Date Rape Drugs What Is the Truth; Yesterday the Mail Reported That a Nursery Nurse Killed Herself after Falling Victim to a Date Rape Drug,but Just How Widespread Is Their Use? Here a Special Investigation Reveals What a Devasting Effect They Can Have on Innocent Lives

Article excerpt

Byline: RICHARD PENDELBURY

AS YOU read this, the man responsible for the death of trainee nursery nurse Emma Marsden is walking the streets, free. He will never be jailed for her death. The chances are he will never even come before the courts. Yet he killed her as surely as if he had stabbed her through the heart.

Emma Marsden was just 18 - a kind, pretty, popular young girl who should have had her whole life ahead of her.

She died because, like most other women, she thought she could safely go out for a few drinks.

But as she celebrated a friend's birthday at a Warwickshire club rapist spiked her drink. All she could remember afterwards was waking up in a strange flat, knowing someone had had intercourse with her, without her She was so distraught she could not even speak of the attack. On April 2, she died from an overdose of coproxamol. She simply could not live with the aftermath of her ordeal.

Emma's story, which was reported on the front page of yesterday's Mail, has rightly shocked and saddened the whole nation. But what is even more horrifying is that what happened to her is far from unique.

Figures released recently by a charity which supports drug rape victims show that Emma was just one of thousands of British victims of this sickening crime.

Of those who have contacted the Roofie Foundation, (named after the slang term for one of these drugs) a staggering 757 people were attacked last year, compared with just 39 in 1990. Fewer than 10pc of them reported the crime to police.

Similarly, Emma's attacker is by no means the only rapist still free to prey on other women - and it isn't just teenagers in nightclubs who are at risk. Women of all ages, and from all walks of life, are being targeted in every imaginable venue, from wine bars to house parties.

And the rapists spiking their drinks with drugs such as Rohypnol and GHB, which cause loss of inhibition, increased libido and memory loss in the victims, often aren't strangers. In up to 60 pc of cases, they are known to the women - and, sometimes, men - they attack.

WHEN she read Emma's story in yesterday's Mail, fellow victim Lynda Greenwood, a solicitor and cofounder of the Roofie Foundation, was deeply saddened, but not surprised.

Shortly after she was attacked in 1997, Lynda, now 45, was the first drug rape victim to waive her anonymity in order to warn other women about the crime. She was attacked by a man she had met through a dating agency.

Lynda helped to set up the Roofie Foundation (named after one of the drugs' street names), to counsel other victims and push the authorities to protect the public.

Since then, Lynda has listened to the suffering of hundreds like Emma.

'Sadly, it is not unusual for victims to feel suicidal,' she says.

'It's harrowing enough being raped, but if you have been drugged you don't even remember the details of the attack, and have to live with the fact you might never know exactly what happened to you.

'You might not even know who the attacker was, let alone have any hope of bringing him to justice.

'In addition, the drugs make you feel very ill. I remember feeling as if had a cross between a migraine and a dreadful hangover. I also felt as if I wasn't really here. I felt as if I was two people. One of them had left my body, done something over which I had no control and which I couldn't even remember properly, and then come back. I felt like I was going mad.

'I felt isolated, numb and guilty that perhaps it was somehow my fault for accepting a drink. Helping other victims has helped me to get over it, but some never get over it.

'Sometimes, a victim's experience sounds so farfetched that even people close to them just do not believe what has happened. One woman told me that her marriage had ended because her husband thought she was telling a "tall story". …