Based upon the below two eyewitness reports, it sounds like John P. Wheeler III was dosed with scopolamine, which is the drug of choice by intelligence agencies and Colombian criminals in order to induce a zombie-like state in their victims whereby the victim will follow any order when the dosage is right. Intelligence agencies use it for various purposes, such as a truth serum, to create a patsy, and/or for blackmail by getting the victim to engage in blackmailable activities (including killing another person) that they would have never otherwise engaged in and recording it.
The eyewitness Kathleen Boyer specifically mentioned that Wheeler had red eyes, which in addition to the delirium both she and eyewitness Iman Goldsborough report is one of the side-effects of scopolamine (as scopolamine dries out the mucous membranes).
High-dose scopolamine can induce delirium that lasts for days. However, one can be seemingly coherent and articulate while in the zombie-state depending on what stage of the intoxication one is in.
Both eyewitnesses report that Wheeler told them that he had been robbed. Goldsborough specifically reported that Wheeler told her that his briefcase had been stolen.
Wheeler was wondering around Wilmington, Delaware after he had apparently been robbed, and doing so in a delirious state. This raises the question of how he was killed. If he was indeed intentionally murdered, why would the person(s) who seemingly drugged and robbed him (and possibly did more with him) let him go free to wonder around Wilmington only to pick him up later to murder him? Did Wheeler gain enough consciousness to relize he was in danger and manage to escape, with his escape facilitated by his assailants not expecting it due to his drugged state? Perhaps he managed to get far enough away from them before they realized he was gone such that it took them awhile to find him once they realized he had escaped.
Another possibility is that Wheeler wasn't killed intentionally. It was cold in Wilmington during that time, and Goldsborough mentioned that Wheeler didn't have a coat. Perhaps Wheeler, in his delirious state, crawled into a dumster to try to get warm, and either died by being crushed by the garbage truck or eventually died due to exposure and/or complications of untreated scopolamine overdose (since many people in Colombia die from being dosed with scopolamine). If this is the case, then perhaps Wheeler's assailants had already gotten what they wanted from him and simply let him go; or, Wheeler did escape, and his assailants couldn't find him.
Eyewitness Iman Goldsborough:
Exclusive: Witness In John Wheeler Case
Authorities Won't Say How John P. Wheeler III Died
Fox 29 (WTXF-TV, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)
January 4, 2011http://www.myfoxphilly.com/dpp/news/local_news/010411-exclusive%3A-witness-in-john-wheeler-case
Eyewitness Kathleen Boyer:
Fox 29 Interviews 2nd Wheeler Witness
Fox 29 (WTXF-TV, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)
January 4, 2011http://www.myfoxphilly.com/dpp/video/fox-29-interviews-wheeler-witness
Below is the Wikipedia article on delirium:
30 December 2010http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Delirium&oldid=405035810
Scopolamine use to be used to induce so-called Twilight Sleep for childbirth:
19 July 2010http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Twilight_sleep&oldid=374248772
Regarding scopolamine's side-effect of red eyes, see the following two sources:
SCOPOLAMINE (Topical) (Patchhttp://www.healthdigest.org/topics/category/6348-scopolamine-drug-and-prescription-information-side-effects-use-and-dosage
SCOPOLAMINE - National Library of Medicine HSDB Databasehttp://toxnet.nlm.nih.gov/cgi-bin/sis/search/a?dbs+hsdb:@term+@DOCNO+4074
The best report on the criminal elements' use of scopolamine in Colombia is the following one by VBS.tv:
Colombian Devil's Breath 1 of 2
July 23, 2007http://www.vbs.tv/watch/vbs-news/colombian-devil-s-breath-1-of-2
Colombian Devil's Breath 2 of 2
July 23, 2007http://www.vbs.tv/watch/vbs-news/colombian-devil-s-breath-2-of-2
Apparently Russian intelligence uses the code-name SP-117 for scopolamine (complete amnesia of events that occured while under the drug is a common effect, with this effect being dosage-dependent; to the person so affected, after they come-to it can seem to them that they had become extremely tired and fell asleep, when in actuality they were still seemingly awake to others):
26 December 2010http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Truth_drug&oldid=404354704
A defector from the biological weapons department 12 of the KGB "illegals" (S) directorate (presently a part of Russian SVR service) claimed that a truth drug codenamed SP-117 was highly effective and has been widely used. According to him, "The 'remedy which loosens the tongue' has no taste, no smell, no colour, and no immediate side effects. And, most important, a person has no recollection of having the 'heart-to-heart talk'" and felt afterwards as if they suddenly fell asleep. Officers of the S directorate used the drug primarily to check the trustworthiness of their own illegal agents who operated overseas, including even heroes of the service, such as Vitaly Yurchenko. According to Alexander Litvinenko, Russian presidential candidate Ivan Rybkin was drugged with the same substance by FSB agents during his alleged kidnapping.
14. ^ Alexander Kouzminov Biological Espionage: Special Operations of the Soviet and Russian Foreign Intelligence Services in the West, Greenhill Books, 2006, ISBN 1-853-67646-2 .
15. ^ Alex Goldfarb and Marina Litvinenko. Death of a Dissident: The Poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko and the Return of the KGB. New York: Free Press, 2007. ISBN 978-1416551652.
Regarding the politician Ivan Rybkin mentioned above, see the following news articles:
Rybkin mystery: Questions remain
February 11, 2004http://edition.cnn.com/2004/WORLD/europe/02/11/russia.rybkin.feature.reut/index.html
13 February 2004
Russian candidate 'was kidnapped'http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/3485971.stm
He said that, on arrival at an apartment in Kiev, he was offered some refreshments and suddenly became "very drowsy".
Mr Rybkin said he was unconscious for four days, coming to on 10 February.
