Motorhome gas attacks do they really happen?

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Motorhome Gas Attack

There cannot be many people who have not heard the stories of motorhomers being gassed at French and Spanish motorway service stations. Stories spread rapidly, with more or less the same story being re-told. Often just the people and places changing.

We recall and spread these stories because they frighten us. The thought of being asleep in a motorhome at the mercy of an intruder while they rob us, would fill anyone with dread. Waking up to discover that you have been robbed, and that the robber had to be right there in the motorhome with you, just defies all logic, How do you explain it? How was it possible to have been robbed without waking? However, we have heard that some people have been gassed and then robbed so this is the only logical explanation; we were gassed! Except it is not logical at all, how did the robbers get the gas into the motorhome? How did they know how much to put in? How did they ensure that all the occupants, no matter their differing body-weights, got just the right dose so as not to kill them? If this substance is easy to administer and leaves no after effects then why is it not used in medicine? Why do the crooks that possess this ‘wonder gas’ restrict its use to a few British holiday makers and the odd lorry driver?

I think that people assume gas when there is no clear evidence. Maybe this is the right assumption to make, but in my professional opinion, based on the evidence I have seen to date, I think the gas explanation is used too quickly and without thinking it through. Thousands of people wake at home to find that they have been robbed, I have not heard it suggested that gas is used. Maybe it has.

The fact is, we often do wake up, and there are hundreds of cases where motorhomers are woken by the sound of a thief trying to get in to their motorhome. It’s when we do not wake, that we start to suspect gas might have been used as some way of explanation. I have been a security professional most of my adult life, but I was once robbed in a hotel room while I slept. I am sure I wasn’t gassed, I had drunk just a couple of glasses of wine, but that is the only defence I have. I had the mickey taken out of me for years by my team mates, how I wish the gas excuse was around then, I am sure I would have clung to it to save my blushes. Maybe the police do the same; “Why didn’t they wake? Maybe they were gassed!” It’s an easy explanation, case closed, crime number issued. As a security consultant in London I have known of countless hotels where whole corridors of rooms have been robbed without the occupants waking. The odd one or two that were woken or who weren’t asleep accepted a mumbled, “sorry wrong room.” On investigations no one thought gas was used, but it may as well have been, as tired or tipsy travellers once asleep will sleep through most things! The thing is, I suspect that we all sleep a little sounder than we think. We have all been asked, did you hear that thunder-storm last night?And we didn’t hear a thing. I have slept through the screams of my kids nightmares.

I remember when in the Army (a long time ago)  I once took a rifle from a young sleeping soldier, he wasn’t gassed, he was just very tired and sleeping soundly. Many of you, like me I am sure, can get into bed with our partner without waking them, or they can sneak out of bed without waking you. The thief isn’t getting in bed with us, he is probably in the motorhome for less that 45 seconds and taking the wallet from the bedside table and your camera from the dinette. I think it is sad that people are put off travelling on the continent because of the fear of being gassed. The press and police are guilty of hyping the stories further by suggesting gassing without a shred of evidence to support the theory other than “if they didn’t wake they must of been gassed” In September 2007 The Royal College of Anaesthetists released the a statement on their website, debunking the gassing stories. They are also of the opinion that this is a myth. However, you might be of the opinion that the Anaesthetists “would say that” How embarrasing for them if some oik with a can of “damp Start” can do what they trained years to learn! I personally think that the gassing stories are an urban myth. If any readers here are worried about the gassing then please do buy a detector if it makes you feel better, but be warned, if you are parked in a public place, where there is a good chance of being robbed, the comfort you derive from your detector might make you sleep a little too soundly, and then who knows what might happen.

Motorhome Gas AttacksA Professional Opinion Their statement by the The Royal College of Anaesthetists is shown velow. Have a read and judge for yourself.

A statement from The Royal College of Anaesthetists about Motorhome owners being gassed then robbed.

