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SEX SHOPS SELL BANNED DATE RAPE DRUG FOR pounds 15; Dealers flout law to peddle it on net too.

Byline: MIKE HAMILTON

A DATE-rape drug used in a series of sex attacks on women is easily available days after the Government announced it was to be completely banned.

A Sunday Mirror investigator was able to buy GHB - also known as Heaven, Easy Lay and Blue Juice - for just pounds 15 a bottle from a sex shop which is blatantly flouting the law.

It is currently illegal to sell GHB but legal to possess it. However, earlier this month the Home Office announced that it would also make possession a crime by next summer. The move follows fears it is being increasingly used to spike women's drinks before sex assaults.

GHB is a powerful aphrodisiac, and it also amplifies the effects of alcohol or drugs. When combined with drink the colourless, odourless liquid can knock victims unconscious in 10 minutes. It has been linked to four deaths in the UK.

Just two days after the ban was announced a Sunday Mirror reporter was able to buy two bottles of GHB for pounds 15 each at a seedy sex shop in London's Soho.

After asking about GHB at a couple of shops, our reporter was directed to Seymore's Books in Peter Street and told to "ask for Jason".

He entered the shop which stocks hard-core porn magazines, DVDs and videos and asked for a bottle of GHB.

The shop worker, who confirmed his name was Jason, said: "If you come back tomorrow, I should have a delivery."

The next day the reporter returned and shop owner Steve Mendoza was there. He asked for a tub of "Heaven" and Mendoza replied: "How many do you want? I can do you two for pounds 25 or three for pounds 30." He then reached under the counter and produced a brown tub, saying: "There you go, that's pounds 15 mate."

Our reporter left clutching the tub which had the label "Blue Juice". The label warned: "Contents amplify the effects of drugs. Do not use with alcohol. Produces a sexual and ecstasy-type high. Take care when using."

Minutes later our reporter went back into the shop and asked for the drug by its proper name, GHB. Mendoza said: "Are you sure you don't want to take the three for pounds 30? You can always come back later, we're open till three.

"You'll be back for more - you know you will."

Again we left with a tub of GHB - feared to be just as easily available at some other sex shops around Britain.

Home Office Ministers decided to ban the sale of GHB following a recommendation by the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs. High doses cause drowsiness and, in extreme cases, fatal respiratory arrest. GHB is sold on the Internet for as little as pounds 5 a bottle. It is among half a dozen drugs that have been used in date-rapes in Britain. But it is the only one not already subject to tight controls.

GHB - chemical name Gamma Hydroxybutyrate - is seen as an ideal weapon for rapists because it can be mixed into drinks undetected.

It causes euphoria and makes the victim compliant. It often leaves her unconscious with such severe memory loss she has no idea what has happened.

Mary Newton, of the Forensic Science Service, said: "Drugs like GHB put the victim in an unconscious state, giving the rapists time to cover their tracks."

By the time victims come around, traces of the drug tend to disappear from their bodies. GHB is also used as a rave drug by revellers. At least four people using it for this purpose have died in irreversible comas since 1995.

In London, police have launched a "Who's watching your drink?" campaign to boost awareness of the use of GHB in date-rape. More than 100 date-rapes involving drugs have been reported in the capital in the past year.

The Sunday Mirror last night confronted Mendoza at his shop and accused him of illegally selling GHB to our reporter. He replied: "I wouldn't know - I can't remember. My memory doesn't go that far back."

When we warned Mendoza we would expose him as selling the drug, he said: "If you do, give it as much publicity as you can, man.

"You know that way we will sell more - just don't quote me."

Our dossier on Mendoza will now be handed over to police.

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RAPE DRUG FOR SALE: GHB and Mendoza in his seedy Soho shop
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Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:Dec 30, 2001
Words:740
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