At 7pm, on the evening of October 8, Caro Nyakaro made her way to an entertainment spot in Hurlingham, Nairobi for a business meeting with a female friend.
At around 10pm, Nyakaro’s friend received an emergency call and had to leave, leaving Nyakaro on her own.
A few minutes later, a pleasant, light-skinned, smartly dressed man joined her.
“He was easy to talk to,” she recalls, and in addition, he seemed to know her because he referred to her by name – something that the 38-year-old karaoke host and emcee didn’t think unusual because of the nature of her work.
She remembers leaving him to watch her drink when she went to the ladies and when she came back, her drink seemed a bit cloudy.
But because he seemed so nice and she imagined that it couldn’t happen to her, she went on to drink it.
When she got up to leave, the ‘gentleman’ offered to drop her home saying that he was headed the same way.
The last thing that Nyakaro remembers about that night is getting into his car at the club parking lot.
She woke up in her house in Lang’ata 18 hours later, her cash, phone and ATM cards gone, and with no recollection of the events of the past night.
TRYING TO CONNECT THE DOTS
When she posted on social media for those who saw her that night to help her figure out what had happened, she learnt that she had been spotted in town and in South B, and she had seemed extremely drunk.
On checking with her bank and mobile subscriber, she was informed that she had withdrawn money from her bank account, her mobile account and then taken out a loan on M-Shwari and withdrawn it too.
While she is still shaken two months on, Nyakaro considers herself lucky that the other numerous bad things that could have happened to her while she was in that zombie state did not happen.
The police were able to retrieve an image of the man from the closed circuit cameras at the ATM’s where he made the withdrawals but he remains at large.
Just three weeks before this, in an interesting variation, a 29-year-old woman, who for the purpose of this story we will call Doris, helped a criminal rob her.
Like Nyakaro, she was out enjoying her drink by herself at a bar not very far from where she lives.
She remembers ordering three glasses of wine and making friendly conversation with a man by the counter.
The next thing she remembers is waking up on the couch in her living room at midday the next day.
Most of the electronics in the house and some of her husband’s clothes and shoes were missing.
She suspects that she ingested something with her drink because she had a sharp headache, nausea and a running stomach and she felt weak for the next couple of days.
The estate she lives in only has security at the main gate and when she enquired, she was told that she had come in a car with a man.
She was conscious but completely inebriated and he seemed like a friend helping her home and they had asked no questions.
It appears that her ‘friend’ had led her to her home where he had cleaned out the electronics before disappearing into the night leaving her to sleep off the drugs.
When she weighed her priorities, Doris chose to let the incident lie because she says that she doubts that her husband of eight months would have understood how she ended up bringing a stranger into their home.
Instead of going to the police, Doris instead went about hurriedly replacing the things she had lost before her husband who was away at the time got back.
“Even if I had gone to the police, it would have been impossible to furnish them with details as I remember very little of him,” she says.
Nyakaro and Doris are just two of tens of people who according to Tony* (identity concealed) are drugged in clubs in the city every few months.
The 30-year-old who makes a living mixing drinks at a bar in Lang’ata, Nairobi, says that he has heard about such stories many times.
While there are those in the profession who are honest and hardworking, Tony says that he cannot vouch for all bartenders.
He reveals that for the right amount of money, there is the lot that will accept cash to slip drugs in drinks or to turn a blind eye when it happens.
It would be unhealthy to go around in a paranoid state. But it also would be impractical to expect all bar tenders to look out for you by refusing such offers.
Unless it is your local where you all know each other by name, he advises merrymakers to be wary even of the bar tenders.
“That second that you turn to say ‘hello’ to someone is enough time to spike a drink,” he cautions.
One terrifying thing about these women’s unfortunate accounts is how passive and suggestible these drugs render a victim.
Both women reported willingly leaving with their attackers and according to bank records in Nyakaro’s case, willingly giving her bank and phone access codes.
Before passing out, victims suffered a period where they became suggestible puppets, helping the criminals steal from them.
The other sinister effect of these drugs is the loss of short term memory, leaving victims with scanty descriptions making it easy for criminals to move easily from one victim to the next.
LEGAL DRUGS INTO CRIMINAL HANDS
According to Dr. Paul Mwaniki a pharmacist from the Pharmaceutical Society of Kenya, these incidents are a result of normal prescription medicines used to treat conditions like anxiety, insomnia and depression having found their way into criminal hands.
He explains that confusion or dizziness and memories failing to register are some of the body’s normal reactions to these medicines but how each individual reacts depends on the body and the dosage.
He observes that some of these trance-like states that victims go into before the drugs take full effect are a result of these drugs being mixed with alcohol. Once the drugs have taken full effect the victim falls deep asleep.
The upside, he says, is that one can usually feel the effects kick off when the drugs begin taking effect.
You will experience a higher level of lightheadedness in comparison to the amount of drinks consumed.
Unfortunately, fighting back becomes tricky because owing to the way drugs are designed to work, when you get agitated, they take effect more quickly.
TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF
As much as the government is working on a legal framework to stop quack pharmacists from operating, these drugs are cheap and easily accessible, even to criminals. The only way to stay a step ahead is to look out for yourself.
“Take care not to go out alone and keep the company of people you trust,” he advises.
Sophie, 26, cannot emphasise on the importance of keeping company that you trust enough.
Six weeks ago, she joined two male friends who she thought she could trust for a couple of drinks but by the end of that night, she had gotten way more than she had bargained for.
In the bar in Parklands, Nairobi, she found her ‘friends’ in the company of two other men who were introduced to her as clients her friends were carrying on a business transaction with.
So as to give them some space to carry on with their business meeting, Sophie spent most of the night on the dance floor coming to the table occasionally to sip her drink.
She woke up at 9am the following with only bits of memories from the night before; she was dancing with one of her friends’ business friend at one point and being put into a taxi at another.
The night had been dry but her hair was tangled the following morning as if she had been in contact with water. Also, she felt a bit sore in her privates.
“I do not know exactly what happened, I can only speculate. I had sex with someone that night, probably the business friend who had shown interest in me.
I was probably given up by my friends to hurry up the close of the business deal,” she says.
Unfortunately, with her mind still aflutter with whatever had been slipped in her drink, Sophie appears to have taken a shower, or to have been washed, leaving her with little proof of what exactly happened.