Despite the increasing numbers of reports of people being gassed in motor-homes or commercial trucks in France, and the warning put out by the Foreign Office for travellers to be aware of this danger, this College remains of the view that this is a myth. It is the view of the College that it would not be possible to render someone unconscious by blowing ether, chloroform or any of the currently used volatile anaesthetic agents, through the window of a motor-home without their knowledge, even if they were sleeping at the time. Ether is an extremely pungent agent and a relatively weak anaesthetic by modern standards and has a very irritant affect on the air passages, causing coughing and sometimes vomiting. It takes some time to reach unconsciousness, even if given by direct application to the face on a cloth, and the concentration needed by some sort of spray administered directly into a room would be enormous. The smell hangs around for days and would be obvious to anyone the next day. Even the more powerful modern volatile agents would need to be delivered in tankerloads of carrier gas or by a large compressor. Potential agents, such as the one used by the Russians in the Moscow siege are few in number and difficult to obtain. Moreover, these drugs would be too expensive for the average thief to use. The other important point to remember is that general anaesthetics are potentially very dangerous, which is why they are only administered in the UK by doctors who have undergone many years of postgraduate training in the subject and who remain with the unconscious patient throughout the anaesthetic. Unsupervised patients are likely to die from obstruction of the airway by their tongues falling back. In the Moscow seige approximately 20% of the people died, many probably from airway obstruction directly related to the agent used. If there was a totally safe, odourless, potent, cheap anaesthetic agent available to thieves for this purpose it is likely the medical profession would know about it and be investigating its use in anaesthetic practice.

 


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About Author

Jim is a long time motorhome enthusiast travelling extensively in the UK and Europe. Averaging 12000 motorhome miles a year. He has owned many motorhomes both British and Continental. His present motorhome is a 27ft C class RV.

11 Comments

  1. We was gassed in our motorhome 2 years ago in the south of france and we caught them whilst they were in the ACT!!! They put a hose from a gas bottle into the air holes (vents) in the floor of our motorhome, but luckily for us we have gas detectors and they were on and trust me they soon went off. The “gasser” came from a gypsy camp in the next field, but unfortunately you can not see this gypsy site the way you enter the holiday camp site, this gypsy camp is hidden as its in a bit of a ditch so to speak. If we had of known about it there is no way we would have stayed there. Its well known but they do not talk about it because of losing the holiday trade.

    Then the year after we was robbed in a car park in the south of france, it only took them 30 seconds we walked across a car park and decided to go back to the van for something and in that time they had completely cleared out our van. Because it was next to a busy road we could not hear the alarm going off. It was only when we got closer that we though that maybe the dog had set it off. Police came and said it happens all day every day all over the south and there is nothing they can do about it, as there are so many robberies there are not enough police. They said it was lucky we were not in the van at the time or they would have robbed us at knife point and that would even have been done in front of our small children. They are romany gypsies that do this.

    So please do not say that this thing does not happen as we have also met numerous people that too have had this happen and even worse than this if you can get worse!!!!

  2. Dont believe a word of it. Most bottled gas is heavier than air so would not rise in a motorhome or caravan. Vans are so well ventilated that heavier than air gasses would disperse. Sorry but i think if gassing was as wide spread as these scaremongers make out there would have been some fatalities, or insurance claims of which there have been none. WHY.

  3. I dont suppose the people who say they have been gassed have shares in the companies that sell them.
    Has anyone found this knockout gas and tested weather these alarms actually work. I would be interested in the answer

  4. My friends and their 2 dogs were gassed 3 weeks ago (first week March 2014) in a L’Air du Temps near Cape d’Antibes in their motorhome about 200m from a Shell petrol station. The police confirmed that the gas had been injected through the sink. It is heavier than air. It had “spilled out” over the sink and had knocked out their 2 dogs completely. As my friends were in a bed that was comparatively higher than normal they were less effected by the gas than the perpetrators anticipated and one of them woke up as the intruder was shining a torch around the motorhome. But they had already taken iPads, wallets, phones, etc when they ran. The dogs were still unconcious after they’d returned to their motorhome having chased the thief.
    The police said it had happened at this same spot about 5 times in the preceding 4 months. The only English interpreter available who came to the police station was a local magistrate, and Cambridge graduate, who informed my friends that recently on a train between Marseilles and Nice a gang had injected the gas into the air conditioning and had knocked out 2 carriages and stripped them of their valuables.
    So P. Nicholson – don’t believe a word of it, but you have been given the observational evidence and the empirical data.
    And trust me Sandbagsid, my friends wife is still extremely distraught by the experience, and I’m sure she’d appreciate your comment.

