‘Poison’ vapes alert as police mount drink spiking initiative at clubs in London’s West End

The Standard went out on patrol with Met officers who discovered 100 substances being used on victims like TV presenter Kate McCann

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Around 114 reports of drink spiking are recorded in London each month, police revealed as they launched a new crackdown at West End clubs and bars.

Officers tackling the epidemic also issued a warning to women about accepting puffs on “dangerous” vape pens from strangers during a night out.

Some e-cigarettes have been found to be poisoned with synthetic drugs such as Spice and THC, the active ingredient in cannabis, which could damage their health or prove fatal.

The problem is so widespread, Metropolitan Police forensic teams have detected over 100 different substances, both controlled and prescription, in nearly 1,500 urine tests provided by victims since 2021.

Earlier this year, broadcaster Kate McCann spoke of the horrifying night her drink was spiked at a club – making her one of an estimated 900,000 victims across Britain each year.

Many revellers come forward to report feeling disorientated or suffering from memory loss the next morning.

Others have been sexually assaulted, robbed and even had their homes burgled.

The Standard was invited out with Operation Vigilant, a plain-clothed and uniformed unit flooding the capital’s clubland to keep it safe.

Licensing officer PC Steve Muldoon, based at Charing Cross Police Station, took journalists on a tour of Tiger Tiger in Haymarket. The nightclub is one of 850 venues working with Scotland Yard to prevent spiking.

Man spikes a woman’s drink in bar (MBI/Alamy/PA)

We watched as undercover behavioural detection officers look for predators in crowds.

Suspects are known to carrying out “hostile reconnaissance” before a spiking or sex attack in the same way as terrorists.

The specially-trained detectives approach and question men seen standing on the edge of the dancefloor seeking intoxicated people to lead away, or who act suspiciously around groups of women, offering to buy clubbers double and treble shots of alcohol.

It was the same tactic which snared John Isaac, 21, in Leicester Square last July.

He was arrested for providing alcohol to a 14-year-old girl with the intent to commit a sexual offence.

A month later Isaac, also known as Cody Booth, continued to harass females in the West End and officers found 15 condoms on him.

In December, police detained him again for public order offences towards female officers, as well as racial and homophobic allegations.

At Westminster Magistrates’ Court in February, Isaac was issued with a three-year criminal behaviour order due to intelligence on police systems.

PC Muldoon said: “Essentially, we are visiting venues to make sure they are aware of how to keep potential victims of crime, spiking or sexual assault safe.

“We are looking to try and make sure drink spiking is reduced and taken seriously.

“When it does occur, we make sure it is dealt with properly.”

He added: “Some victims will call up, maybe a day or two later, and say they’ve lost their memory and believe they’ve been spiked. Others will call up to say their drink tasted funny or others, potentially, that they’d seen something happen.”

PC Steve Muldoon
Anthony France

In the early hours of last Saturday, Op Vigilant officers were deployed to a bar in Soho and arrested a 38-year-old man within four minutes of reports that another male had been orally raped.

The suspect, from Camberwell, is now charged with numerous offences, including rape, attempted rape, assault and possessing cannabis.

He also appeared before magistrates last week accused of stealing a second male victim’s bank card and is due at Southwark Crown Court on June 5.

At Tiger Tiger, anyone feeling unsafe can approach female champion Danielle Valentine, who patrols the venue wearing a clearly visible pink jacket. She has a small room on the ground floor that acts as a welfare and medical space for victims.

Drink covers are made available on request to stop spiking at the venue. Men acting suspiciously will receive a tap on the shoulder from doormen and women.

Tiger Tiger manager Christian Glover urges those being harassed, or uncomfortable on a date, to discreetly approach bar staff and simply ask for “Angela”, a London-wide code-phrase to summon help.

He admits sexual assaults do occur but security staff are trained to detain suspects, call police and secure CCTV.

He said: “Everyone deserves a safe night out in London.

“Venues like ours, we try to take every step we can to make sure you have a good night, get home and come again.”

Operation Vigilant officers stop and search two men in Soho
Anthony France

Last week at New Scotland Yard, the Met held its first roundtable on the subject with club bosses, charities and licensing authorities.

Detective Chief Superintendent Angela Craggs - the force’s lead for rape and sexual assault - told industry figures it is essential victims know the risks of spiking and the effects of drugs in order to catch more offenders.

“In London, we get roughly 114 spiking allegations per month,” she said.

“We think it is underreported and when we speak to victims, they can be doubtful about what happened to them.

“Often by the time they report it, some of those drugs or alcohol may have left the system.”

Det Ch Supt Craggs added: “Anyone enjoying a night out in London deserves to be safe and we’re determined to do everything we can protect the people from harm.

“Spiking is a premediated and invasive crime and we are doing more to target predatory and dangerous offenders.

Christian Glover, manager of Tiger Tiger
Anthony France

“We cannot tackle spiking alone and that’s why we’re working closely with charities, venues and businesses across London and beyond – training nightclub staff to spot the signs of spiking and helping to raise awareness with those who visit pubs and clubs.

“Our message to victims is clear – please come forward and get the support you rightly deserve from our specially trained officers.”

Dean Ames, UK policing’s lead forensic consultant, said out of 1,500 urine tests in three years the Met hasn’t detected a single case of best-known date rape drug Rohypnol – despite its prevalence 20 years ago.

Criminals are now more likely to administer alcohol, seemingly innocuous substances or over-the-counter sleeping medication.

Mr Ames said: “Rohypnol has left the market.”

She said: “When you cut through it, we’re talking about spiking, but it’s really actual poisoning.

“It’s somebody’s hard work to run a bar.

“So I think if the venue were to find a perpetrator, they should be rewarded.”

Ms Dines said some victims didn’t want to approach police because they felt “ashamed and embarrassed”, particularly if they had taken recreational drugs on an evening out.

“Working collaboratively to educate and protect on all spiking related issues is going to give us the opportunity to safeguard and intercept perpetrators before these invisible crimes start affecting our communities,” Ms Dines added.

Karen Tyrell, chief executive of Drinkaware, said 2.2 per cent of adults reported having their drinks spiked in 2023, which equates to around 900,000 potential victims.

Around half did not report to police as they “didn’t think that there was any point”, a survey by her charity found.

Ms Tyrell added females are more likely to be targeted in clubs, pubs and bars than men, with Westminster having the highest number of reports. LGBTQ+ adults are at double the risk of spiking than heterosexuals.

“Drink spiking is a serious crime that can happen to anyone at any time,” she said. “Our research shows that men are as likely to be victims as women.”

If your drink or a friend’s has been spiked, alert a member of staff and security. In an emergency, call 999.