Campervans being gassed in France.

Sportsman

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I see that this story is doing the rounds again, and I would like to reassure anyone planning a camping holiday in France
The idea of people being gassed in campervans or truck cabs is more than just far fetched and there are a lot of reasons why I would say that.
If you make someone unconscious there is a serious likelihood of them suffering airway problems as the tongue falls across the back of the throat. That is why anesthetists use all sorts of airway adjuncts to prevent it. There is also a very real danger of the unconscious person vomiting and inhaling the vomit, which is likely to kill them, It seems that this has never happened.
The Royal College of Anaesthetists suggests that a death rate of around 50% would be reasonable from a haphazardly administered gas.
To get enough gas into a vehicle to be able to put all of the occupants to sleep would require huge volumes so you would be looking at tankers and compressors. Anaesthetic gasses are very expensive and the volume required would cost way more than any loot would be worth.
There would also be the problem of acquiring the gas, it is not freely available to anyone who wants it and the idea of these muggers having the knowledge and equipment to make their own doesn't make sense.
Anaesthetics also have a strong smell yet no trace of that is ever apparent afterwards and there seems to be no after effects from the gas felt by anyone.
The dose of anaesthetic has to be tailored to the weight of the patient, the idea that a couple of small kids can have the same dose as their 15st. Father and then be unaffected afterwards, does stretch credibility. All in all it would seem extremely unlikely. There is no cheap, easily available product that would do this, if there were the Medical Profession would be aware of it and Pharma companies would be making a fortune from it.
These stories have been repeated for decades, I think the keyword here is "repeated".
It seems more likely that the chemical in question, if any, comes in bottles. It is also possibly connected to insurance claims.
It is much more likely that the family had a good few glasses and retired to bed to sleep soundly, possibly forgetting to secure the door properly and an opportune thief nipped in quietly and removed phones cameras and suchlike.
In the morning the owners have to explain this to the insurance company and this often repeated myth means they can shift the blame to a team of very wealthy, highly trained anaesthetists with a liking for cameras.
 

Neil ofthe nene

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My apologies if the warning I gave on another thread was misleading or in part incorrect. My source was one I regarded as responsible and reliable - The Caravan Club magazine. I was a member for a few years while weighing up the decision to buy a van. I am sure this subject came up more than once.

However, if I read @Sportsman correctly I still believe my warning to be valid in that robberies do take place even if the method by which victims become unconscious is different. Also the following is on the CC website regarding the other methods I mentioned by which travellers are robbed.

In Southern France, Spain, and Portugal the following “techniques” have been used to part members from their money/property:

  • At service stations members have returned to their vehicles to find that they have a flat tyre, whilst they are changing the tyre “a good Samaritan” offers help and advice and whilst you are distracted their accomplices steal from your vehicle.
  • On motorways / dual carriageways members have reported other vehicles trying to “flag them down” suggesting that there is a problem with the car/ caravan, and in some instances thieves have thrown a small object at the vehicle to try and encourage the drivers to pull over.
  • You should also be wary of approaches by bogus police officers, in plain clothes and travelling in unmarked cars. In all traffic related matters police officers will be in uniform. Unmarked vehicles will have a flashing electronic sign on the rear window which reads “Policia” or “Guardia Civil”, and normally have blue flashing lights incorporated into the headlights, which are activated by the Police when they stop you.

Precautions

We do not want to discourage members from travelling and there are a few things you can do to reduce the chances of your holiday being disrupted:

  • Only pull over on the motorways and dual carriageways if you are requested to do so by a marked police car. It is very rare for plain clothes policeman in unmarked cars to do traffic stops. If you have any doubts, ask to see identification and call 112.
  • If you are waved at by another vehicle encouraging you to pull over, do not! Only pull over if your outfit/vehicle feels un-safe to drive, and if you do pull over, lock all of your valuables in the glove compartment and then lock your vehicle.
  • When using busy service stations try not to leave your outfit unattended; if you are not driving solo, take it turns to use the facilities and whilst one person pays for the fuel the other person should stay with the vehicle(s).
If you notice that you have a flat tyre, make sure all your valuables are out of sight and secure before changing the tyre.

Finally, if you are a victim of this type of robbery or attempted robbery please report it by calling 112. If you are in Spain you can call 902 10 21 12 which is number is manned by English speaking staff who will take your statement in English, translate it, then fax/email it to the nearest police station. They will also advise you where the nearest police station is so you can go in and sign your statement.

