Fact Check

UK Needle Attack

Was a woman in the UK jabbed with an unknown substance by a panhandler?

Published Jul 26, 2011

Claim:   A woman in UK was jabbed with an unknown substance by a panhandler.


Example:   [Collected via e-mail, February 2007]

Dear All,

I would like to bring to your attention a terrible incident which happened to me on Friday 2nd February 2007 at approximately 18.05. I had left work (8 King Street, Manchester) and I proceeded up King St. There were plenty of people around finishing work for the weekend and about half way up King Street (outside The White Company) a woman had come out of the walk through from St Ann's Square and said to me she was having a terrible day as she had just found her husband in bed with another woman. I thought it was strange that she would tell a complete stranger this information so I carried on walking. She then stopped me and asked for 32 pence to catch the bus home.

I was immediately suspicious of the situation as I would imagine a bus to anywhere would be more than 32 pence and she wasn't the stereotypical person that normally asks you for change for the bus. She was clean, well dressed and well spoken. She also had a handbag. Feeling uncomfortable with the situation I agreed to give her some change, just so I could get away as promptly as possible. I gave her what change I had which was approximately 80 pence. She then said she was grateful and she'd send me £20 back. I thought she was going to ask for my address (which I wouldn't have given) but she didn't. She said thank you and squeezed my arm as a token of appreciation. As she walked away she dropped some of the money & didn't retrieve it which certainly aroused suspicions; if she didn't need the money why did she stop me?

I proceeded up King St towards Cross Street but realised something was wrong. My left hand side had gone completely numb and my arm went into a spasm. I knew she had done something to me when she touched my arm.

I needed to tell someone quickly what had happened as I assumed in a few seconds I would be unconscious and what I assume would be her accomplice would be waiting for me to be completely helpless and do the unthinkable to me. I managed to get my phone out of pocket and just pressed last number re-dial.

At the same time I stopped a lady and realised I sounded stupid at what I was saying but she could also hear me on the phone so she realised I was genuine. I started to lose the power of speech. She stayed with me and we got to Bootle Street police station.

My arm was hurting but whatever I was injected with couldn't have penetrated completely so I got the feeling back about 10 minutes later. The fact it had a coat, suit jacket and blouse to get through must've saved me. I had the smallest scratch mark on my arm, there is an identical one on my coat and suit jacket.

It will probably be impossible to tell what I was injected with, and although I still await the results of blood tests they are only checking for diseases I may have been given. The police are confident it will be caught on CCTV and I await father information in that regard.

The reason for sending this e-mail is to please ask you to warn EVERYONE you know, not just women but men too and ask them to tell girlfriends, wives, sisters & mothers. The message needs to get through to be extra vigilant.

I was one of the lucky ones (blood results pending) and if I can make people aware of these people then I'd like to think it can make a difference.


Origins:   Every now and then, one of the lurid "This could happen to you!" warnings circulated in e-mail turns out to have something to it. This is one that might, although at this point we're keeping an open


According to the BBC, an unnamed 32-year-old female victim was attacked in the manner described in the e-mail reproduced above around 6 p.m. on 2 February 2007 in Manchester, England. After being stopped in the street and accosted for funds by a woman not known to her, she gave some of her pocket change to the stranger, whereupon her assailant grabbed her arm and scratched it with an unknown implement. The victim immediately felt unwell and was taken to a nearby hospital for treatment, but was later discharged.

This is a curious tale; despite the BBC article about the incident, we're not sure the attack happened. The BBC piece was drawn from what the victim told police had happened to her, but independent confirmation of the story's elements is lacking. There were no witnesses to the attack (or least none are reported to have come forward). No follow-up accounts have appeared in the news with information about the results of the blood tests. There have been no reports of similar assaults on others or of other curious encounters with anyone matching the description of the mysterious panhandler.

The dearth of reportage of additional assaults in Manchester might be due to this occurrence's having been an isolated incident, but lacking some element of independent confirmation, we'll leave this one as "Undetermined" for now. It is worth pointing out that similar attacks have been reported in other places at other times (e.g., a May 1999 assault in Towson, Maryland, by a panhandler wielding a syringe upon a woman at a gas station).

Barbara "sticking point" Mikkelson

Last updated:   25 July 2011


    Taylor, Paul.   "Police Probe 'Syringe Attack.'"

    Manchester Metro News.   9 February 2007.

    BBC News.   "Victim 'Injected' in Arm by Woman."

    6 February 2007.

David Mikkelson founded the site now known as snopes.com back in 1994.

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