oh my god I literally have two hours of just black. thank god I was with my friend, but it could've been a lot worse off for me especially after just being left to sit outside casinos isn't a very safe place at 2 o'clock in the morning for girls as there's a lot of loud and drunk men.”
Olivia hopes that her talking out about her experience will help all girls feel as if they are not alone and urges anyone who has been spiked to make an online report to help with Kent Polices investigations. She said, “I did actually say to another girl who had been spiked that even though she didn’t report it straight away if you just file a report with anything you can remember it's on file and they can make links between cases, so I just hope that if it does happen to any girls that they do report it because it just builds up the numbers.”
The number of drink spiking has trebled with 40 reports between September and October 2021.
There were 10 reports of women and men feeling unwell after visiting pubs, clubs or bars, and that they believe it could be due to someone injecting them with a needle.
Spiking a drink involves putting alcohol or drugs into someone’s drink without their permission or knowledge, although it is occasionally intended as a joke, the main goal may be to incapacitate someone long enough to rob or sexually attack them.
Drink spiking is illegal and can result in a 10- year prison sentence and if other criminal activity has taken place such as sexual assault or robbery then the punishment could be increased.
The following weekend after Olivas's incident another five reports were shared online by young women who had claimed to have been in Casino Rooms and had their drinks spiked. All the women had near on identical symptoms and stories.
These cases are now being looked at by Kent Police officers as they informed Oliva and her mother that they have an open investigation to all allegations of drink spiking.
Kent police press office confirmed that ‘Kent Police takes all reported incidents seriously and officers from our dedicated Community Safety Units continue to work closely with night-time venues across the county to make them hostile places for those who may seek to exploit others, and to ensure members of staff recognise the signs of spiking and other criminal behavior that might take place. For every incident reported a thorough investigation is carried out in order to identify those responsible and provide support and assurance to victims.”
Olivia’s experience echoes that of 19-year-old Charlie-Anne Adams who took to social media to share her story writing a Facebook status warning and urging people to talk out about being spiked.
Charlie was one of the five women who have claimed to have been spiked on Halloween weekend at Casino Rooms, having near on identical stories as Oliva, her night started off as last-minute plans and after only two drinks she started feeling strange.
Charlie explained “I don’t get absolutely smashed I always make sure I know what I'm doing just in case anything does happen. But I remember saying to my friend I started feeling weird and I didn’t know how I had gotten so drunk off two drinks and something was right, so I went and got a bottle of water, so I went to the toilet because as you know if you're sick in there you get kicked out. So, as I went into the toilet, I looked at the cubicle. I remember being sick and then that’s it, I had passed out in the toilet cubicle for over an hour.”
Charlie’s male friend who was with her had to barge his way through the girls' toilets to help break the toilet door to his unconscious friend.
Charlie describes how she remembers feeling like a dead weight. She could hear what was going on around her but could not open her eyes or move any part of her body, it was as if she were paralyzed.
Drink spiking is becoming a huge issue as young women say they have wherever they go not just in Medway.
A recent campaign ‘Girl's night in’ took place encouraging people to boycott pubs and clubs across the country. This was done to bring attention to women’s safety concerns, and to raise awareness about the dangers of all types of spiking.
Over a two-month period in 2019 there were 12 reports filed to Kent police in comparison to over 38 reports during a two-month period in 2021. This alarming rise in numbers is unsettling for young girls when going out. With lots of women coming forward saying they feel like they wouldn’t be taken seriously if they were to report it to the police.
The Casino Room’s has acted on all claims and is training both bar staff and security, says Rebecca Gould, a 32-year-old who is one of the door staff who has gone through this training, after working at the nightclub for 11 years she claims, her customers are her number one priority she finds herself “struggling to read these girls posts on Facebook ... because I am the only female security, I find myself with 9 out of 10 problems when it comes to dealing with young women in Casinos”.
Rebecca agrees with the extra training that is being given to help workers spot symptoms of spiking and what to look for when keeping an eye out for suspicious people. She has her own ideas to bring up the security within the nightclub.
“I feel like maybe they should bring back the random strip searches in the clubs because then it heightens people worries so maybe they won't spike people because they won't want to bring it in to the clubs in case they get caught,”
she said: “Or even a wrist band system that we mark every time you have a drink, we mark down so these girls who are saying they’ve only had 2 drinks when they have actually smashed loads of drinks back, but the thing is we don’t know what these girls are drinking before they could've been spiked in a pub and came to us and then started getting symptom's then casinos get the blame.”