Unfortunately, we occasionally receive reports of thefts on campsites abroad, even on those where there are security measures in place. We therefore recommend you take the following precautions:

  • Do not leave wallets/handbags/valuables out in the open.
  • Do not keep all your cards and cash together in one place.
  • Where possible always ensure any windows, ventilation grates and doors are kept firmly fastened or locked.


Moving on I note that Sportsman has not commented on the request for help from @Suilven. I therefore assume that he has nothing to add to the advice I gave.
 

Sportsman

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Quite right Neil, You covered it comprehensively, so nothing to add.
With regards to the advice given on crime on the road, it seems perfectly sensible and should possibly be followed pretty much anywhere. My interest is solely in the idea of anaesthetic gas being used.
 

Dave

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It all seems a bit far fetched - anaesthetising campers whilst they sleep to rob them? How does the robber enter the campervan afterwards, wearing a full face gas mask might draw unwanted attention :D
 

Wise Owl

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They are immune to it mate :rolleyes: like the Pss heads who claim they were ill on holiday nowt to do with the Copious amounts of Beer and Free spirits they Had.
 

Suilven

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It is an interesting topic to me as I spend a lot of time travelling Europe by van and have heard this story a few times. It was on my mind the first night or two when I started travelling.

To recap the other thread, I strictly wild camp or use municipal Aires as mainly as I prefer the solitude, nature and silence but also I prefer to give my money to the local boulangerie/ patisserie, cafe, restaurant etc.

My fears were quickly put to rest speaking to locals or other people from the UK I met whilst overseas.

Firstly for the various reasons mentioned I doubt that it's a practical method of rendering people unconscious.

Also, I noted whilst away that most of the people using the same areas as me were in fact French. Touring their own country via Campingcar as they call it is part of their culture and from speaking to them it seems campsites are very rarely used and nobody has ever had a problem. Like us most people have developed a smell for when places aren't right.

In addition I drive a small converted panel van. Even close up there are no giveaways that it is a motorhome. There are no vents or apertures where anyone could get gas into the vehicle unless they smashed a toughened bonded window. Even the lpg gas dropout is sealed from the living area.

So I think while caution is always merited travelling abroad, I've always found France a truly safe and friendly place. In fact the only places I've felt unsafe or had to move were in the UK, and more often than not, on a paid campsite.
 

John Step

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From many years of overwintering in Spain in a caravan and getting there via the motorways I observed.....

From first hand accounts of fellow travellers there are hotspots to avoid or at least be on guard.
Valencia. Montpelier. are two that come to mind. Avignon is another.
In fact on more than one occasion the police were patrolling the larger service areas warning those they saw leaving their unit unattended.

Get a metal toolbox and chain it to something solid in the boot with passports and excess cash and cards in it.

The last time in France I was targeted by English speaking Irish travellers with a con.
They were cruising the rest areas and giving a cock and bull story about their car being broken into and money, passports, kids games etc stolen overnight in a hotel car park. "Could you spare some Euros so I could get petrol to get to the Irish Embassy in Bordeaux"

When refused they went around to find another mark.
Please don't come back at me and say how do I know it was not true. The wife and the child who would not meet my gaze and bits that did not tally.
But most of all we all know when someone is trying it on.
 

Sportsman

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I have driven a great deal in Europe over the years. The only time I have been targeted was in the motorway services just outside Valencia. A young, well dressed Spanish man and his partner came up to me with a map as I was standing next to my car. They said they were looking for directions, which I thought was strange as I was in an English plate car. He seemed very keen to lay the map across the front passenger seat, on which were laying my daughter's purse and I Pod. Then I noticed that his other hand was underneath the map and heading for the seat. I grabbed his shoulder and pulled him back and they both took off and away into a car with driver waiting nearby and took off up the slip road. This was in broad daylight in the middle of the afternoon. Talking to people in the shops, they said this was a common ploy, so if you are in a services in Spain and probably France, beware anyone approaching you with an open map and asking directions.
 

Suilven

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Motorway services (Aires, not the free camping Aires I was talking about) are well known crime magnets and definitely to steer clear of. A lot of them are just unmanned laybys with outdoor toilets and generally look mega shady!
 

grey

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Gas is unlikely to be a good choice for the job as it requires quite a specific amount to work without killing the victim. I haven't heard of any deaths and I haven't heard of anyone waking during an attempted gassing, so feel it's very unlikely.

A couple of drops of GBH in their water supply would be far more effective to knock out unsuspecting victims.
 
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