RETURNING to the sticky-floored clubs of Colchester and beyond following 18 months of limited social interaction marked a true re-establishment of freedom.

But the return has been tainted as, according to the National Police Chiefs’ Council, almost 200 drink spiking incidents have been reported to police forces across the UK in just the past two months.

There has also been 24 reports of clubbers being unknowingly injected with drugs - only realising after finding a pinprick on their bodies the next morning.

Closer to home, Essex Police are currently investigating reports of spiking in Colchester, which are believed to have occurred over an eight week period.

One of those was submitted by Emma Benjamin, 39, of Shrub End, whose daughter Shania, 18, fell victim to a suspected spiking.

During a night out in Yates in September with her friends, Shania suddenly collapsed before becoming unresponsive.

“I took her to the hospital myself and by the time we got there she was slowly coming back around, but it was like she was paralysed,” Emma said.

“Her friends said they watched her change in seconds and they have never seen anything like it.

“I never ever want to see anyone go through what Shania did.”

Helen Dunston, 68, also reported her youngest daughter, 27, had collapsed at a bar in the town centre before becoming “like jelly”.

She said: “She could barely stand up and was clearly drugged and she remembered nothing of this the next day.

“Her condition was horrible and we were up with her all night, she was foaming at the mouth, she couldn’t talk and she couldn’t hold herself up.”

Read more >> Woman 'could not move' after suspected Colchester spiking

More recently Isobel Pearce, 19, spoke out after she believed her and her friend’s drinks were spiked.

Like Shania, she had been enjoying an evening of clubbing in Yates in Head Street.

Gazette: Isobel Pearce, 19, in hospital after reportedly being spiked in Yates in ColchesterIsobel Pearce, 19, in hospital after reportedly being spiked in Yates in Colchester

Shortly after taking a sip of their drinks, the pair blacked out before Isobel eventually regained consciousness in the bar’s toilets.

The former Colchester Sixth Form College student initially found herself incapable of moving.

“I blacked out again and the next thing I know me and my friend are being woken and picked up from an alleyway,” said Isobel.

“We were lying on the floor all alone and unconscious and in our own sick.

“My friend has lost all memory from the moment of sipping the drink and mine has vanished.

“This is how unsafe we really are - it seems we really do only have each other.”

Gazette: Emma with daughter Shania, 18, who got illEmma with daughter Shania, 18, who got ill

A spokeswoman for Yates has stressed the safety of its customers will always be the pub chain’s priority - and that is not about to change.

She also reassured revellers enhanced measures are now being put in place to prevent further spiking incidents.

Since telling their stories, other people have spoken about their own harrowing experiences of being spiked and it seems it is not a new phenomenon.

Joanne Halford was targeted when she was 21 during a Thursday evening out at the former Route nightclub in Colchester, and says it impacted her confidence.

“My drink was on the side and I was chatting and laughing with my friend and then the next thing I remember is being out on the street vomiting uncontrollably and then collapsing,” she said.

“Having my drink spiked made me feel vulnerable and scared of the people around me.

“I didn’t go out partying for a good while after it happened and when I plucked up the courage to go out, I decided to go out with my male group of friends.

“I only drank from bottles with a Spike Stopper, but I was nervous and couldn’t enjoy the night.”

Joanne, who is now 38, has blasted those who think taking advantage of others is acceptable.

She said: “I am scared for people clubbing today, especially with the new injected spiking.

“Men and women shouldn’t have to worry about their drinks being spiked or being involuntarily injected with something.

“People who go around spiking others are low lives who get enjoyment out of putting someone through a horrific time.

“They are sick individuals who could potentially kill someone or submit them to an awful sexual assault.”

Read more >> 'Our venues will ban anyone caught spiking' - Group takes zero-tolerance approach

Chelsey Gardner, 42, said she also had a terrifying ordeal 24 years ago while partying at the former Kings nightclub in Colchester.

After speaking with a man inside the bar she let him buy her a drink, but shortly after taking a sip Chelsey started to experience a state of paralysis.

“I stupidly let him go to the bar alone to get it and a short while later I felt like I’d lost complete control - I could hardly stand, I couldn’t talk and I was sick as a pig.

“The doorman picked me up and literally threw me on to the green out the front and then left me there, but luckily my friend found me and a guy drove us to hospital.

“The next day I felt like I’d been hit by a bus, it was awful. I was so careful after that night and I have never let my drink leave my sight.”

Michael Warr, 53, a truck driver, believes he was spiked while on a night out in Colchester town centre eight years.

Gazette: Michael Warr, 53, believes he was once targetedMichael Warr, 53, believes he was once targeted

He said: “I used to go out most weekends drinking when I was not working away and from this night I can remember the start of the evening but from 10pm I cannot remember anything.

“To wake up at midday in hospital was even more of a surprise. If you are drinking anywhere you need to be aware of your drinks.”

Following the recent increase in suspected spiking reports, some campaigners are uniting to call for action.

Rae Bennison, 24, is the vice chairperson of the Essex Medusa Project, which she started up alongside chairwoman Lucy Antonia and director Lauren Shirazi.

Gazette: Rae Bennison, 24, of the Essex Medusa ProjectRae Bennison, 24, of the Essex Medusa Project

The group launched its initiative after experiencing harassment and growing increasingly concerned over the safety of Colchester’s nightlife.

They are now beginning a phased campaign which will see them distribute awareness-raising vinyl decals to venues and train workers.

The activists will also be looking to distribute anti-spiking drink covers and create safe spaces in which anyone who feels threatened can alert a relevant staff member to how they feel.

Rae said: “Colchester seems to be a dangerous place to be at night-time and all of us have experienced street harassment.

“It doesn’t just happen in the unlit streets, it happens everywhere.

“This has included the crowded High Street, so we felt this project was very much needed.”

To find out more about the Essex Medusa Project visit

Anyone who believes their drink has been spiked should contact Essex Police on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.