Mother of girl left her writhing in pain gives shattering account

‘What’s wrong with her?’: Mother of girl, 18, who is sure her daughter’s drink was spiked and left her writhing in pain in hospital gives shattering account that is every parent’s worst nightmare amid scurrilous claims the teen took drugs herself

  • Footage of Claire Taplin writhing in her hospital bed was shared by her mother
  • Millie and her mother have now spoken about what led up to harrowing footage
  • They claim Millie was spiked while enjoying herself at a club with her friends
  • However, they are now defending themselves with some doubting Millie’s story

There was a distinct party atmosphere as teenager Millie Taplin celebrated the end of lockdown restrictions with four school friends — and her first ever night on the town.

It was the first time they’d seen each other in months. The first time they could properly celebrate their 18th birthdays together — not to mention the very first time they’d been to a nightclub. Having started with cocktails at a local pub, the five young women made their way on to the dance floor at MooMoo Clubrooms in Southend, Essex, last Saturday.

‘We were having such a great time,’ says Millie, whose actual 18th birthday last November was marked with a quiet family meal at home. ‘Until someone decided to ruin it.’

Indeed, the photos on Millie’s phone record happy images typical of thousands of young adults, for whom the pandemic put all socialising and teenage rites of passage on hold.

Claire (left) was so traumatised she decided to film her daughter’s ordeal — initially intending to show Millie (right) once she’d recovered, as a warning to be more careful in future. But when Millie saw the film she urged her mum to put it on a Crimewatch Facebook group to warn other parents and young people

But it is the last image from Millie’s night out, taken in A&E by her devastated mother Claire, which will haunt parents across the country as their children hit the clubs next weekend to celebrate A-level results.

Torn from her bed at 1.30am by a frantic phone call from one of Millie’s friends, Claire, 48, had raced to Southend Hospital after being told her youngest daughter had collapsed after her drink was spiked.

‘Honestly, I thought I’d walked into a scene from the horror film, The Exorcist. I stood thinking, “Oh my god, what is this? What’s she been given?” ’ says NHS worker Claire, a mother of four. ‘Her hands were clawed, her jaw was clenched and her face so distorted she looked possessed. I’d never seen anything as horrific as this in my life. I didn’t even know what drug could do that.’

Claire was so traumatised she decided to film her daughter’s ordeal — initially intending to show Millie once she’d recovered, as a warning to be more careful in future. But when Millie saw the film she urged her mum to put it on a Crimewatch Facebook group to warn other parents and young people.

The reaction to images from the film, which went viral this week, has been overwhelming for the Taplin family, with many praising their bravery. But mother and daughter have also been stung by some negative responses, with some doubting whether Millie’s drink really was spiked, instead reckoning she was either intoxicated from alcohol or just too scared to admit to her mother a far more likely scenario.

The reaction to images from the film, which went viral this week, has been overwhelming for the Taplin family, with many praising their bravery

For images of Millie’s clawed hands, clenched jaw and facial gurning suggested, according to those in the know, the unpleasant side-effects associated with popular stimulant party drugs such as MDMA and ecstasy.

Usually, sedative ‘date-rape’ drugs such as Rohypnol or GHB (gamma hydroxybutyrate), which depress the central nervous system, are more commonly linked to drink spiking to render victims incapable of fending off attack. No one knows exactly what Millie might have ingested, as the family say blood tests were not taken on her admission to hospital for reasons that are still unclear to them.

Millie, who is now fully recovered and has just started a new job as a carer, insists: ‘I have never willingly taken any drug. I have never wanted to. So for that to happen was very frightening. If my friends hadn’t looked after me, the outcome could have been very different. When Mum showed me the video of how badly I’d been affected, it was so horrendous I wanted to make sure no other person went through that. I would never have agreed for the video to be made public if I’d knowingly taken any drugs.’

Claire adds: ‘We’ve had a few people make comments to Millie like, “Oh you’re just saying that because you’re too frightened to tell your mum you’ve taken drugs”.

‘It’s laughable. People don’t know my daughter. I know 100 per cent that someone put something in her drink because she’s not the sort of girl to experiment. This was the first time she’d been out. If she’d taken something, she would have told me. I know that’s what every parent thinks, but people can think and say what they like. If [seeing the images] stops one other girl from going through what Millie did, then it will have been worth it. Everyone hears about drink spiking but they never see what it can do.’ So what could have had such a dramatic effect on Millie?

According to her mother, hospital staff ‘thought she might have been given some kind of paralysing drug and then something to knock her out, which hadn’t worked as she was fully aware, though pretty much paralysed’.

It’s a truly frightening thought — and terrible luck that such a thing happened to Millie on her first foray into socialising after lockdown.

As with so many other teenagers, her life had been put on hold during the pandemic. Furloughed from her job as an apprentice hairdresser, she had no social life to speak of.

A week before the girls’ night out, she’d gone through a traumatic break-up with her long-term boyfriend. One friend suggested they go clubbing to cheer her up.

‘We were having such a great time,’ says Millie (right), whose actual 18th birthday last November was marked with a quiet family meal at home. ‘Until someone decided to ruin it’

‘I’d had a horrible week, so I wanted to go out and have some fun — none of us wanted to get drunk out of our heads, just to dance. We’d never been to a club before and didn’t even know if we’d enjoy it,’ she says. Claire recalls: ‘My last text message to her was, “Don’t put your drink down, be careful”. It was her first time clubbing, so I was worried.’

