Belfast Telegraph

UK Website Of The Year

A glass left unattended, a sudden wooziness and then I crashed to the concrete... I suffered a date rape drug nightmare just like Eireann Kerr

Frances Burscough tells how a night out at a concert ended in an ambulance dash to A&E after her drink was spiked

Published 27/04/2015

Eireann Kerr with her medal after completing the London Marathon
Eireann Kerr with her medal after completing the London Marathon
Dr Eireann Kerr

What happened to Dr Eireann Kerr makes for a truly horrifying read. An honest, respectable, responsible physician goes for a rare night out with colleagues and wakes up in a prison cell, covered in bruises and facing prosecution for an assault on police officers, of which she has absolutely no memory.

Tests show that her complete memory blackout and out-of-character behaviour were the result of being drugged against her will and without her knowledge through her drink being spiked. Nevertheless, the law ignores this fact and she is convicted. The repercussions to her personal life, her reputation and, potentially, her career are devastating.

It sounds like the plot of far-fetched thriller, doesn't it?

For me it isn't far-fetched at all, because I experienced something very similar in 2011.

Here is what happened to me - although I have omitted names and places for reasons of courtesy and legality.

A friend had bought me tickets to see a band in Belfast. We arrived early, but even then it was standing room only. After buying our drinks - a half of cider for me, a Guinness for him - we found a space to stand on stairs overlooking the stage.

Just before the concert started I decided to go outside for a cigarette. I'm not a habitual smoker but I do like one occasionally with a drink. At this particular place, to access the smoking area you have to go out of the main entrance and down some steps, momentarily stepping onto the public street in the process. As it is against the law for drinks to be taken onto the street you are asked to leave it on a table next to the doorway.

"Could you, or my friend, not just pass my drink down to me once I'm on the smoking patio?" I asked the burly bouncer.

"Sorry, luv, rules are rules," he replied.

So, reluctantly, I left my drink on a shelf next to the exit and went outside for a smoke. When I came back in five minutes later I grabbed my drink and went back to enjoy the performance.

Dr Eireann Kerr
Dr Eireann Kerr

About half-an-hour later, when the concert was in full swing, I suddenly felt woozy. The room started to spin and I felt like my legs were giving way. I sat down on the stairs for a few minutes and then attempted to stand up. My knees buckled under me and I crashed to the floor, pulling an unsuspecting passer-by with me in the process. My friend, who looked horrified, scooped me up and steered me towards the exit. What happened next is all a blur. I still have difficulty recalling it in any real order or detail.

Apparently, after staggering through the crowd like a drunken floozie, I finally made it outside the venue where I momentarily lost consciousness. My eyes rolled back in my head and I went crashing to the concrete, hitting every extremity on the way down and almost dragging my friend down too.

Naturally a crowd gathered to gawp and speculate while my friend phoned for an ambulance. I kept opening my eyes and trying to speak and stand up but I'd lost control of my legs and was slurring my words.

I drifted in and out of consciousness, attempted to stand up again (momentarily mortified by the scene I was causing) and fell backwards this time, hitting the back of my head on the way down.

The ambulance arrived. Once inside, I collapsed completely, but not before rolling off the trolley and taking assorted tubes and wires - along with what remained of my dignity - with me.

Fortunately, my friend stayed with me the whole time which is just as well, because I was completely incapable of anything. When the paramedics saw what a sorry state I was in they immediately whisked me off to A&E.

Several hours and assorted tests later, little of which I remember, I finally started to recover my faculties and, after being put on a drip, given an injection and a lot of oxygen, I was allowed home with a caution that I'd feel dreadful for the next couple of days.

The medical conclusion was that I'd had my drink "spiked" - effectively meaning poisoned - while it was left unattended.

Apparently the doctor on call that night said that­ this is not a rare occurrence. In that particular hospital, they were presented with numerous cases each week, originating from assorted popular Belfast city centre pubs and clubs.

They didn't have the time or the resources to investigate and determine exactly what drug was used, but the symptoms of my reaction suggested that it was some kind of barbiturate.

As to who did it, or why, I will never know. And that in itself has been the stuff of nightmares ever since. The paramedics told my friend they see this happening all the time, particularly at weekends. They speculated that I was probably being watched by my poisoner, for the sick and twisted thrill of seeing a complete stranger collapse and lose all control, like a broken, unstringed puppet.

It was also quite likely that he or she would have followed me outside and may even have "helped" in some way in the unfolding drama.

Of course, compared to Dr Eireann, I got off lightly. I was saved from a far worse outcome by two factors. The first was that I realised quickly that something was wrong, alarm bells rang out and I didn't finish the drink. The second is that my friend took care of me until I had fully recovered the following day. He was able to fill in all the blanks in my memory.

Thank God for that, I thought, when I read this latest story. Had I been separated from my friends - even for a few minutes - and then collapsed amid total strangers, who knows what might have happened?

As it is, I still have nightmares about it and feel vulnerable and anxious in crowds.

For poor Dr Eireann Kerr, the nightmare that began that evening in 2013 still hasn't ended. The fact that the presence of a so-called 'date rape drug' in a person's bloodstream is not admissible in law as a defence against disorderly behaviour is a travesty.

I'm just hoping that the publicity this case has raised will help Dr Kerr win her appeal against her conviction and avoid being struck off the medical register. I, for one, have already signed the Justice for Eireann petition.

Belfast Telegraph

Read More

From Belfast Telegraph