  5. Sorry Stuart but despite what your friends were told it just doesn’t ring true … for example how on earth would they get the gas into the sink and get it to RISE in the first place, before it spilled out into the MH? As it is heavier than air it would surely have gone DOWN the sink waste pipe thus gassing those doing the alleged gassing! As for the dogs, what are they/age etc – we have had many dogs and find that some would sleep through an earthquake and others wake at the slightest noise.

    As for the gas attack a few weeks ago on the train – I can’ find any reference to this on the internet at all and I cannot believe that this happened as the ‘local magistrate’ told your friends as I’m sure it would be on the web somewhere … I would love for you to be able to point me to a site referring to it.

    I am not belittling your friends, far from it, as it must have been a horrendous experience, whatever it was.

  6. I have read with interest the post above by Stuart, i am sure whatever happened those involved were quite shook up and will take some time to get over this awful event.
    i for one do need more evidence that gas was used; i.e. how did the Police know gas was used ? were there traces or residue left? if so what was it. Also, all motorhome have waste tank that conect to the sink which is generally in excess of 50 ltrs in capacity many 100 ltrs. so the gas would have to fill the tank ( which is under the chasis of the vehicle ) make its way up the pipework before filling the sink and spilling over into the motorhome.
    the amount of gas needed and the time this would take would both be huge.

    as far as the train goes, i cannot see how could carry ( other than by a small tanker ) sufficient gas that could be pumped into 2 whole rail carriages to knock out all personnel.
    surely this would have made the press.

    i genuinely have considerable sympathy for those involved, however this happened. but until these reports have more in depth reporting with hard evidence as to the use of gas ( i do not dispute for one second that a robbery and frightening incident took place )i will always have considerable doubt as to the use of gas.

    that all said i have a gas detector fitted to our motorhome along with Carbon monoxide and smoke.

  7. How do people ‘inject’ gas into an air conditioning unit? Have they any knowledge as to how they work? Obviously not. Not a clue!
    These stories are fantasies. And get more elaborate every time!
    If, there was this amazing ‘Bat-Gas’ on the market, how come it’s never used where the takings are much, much bigger than a motorhome? Say a bank, or jewelers shop.
    A load of unverified garbage!

  8. Lone sailor on

    I have some knowledge of anaesthetics from my pharmaceutical background. Certsin narcotic based anaesthetics such as fentanyl or remifentanil are powders sold in ampoules for reconstitution in solutions for intravenous injection. The russisns slmost certainly used remifentanil dispersed as an aerosol. Normally only a few mgs are needed iv, but inhalation need buckets full disolved in 100s of litres. Its impossible to get hold of these quantities of either agents.
    Laughing gas, nitrous oxide is a target for thieves, but to sell as a recreational drug. Again to induce an anaesthetic state huge amounts are needed. Anaesthesia with this agent is akin to suffocation. This could be used but several 100 litres will be required.
    Other volatile agents such as flurothane are irritant, smell intensly and can be overdosed essily to caused significant morbidity.
    I personally can not think of any agent which will knock out occupants of two train carriages, let alone a csmpervan.
    We also know just how dangerous carbon monoxide is, claiming around 20-30 victims each year, but this is a lethal gas, and rarely commercially available.
    So in conclusion, I cannot think of what these gases or agents were.
    If you are worried by being attacked through the waste pipe, put plugs in your sinks and showeres.
    Happy camping never the less.

