Beware! Theft by spiking is on the rise in Kenya

Don’t accept drinks from strangers.

Don’t accept drinks from strangers.

What you need to know:

  • Have a safety procedure, and plan your activities beforehand. This includes where you will go, who you will be with, and how long your stay will be.
  • Always watch your drink. Never leave it unattended. If you are with a close acquaintance, watch their drink as well.
  • Don’t accept drinks from strangers and be slow to partake in communal drinking orgies.

On the evening of November 8, 2021, detectives from the Directorate of Criminal Investigations arrested 30-year-old Virginia Wangui Thiga for drugging and robbing a club reveler Sh. 1 million in Kasarani, Nairobi. Virginia and her female friend had been invited by two male revelers for drinks at a local club. At around 4 am, they booked a room at Rysta’s Guest House. However, one of the two men developed cold feet and walked away, leaving his friend in the company of Virginia and her friend. What looked like a threesome party for the man ended disastrously when he woke up at a local hospital. He had been drugged with an overdose of a stupefying drug. The two women robbed him of his mobile phone, ATM card, and National ID. They had also withdrawn Sh. 1 million from his mobile and bank accounts.

On May 5, 2021, Irene Njoki Irungu, popularly known as Michelle, was arrested for spiking drinks in Kiambu and Nairobi Counties. At the time of arrest, the 29-year-old was in possession of dozens of sim cards, mobile phones, and wristwatches from her victims. Irene had been using the sim cards to transfer and withdraw money stolen from her stupefied victims’ mobile and bank accounts.

These arrests are a minority in a rising file of incidents of spiking and drugging, in which unsuspecting victims are losing millions of shillings.

The drugs used in spiking

According to Dr. John P. Cunha, a medical author at the medical research journal Medicine Net, there are specific drugs that criminals use to stupefy their victims. They include Rohypnol, GBL (gamma-butyrolactone), Ketamine – popularly known as Special K- and GHB (gamma-hydroxybutyrate) which is commonly referred to as the liquid ecstasy, and passed along as an energy drink. These drugs may come as tablets, liquid, or even powder. “They affect the victim fast and will make him weak, confused, and out of control. They can also cause loss of consciousness,” he says. The drugs are depressants that cause sleepiness and relaxation to the body. When introduced in heavy dosages, they can slow down body organs. For example, when GHB is combined with alcohol, the resulting reaction is so lethal it can induce a coma. This drug also causes hallucinations, distorted speech, and amnesia. Rohypnol is a favourite among criminals because it is odorless and colourless, which means that victims will hardly realise that their drink has been spiked.

When a drink is spiked with Rohypnol, the victim:

  • Will suddenly appear drunk in a manner that is disproportionate to the amount of alcohol they have consumed.
  • May become lethargic, unable to walk or stand, and have disjointed speech or total inability to talk. In some cases, he may look confused.
  • May also become argumentative and violent.         
  • May suffer reduced heartbeat rate and breathing difficulties.

General symptoms of being spiked or drugged include:

  • Hallucinations
  • Blackouts or amnesia
  • Blurred vision
  • Paranoia
  • Disorientation
  • Lowered inhibitions

In some cases, attackers use Scopolamine, a drug that is popularly referred to as the ‘Devil’s Breath’. The drug is blown into the victim’s face or transferred through the shaking of hands. It is also sprayed on business cards. In June 2020, two robbery suspects were arrested in Narok town moments after they sprayed M-Pesa attendant Margaret Mantaine with Scopolamine and stole Sh. 400,000 from her shop. The two men had posed as customers.

How to protect yourself

Mberia Gitonga, a security expert and the founder of Universal Safety Centre and Consultancy says attackers will always have the end game in mind. To protect yourself:

  • Have a safety procedure, and plan your activities beforehand. This includes where you will go, who you will be with, and how long your stay will be.
  • Always watch your drink. Never leave it unattended. If you are with a close acquaintance, watch their drink as well.
  • Don’t accept drinks from strangers and be slow to partake in communal drinking orgies.
  • Take bottled drinks instead of jugs of cocktails or punch bowls.
  • Let your close friend be aware of your movements at all times.
  • If you feel abnormally intoxicated despite taking low or no alcohol, seek help immediately.
  • Stick with people you are familiar with and who are protective of you.
  • Do not take a stranger home. Take their number.

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