According to police figures obtained via Freedom of Information requests, drink spiking reports increased 108 per cent between 2015 and 2018, with 1,039 cases recorded. Police believe many more go unreported because victims fear they won’t be believed. In Essex, 33 reports were made in the first three months of 2020. In 2016 there were just 14 cases recorded there for the entire year.

Millie insists she was very careful, never letting her drink out of her sight. She bought a fresh drink rather than return to unattended half-drunk glasses after she’d been on the dance floor. Over the course of the night, she says she ordered around three or four vodka and lemonades but did not finish them all and was not drunk. But she admits she let her guard down when a friendly young man she’d chatted to earlier that night approached her on the dance floor with two drinks in his hand. ‘He told me one of the drinks was for his mate and then said, “Do you want to try a sip of mine?”’ she remembers, bitterly regretting accepting his offer.

‘He didn’t come across as eager for me to drink it. If he had been it would have raised my concern, he just seemed quite casual about it. I was a bit tipsy, so I do think my judgment was a little bit clouded.

‘When you are in that situation, and he seemed so lovely and nice, you just think it’s OK. I only took a few sips, but that was the only drink I had that night which I hadn’t bought myself.’

Millie is reluctant to point the finger of blame at the young man, who wasn’t present when she later collapsed outside the club. She doesn’t know for certain that the drink he offered her was spiked, or — if it was — that he even knew. For all she knows, someone else might have slipped something into the glass without him realising. The terrifying effects, though not immediate, were soon felt.

But mother and daughter have also been stung by some negative responses, with some doubting whether Millie’s drink really was spiked, instead reckoning she was either intoxicated from alcohol or just too scared to admit to her mother a far more likely scenario

She recalls: ‘I told my friends, “I feel a bit hot and sick, can we go outside for some fresh air?” At this point I did think maybe I’d had too much to drink. But after I was sick my eyesight started going fuzzy.’

So worried were Millie’s friends that they called her older sister Sadie, 28. When she arrived, Sadie took one look at her younger sister and decided to take her to hospital. ‘She said “Get up” and I just couldn’t. My legs felt so weak and my friends and my sister had to carry me to the car. My speech became slurred and I was struggling to get my words out.

‘At the hospital, they put me in a wheelchair because I just couldn’t walk. I was in such a bad way I couldn’t tell them what had happened.’

Meanwhile, at that precise moment back at home, Claire had woken from her sleep filled with an instinctive worry for her daughter.

‘I went to check my phone and the moment I picked it up it started ringing,’ she recalls. ‘It was one of her friends who told me, “Millie’s been spiked and she’s in A&E with Sadie”. I immediately phoned Sadie and could hear everything in the background. You couldn’t understand a thing Millie was saying, she was just making noises. I was shouting down the phone, “What’s wrong with her? What’s wrong with her?” I was panicking. Then I drove straight to the hospital.’

Claire was horrified to see the state Millie was in and sat by her bed for the next two hours, holding her hand, reassuring her and feeding her orange juice as medical staff waited for the effects of the drugs to wear off. By around 3.45am, Millie was considered well enough to go home nd Claire was told to bring her back if her condition worsened. But to their relief — Millie continued to recover.

Essex Police confirmed that they were investigating a report of an alleged drink spiking made at 3.30am on Sunday August 1, after a woman was taken to hospital. No arrests have been made and inquiries are ongoing. A MooMoo Clubrooms spokesman said: ‘We urge all customers to be present when their drink is ordered and that they do not leave it unattended. The alleged drink spiked appears to have been accepted from a person known to the lady affected and while it was not reported to us at the time, we are assisting the police who are dealing with the matter.’

Experts say it is possible that just a few sips of a drink spiked with a drug such as MDMA could trigger such an extreme physical reaction.

Michael Linnell, a public health expert specialising in drug and alcohol abuse, said: ‘Clenched jaws and gurning are classic symptoms of MDMA. There are other empathogens (which enhance feelings of empathy and euphoria) like mephedrone which have that effect too, but MDMA is the most likely.

‘The situation just gets worse every year as ecstasy and MDMA become more super-strength. The powder can be 80 per cent purity. You would not need much of that in a drink for side-effects, especially if you were a small, young woman inexperienced in taking drugs.’ He added that hospitals had different policies for patients admitted after suspected drug use and often medics were more likely to treat symptoms as toxicology tests take a long time to come back.

Southend Hospital said that ‘due to the vast number of potential drugs to test for, toxicology tests are not routinely taken in A&E in these instances.

‘This did not alter the treatment the patient received, which was appropriate for their symptoms.’

As for Claire, she tries not to think about what might have been. ‘Whoever did this, I hope they see the results,’ she says. ‘It was the most horrendous night of my life, thinking I might lose my daughter.’

Millie, meanwhile, says: ‘Physically I feel fine now, but I feel very unsafe and nervous about going out again. I can’t stress enough to everyone going out this weekend just how aware and careful you have to be.

‘The scariest part is not knowing who did this or why. I just don’t want any other young person to end up in hospital tomorrow morning in the same state I was left in.’

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