Re-training that has been given to the staff are sessions such as going through symptoms, looking at the step-by-step guide of what to do if someone brings back a drink due to it tasting funny or if they have suspicion of it being spiked.
As soon as a drink been handed in it becomes evidence and staff are told not to tamper with it and report it straight away to a manager but also to keep the person who has handed the drink in around so they can be checked over and fill in a report.
Both Casino Room’s and Rebecca urge customers to be vigilant and careful when it comes to handling your and taking drinks from others. Rebecca explains: “The thing is if you don’t realize you’ve been spiked how are we meant to know when we are watching over 100s of people. Thing is once they’ve spiked you it's so easy on a busy night to get past security because for all we know you could be a couple and just being like oh yeah, she’s had too much to drink I'm going to get her home now and we can unfortunately easily miss it. The thing is the symptoms of being drunk and being spiked are so similar it's so hard to tell.”
When the Nightclub is at its full capacity it can hold up 1,500 people, and with only 14 security guards on shift at a time it leaves over 100 people per one bouncer, which would be hard for anyone to watch over and ensure the security and safety of them all every single minute whilst in the venue.
Rebecca claims that a lot of girls are “just jumping on the band wagon I've seen girls posting all over social media they have been spiked in casinos, yet they are back the following week and personally if I got spiked somewhere I wouldn’t be back a week later”
After receiving hate and slander from members of the public online Rebecca feels “If you don’t go through with it properly and call the police then you're as bad as what everyone is calling us online. We are getting slated for not doing our job properly when actually you as a human being aren't doing anything to stop it either if you aren't following it through. “
It not just nightclubs in Rochester that are taking new precaution’s when it comes to drink spiking bar owner Shelly Terney, has taken her team through training she called a “Spiking crash course”
Shelly describes: “We have seen a number of girls that are a lot more vary of things such as covering their drinks it's such a shame because even our regulars who come to us before there nights out, they all just seem like they have to worry about so much and I see the girls as my daughters and if something were to happen to them, I would feel awful.”
Drink protectors have become a formality at The Walnut Tree. Shelly explains how “it’s the way forward in this industry it's just one simple thing that can just give people reassurance but also it is something that will prevent drink spiking as it is virtually impossible to spike Somone's drink I mean it's not going to stop it but it will make an overall difference if everyone does implement it in their bars.”
Drink protectors unfortunately are not offered at most entertainment venues, however a brand created by American Shirah Benarde called Nightcap was created with this in mind to help girls enjoy nights out without worrying of their drink being spiked.
Nightcap's work as a wrist or hair accessory which you then convert into a cover for your drink and it cerate's one less thing for girls to worry about Nightcap’s are now shipped worldwide.
19-Year-old Megan Fay from Chatham now doesn’t go out without hers after being injected with Rohypnol on a night out in Tap’N’Tin.
Another last-minute night out has left Megan still uneasy about stepping foot into clubs again, she started her night with a couple shots and one drink, after this she became hot and took herself outside for some fresh air.
Megan describes a: ‘’ boom I blacked out and was on the floor. I had 7 seizures and the staff just kept saying your friend’s drunk you need to take her home but luckily my friends knew something was right and they took me to hospital”
After blood tests and doctors confirming to Megan that she had been injected in the club with Rohypnol the realisation sunk in and Megan broke down into tears. “I couldn’t believe it had happened and how fatal it could've been for me. I'm only young and I was going out before like Monday id be at tap Thursday, Friday and Saturday id be in Rochester Casinos every week and I don’t think I would risk it again yet”
She said that she would now take precaution’s when going out “it's so hard because there is only so much you can do to keep safe; I have a Nightcap which is a drink cover but how are you meant to stay safe from being injected? I didn’t even feel and injection or anything go into my arm at all that night.”
Megan’s case is under investigation by Kent Police, however with no proof of anyone injecting anything into her apart from the test results there are no suspects at this moment in time.
She says “ Tap’N’Tin are saying they don’t have cameras so there, is no footage of anything happening to me at the venue apparently and they see it as I was just too drunk despite the test results from the hospital.”
Overall, the advice given to anyone going out, especially young girls, is to be vigilant and watch your drink from when it is poured until it’s gone and to not take drinks from people you don’t know.
Drink spiking numbers are continuously going up, if you have any doubts about a drink or if it taste funny then you should hand it too staff straight away and file a police report to help with on-going investigations.
Victims must come forward in a timely manner in order for tests to be effective. To do this they must feel encouraged and believed by security staff and the police.