Don't go out alone in Wan Chai - you could be in for a big surprise

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 20 February, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 20 February, 2011, 12:00am

If you are thinking of having a few beers in Wan Chai tonight, you'd better remember to keep an eye on your drink - revellers have been drugged and robbed in recent weeks.

Since the start of the year four men have contacted the Sunday Morning Post to say their drinks were spiked while they were downing a few in Hong Kong's notorious nightlife hub. Over the past five weeks, three expatriates and a tourist said it happened to them. They would only speak anonymously about their ordeals.

One man was awoken - lying in the street in Causeway Bay - by police in the early hours of the morning. He had been robbed of all his cash. His last memory was of drinking in Neptune 2 nightclub in Wan Chai.

Another man woke in an alleyway in Wan Chai to find his iPhone stolen. He had been drinking in the Bridge bar, but had no memory of what happened in between.

The other two men can only remember drinking in Wan Chai and then waking up at home with total memory loss - they also had been drinking in Neptune 2 and the Bridge. One lost all the money in his wallet while the other had his iPhone stolen. Only cash and iPhones were taken and not their credit cards.

All four men had blackouts and were still feeling the ill-effects of whatever they had been drugged with 24 hours later. They had been in places that sex workers frequent.

From 2004 to 2007, Wan Chai police recorded 44 theft cases in which the victims (mostly foreign nationals) were approached by sex workers while they were having drinks in bars, but there was no evidence that drugs had been involved. Since 2008, toxicology tests confirmed the presence of drugs in three theft cases. But the problem is that victims do not report it.

None of the men reported the incidents to the police as they believed that it was too late to do anything, though one did so he could claim insurance on his stolen iPhone.

It is thought that 'date-rape' drugs such as Rohypnol and gamma hydroxybutyrate (GHB) were slipped into their drinks. Rohypnol and GHB incapacitate and severely disorient victims who soon lose consciousness after taking them. It can also produce 'anterograde amnesia', which means that individuals do not remember events they experienced while under the effects of these drugs. The sedative effects start 30 to 45 minutes after the drug is ingested.

These drugs depress the central nervous and respiratory systems, and if a dose is too big, it can lead to memory loss, coma and even death.

'Someone is going to die,' one of the men said. 'One minute you're chatting to some girls and having fun, the next you wake up on the street after being robbed. It's a scary experience.' All four men had either gone out drinking with friends but got split up from them, or were drinking in Wan Chai on their own.

'If you've had too much to drink and look to be on your own, then you're a prime target for these ladies,' another of the victims said. 'It's unlikely you'll get targeted if you are with other people. If you're on your own, you'll not make any new friends in Wan Chai.'

A police spokesman said that anyone who suspected they had been drugged and some of their property stolen should contact the police so proper investigations. 'As a standing arrangement, police regularly conduct crime prevention operations in Wan Chai bar areas especially in the small hours of the morning,' the spokesman said.

Bar operators were encouraged to contact them should they discover suspicious activities at their premises, police said.

Taking their toll

From 2004 to 2007, Wan Chai police recorded 44 theft cases in which the victims were approached in bars: 44