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Gas is back

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Gas is back

Post by Jill Havern on 06.09.18 0:16


After a long absence, the nonsense stories about people being gassed by burglars in their homes or caravans have started up again.

The latest ‘victims’ include Richard ‘The Hamster’ Hammond, and an ex-pat couple in southern Spain.

The Hammond case was reported in the Times and the Telegraph, both of which adopted a somewhat sceptical stance.
The ex-pat couple was reported ‘exclusively’ in the Olive Press - which didn’t.
And then inevitably the Olive Press article was reproduced in the Mail, almost verbatim

HEADLINE Richard Hammond’s family ‘robbed by gas thieves’. [note the inverted commas]
The knockout gas burglars of Saint-Tropez are either callous criminals or a myth fuelled by the accounts of traumatised victims.”

Fears are emerging that Saint Tropez's knockout gas burglars have returned after Richard Hammond's family were robbed in their sleep.”

But then further into the article the Telegraph observes
“Experts have doubted the claims, saying gasses such as ethers and chloroforms would cause coughing and spluttering to anyone exposed to high doses. It would not be possible to pump high enough concentrations of alternative gasses, such as nitrous oxide, through an entire villa to knock victims out for long enough, some experts have said.”

Olive Press
John and Jacqueline A, 72 and 70, had their car stolen from outside their house, after they were gassed at night by brazen thieves.
I’m a light sleeper and our dog barks at the slightest noise so police are 100% sure we were gassed.

Helpfully the Mail provided some photos of the couple. I have blocked out the faces because this is a story not about the couple, but about the Press.

In the first photo there are two large Tequila Sunrise cocktails, and an almost finished pint glass of beer. In the second the woman is holding a very large glass of white wine, the man a different pint glass, almost full, and on the table in front of him are two 440ml. cans of beer, both opened, one empty. 440 ml = 0.9 pint

The presence of the bowl of potato crisps might indicate this is an early evening pre-dinner drink

They are in fact completely typical, if not to say stereotypical, ex-pat pensioners who sit in the sun and enjoy cheap alcohol. I have no doubt that they believe they are light sleepers.

But let us go back to the issue of gassing people in their mobile homes, caravans, or apartments.

The human lungs have a total volume of around 6 l.
Only a small portion of this is used in breathing, the Tidal Volume, being around 0.5l.
A typical bedroom of 3m. x 3m. x 2.5m. has a volume of 22.5 cubic metres, or 22,500 litres.
A house or apartment of 85 square metres has a volume of 212,500 litres
A normal SCUBA tank used by divers contains 60 cubic feet of air, or 1,700 litres
To fill the bedroom would therefore require 13 such tanks, and to fill the entire house, some 125 tanks

It was after a flurry of similar ‘Copy and Paste Sensational Journalism’ some years ago that the Royal College of Anaesthetists was constrained to issue a Press statement.

In the tradition of Copy and Paste I attach it in full.

Statement on alleged gassing in motor vehicles
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 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 siege 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.
14 July 2014

But despite this, even the investigative journalist just parrots the same story, without doing any background research or asking any pertinent questions.

Which is very sad.

Related link:

(I could also mention Dave Edgar talking drivel about Chloroform and this NOT being denied by a qualified anaesthetist -  KATE !)
Jill Havern

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