The number of women in Spain reporting being pricked with medical needles at nightclubs or parties has risen to 60, according to the country’s interior minister.
Fernando Grande-Marlaska told state broadcaster TVE that police were investigating whether the “inoculation of toxic substances” was aimed at subduing the victims and committing a crime, primarily of a sexual nature.
He added that the investigation will also seek to determine if there is another motivation, such as creating insecurity or intimidating women.
Waves of needle sticks at music events have also baffled authorities in France, Britain, Belgium and the Netherlands. French police have tallied more than 400 reports in recent months and said the motive for the beatings was unclear. In many cases, it was also unclear whether the victims had been injected with the substance.
Spanish police have not confirmed any cases of sexual assault or robbery linked to the mysterious beatings.
They said 23 of the recently reported needlestick attacks occurred in the Catalonia region of northeastern Spain, which borders France.
So far, Spanish police have found evidence of drugs in one victim, a 13-year-old girl from the northern city of Gijón who had ecstasy in her system. Local media reported that the girl was quickly rushed to hospital by her parents, who were near her when she felt pricked with something sharp.
In an interview with TVE broadcast on Wednesday, Spain’s Justice Minister Pilar Llop urged anyone who thinks they’ve been shot without their consent to report to the police because being stabbed with a needle “is a serious act of violence against women”.
Spanish health authorities said they were updating their protocols to improve the ability to detect any substance possibly injected into victims. Toxicology screening protocols call for blood or urine tests within 12 hours of a suspected attack, Llop said.
The guidelines advise victims to call emergency services immediately and get to a health center as soon as possible.