Police in Spain are investigating about 50 reported cases of women being pierced with medical needles while at nightclubs or parties, a trend that has previously been overlooked.
So far, Spanish police have not confirmed any cases of sexual assault or robbery related to the mysterious stabbings. Police said 23 of the recently reported needle attacks were in the Catalonia region of northeastern Spain, which borders France.
Waves of needlesticks at nightclubs and music events have also baffled authorities in France, Britain, Belgium and the Netherlands. French police have logged more than 400 reports in recent months and said the motive for the stabbings was unclear. In many cases, it was also unclear whether the victims had been injected with a substance.
Spanish police have so far found evidence of drugs on one victim, a 13-year-old girl in the northern city of Gijon who had the party drug ecstasy in her system. Local media reported that the girl was rushed to hospital by her parents, who were with her when she felt a sting with something sharp.
In an interview with national public broadcaster TVE broadcast on Wednesday, Spanish Justice Minister Pilar Lop urged anyone who believes they have been shot without consent to go to the police, as needle stabbing “is a serious act of violence against women . “
Spanish health authorities said they were updating their protocols to improve their ability to detect any substances that may have been injected into the victims. Toxicology screening protocols require blood or urine tests within 12 hours of a suspected attack, Llop said.
The guidelines advise victims to immediately call emergency services and go to a health center as soon as possible.
In southwestern France, a spate of needle attacks was reported during the Bayonne Festival, which an estimated 1.2 million people attended last week in the city near the Spanish border.
Bayonne Deputy District Attorney Caroline Parisel said 124 people underwent medical tests after reporting possible needlestick attacks. They included both women and men. Eleven filed legal complaints.
Last month French prosecutorsin southern France in connection with a series of needle attacks.
A rash of needle stick cases was reported in Britain in 2021. In November, 19-year-old British student Sarah Buckleshe was out clubbing with her friends when something went horribly wrong.
“Obviously I started screaming and then throwing up and passing out and coming back up, and it was just this horrible cycle,” Buckle told CBS News. “My friends, at this point, could say, ‘No, something’s wrong… He hadn’t had too much to drink. This is something completely different,” Buckle said.
Her friends took her to the hospital, where she woke up the next morning with no memory of what had happened the night before. Her hand was throbbing and a bruise appeared with what looked like a needle prick in the middle.
“When I spoke to the police, they found it very strange as well, and a scientist who works with the police looked and said, ‘Well, it sure looks like a needle stick.’
Haley Ott contributed to this report.