  9. I think I’m with the sceptics on this one. The kind of gas volume required to fill even a small motor home to the point of knocking out the occupants is huge, particularly, as some have already commented, there are floor vents in most vans to specifically guard against this. I have difficulty imagining thieves either wandering or driving around with a large gas container on the off-chance of finding a motor-home they might gas the occupants with. From a thief’s perspective I would have thought there were better targets, with greater opportunities of a quick in-out with valuables easily available.
    That said, my wife and I WERE robbed, and very easily by the way, sleeping for just a few hours rest at the Jabbecke (north side) service station in Belgium between Gent and Calais. I am a light sleeper but detected nothing during the robbery where they broke the driver’s lock of our VW T25, unhooked and pulled forward the front curtain, leant across to the passenger seat to take my wife’s rucksack, leant into the back of the van over the driver’s seat to grab my rucksack and still managed to fully close the driver’s door without, seemingly, rocking the van. I’m absolutely positive we were not gassed as we were only there for about 4 hours (2-6 a.m.) and felt no after effects whatsoever. I think we were just very tired.
    I think my point is that these robberies do happen but they are restricted to certain high risk areas. My advise is to undertake a proper security risk assessment of your own. If you really need to stay in a motorway carpark stick to well lit areas where it is relatively busy. It might be noisy (so wear earplugs) but it will deter thieves. If you’re in any doubt, simply rest a while, don’t sleep or set up for the night, and move on. Alternatively plan to stay at a proper, campsite, which may take a little more planning but will be more secure. If we’re even slightly worried about security (and it staggers me just how easily they got past the lock on the VW which was completely broken) we have a ratcheted load strap that we can fix between the two front doors and a strap for the side door, both of which can be easily loosened from the inside in an emergency but totally prevent the doors from being opened from the outside.
    But gassing? I think this is simply too hit and miss for thieves. It is resource heavy for them with no guarantee of successful disablement of occupants to the degree that if caught, it having gone disasterously wrong, they could be facing murder charges.

  10. I have done plenty research on this subject and have scoured the net for any evidence from a law enforcement agency (Worldwide) to support the view that gas has been used on the occupants of a vehicle in order to render them unconscious.

    To date, I have found absolutely nothing. I have found cases where individuals claim that friends of theirs have been attacked this way, but in every instance, there is absolutely no prima facie evidence or compelling circumstantial evidence that these crimes have been committed or even attempted.

    I have little doubt that some people who have been victims of crime when they were asleep, find it difficult to believe that they had not woken up, and having heard these horror stories put two and two together to make five.

    I too have a friend who had his old VW camper broken into whilst he was asleep, but did not think for one minute he had been drugged. They entered via the drivers door, and took his wallet and other small items. He is a Police officer and had no doubt at all that what had occurred was a sneak in theft – NOT gassing.

    That said, vehicular crime on the continent is an issue as it is here in the UK, so my advice would be:

    1. Use your common sense where you park – if it doesn’t feel “right” its probably not

    2. Do not use iPads / laptops etc in open view especially at night through windows without blinds

    3. ALWAYS put valuables and items of portable electrical equipment out of site when leaving your van

    4. Get a safe hidden away for your cash, passports and jewellery etc

    5. Last, but not least have a good alarm fitted which covers all the vehicle including the lockers. Buy one which allows you to set it whilst you are asleep or leaving pets on board. Mine also has a panic button on the bed head which can be activated to discourage any activity around the van at any time of day night.

    I put the above recommendations down for you, not to preach – far from it. I come from a law enforcement background myself, so wanted to pass on the benefit of my experience to help keep thieves at bay and protect your investment AND wellbeing.

    Not sure if the next comment will be allowed, and please believe me, I have no connection or investment in this company, but having just been to the NEC show, I was taken with one extremely simple, cheap yet effective window lock for caravans / motorhomes. The company can be found by searching for “Lock M out”. I bought 8 of these – not because they will prevent gassing, they will go a long way to preventing ANY unauthorised access to your van, which is actually the weakest point of entry, not any of the doors.

    If anyone still thinks that gassing of occupants in a van is an issue, please refer to the website of the Royal college of Anaesthetists, who also pour water on the flames… http://www.rcoa.ac.uk/news-and-bulletin/rcoa-news-and-statements/statement-alleged-gassing-motor-vehicles

    Sorry I’ve gone on a bit!

  11. Moore Dunbar on

    Firstly, I’m a sceptic regarding gas used in robberies, however, I find two incidents curious. I was awoken at 02.00am by a commotion nearby on a site and on looking out I noticed people standing about and a police vehicle present. A German camper had awoken to find an intruder in his camper and has raised the alarm. Unfortunately he lost cash and personal documents. Next to this unit was a Dutch camper and the side door of his van was open and clothes strewn about. The police insisted there was no one in the van and closed the door. Around 09.00 am the occupants emerged, unaware of the incident. The male occupant did say he’d had strange dreams during the night. Incidentally, they had a mature German shepherd on board and he slept all night despite the disturbance.

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