As he awoke, he claims one of his guards told him it was part of a "special operation".
"Then they showed me a revolting videotape with my participation and they told me it was a plan to compromise me and force me to be co-operative."
13 February 2004
Russia's 'spy thriller' saga
I was kidnapped, says Putin election rival
Rybkin claims he was drugged during mystery absence
14 February 2004http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2004/feb/14/russia.jonathansteele
Four days later he woke up in a different flat, where he was shown a compromising video of himself.
Repeatedly declining to discuss the contents at yesterday's press conference, where he seemed close to tears, he said it was made by "horrible perverts". He also refused to say who he thought had organised his kidnapping. His captors spoke perfect Russian and were fellow Slavs, he said. "I don't know who did it, but I know who benefited from this," he added.
5 March 2004
Rybkin drops challenge to Putinhttp://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/3536215.stm
Below are some news articles and extracts of articles on intelligence and criminal usage of scopolamine:
The below is an excerpt from the article "The Pegasus File, Part 1" by David G. Guyatt, Nexus Magazine, Vol. 4, No. 3, April-May 1997 ( http://web.archive.org/web/19990908024412/http://www.nexusmagazine.com/pegfile1.html
Other "neutralisations" verge on the bizarre. An individual who must remain nameless for a variety of reasons - but whose name is known to this writer - underwent an experience that is both horrific and chilling. Readers are warned that what follows is not at all pleasant. For the sake of ease, I shall call this individual "Mr X" or, simply, "X".
Mr X was a leader of one of the largest CIA-backed Contra groups. He recently testified before the US Senate Intelligence Committee. Formerly, X was a senior executive in a South American subsidiary of a leading US soft drinks corporation. During his Senate testimony, he denied any knowledge of CIA involvement in the narcotics trade, adding that condoning such activity would have been foreign to his way of life. Not so, says [Dois Gene] Tatum. Mr X had been recruited into the CIA by then-Director William Casey, with the assistance of Oliver North.
In 1990, when Nicaraguan leader Daniel Ortega announced there would be "free elections", X was ecstatic. He began jostling for position and asked President Bush to ensure he be given a prominent position in the new government - in return for his years of toil at the behest of the CIA and the Enterprise. The pressure came in a form that Bush could not ignore. Failure to help his friend would result in X's intimate knowledge of Bush's involvement in the dope trade being made public. His threat left Bush with a sour taste. A Pegasus team was assigned to "neutralise" him in early 1990.
Mr X, Tatum states, "fancied himself a lover of women. Tall, large-breasted blondes were his favourite. It was determined that, if effectively neutralised, [Mr X] could be an asset. Therefore, it was decided that intimidation would be used to control [Mr X]."
They chose to use the drug Scopolamine, which also went by the nickname "Burundanga" or "the Voodoo drug". The drug is extracted from the pods of a flowering shrub that grows in remote regions of South America. In its processed, powdered form, Scopolamine is "void of smell, void of taste". When properly administered "it causes absolute obedience" without this being "observable by others". Importantly, the target will not recall any of the events that occurred during the period they were under the spell of the drug.
In outlining these details, Tatum adds that it is important to administer the drug in the correct dosage, for he has known targets to die from too high a dose. Others have "remained under the influence of Burundanga for up to three weeks". Precise dosage can be achieved by liquid ingestion, the powder being readily soluble. Ingestion via cigarettes is also an optimum method of ingestion. It is fast-acting and takes no more than 20 minutes to work.
Tatum states that X was invited to spend a relaxing weekend at a luxury hotel as a guest of his friend George Bush. His host for the weekend was a trusted 18-year veteran field-intelligence officer. The evening started with cocktails and was followed by a fine meal. "'Nothing but the best' were the orders."
Following the meal, he was ushered into the suite of a "blonde bombshell" supplied by the CIA. Mr X had already ingested a dose of Burundanga during pre-dinner cocktails. X was gallant with the blonde as they both moved into the bedroom where video cameras were already set up in one corner. In short order, the blonde had X standing naked in front of her and began to indulge his desires. All the while, the video cameras whirred. Slowly stripping off, the "blonde" revealed his manhood in all its glory. Mr X was instructed to reciprocate the favour and perform fellatio. He obliged, his intimate activities recorded at 24 frames a second on videotape.
Tatum says the male prostitute was hired from a bar in New York and killed that same evening.
Two weeks later, X - wholly unaware of the events of that evening - was visited in Nicaragua. He was presented with a copy of the video footage, along with instructions. Tatum says that X can never allow that video to be seen: "Not only does it reveal his homosexuality, but it also reveals his bestiality and satanic worship rituals." As frame after frame flicked by, X reportedly wept, forced to watch himself kill his homosexual "lover" and then engage in the most grisly cannabalistic ritual imaginable.
Neutralised, Mr X became a leading member of the Nicaraguan government a few short weeks later.
10. Tatum has provided me with the name of this individual, a well-known politician. He also asked that I consider excising this account from the article, for a variety of understandable reasons. I have elected to keep it, as I believe it is both an important and highly significant account.
11. I phoned and spoke with Ron Lard, an official at the DEA HQ, Virginia, to ask about the properties of Burundanga. He was unable to provide any information. However, through other sources I can confirm that this drug is well known to cause both amnesia and a zombie-like trance in which the target follows all orders. Dr Camilo Uribe, head of Bogotá's toxicology clinic, says "it's like chemical hypnotism". See Wall Street Journal, 3 July 1995.
[My note: for more on Dois Gene Tatum, see Col. Chip Tatum, "Pegasus: CIA Assassination Project - Tatum's Saga" http://web.archive.bibalex.org/web/20030217204135/http://www.kimsoft.com/korea/pegasus.htm
; and "The Chip Tatum Chronicles: Testimony of Government Drug Running", What Really Happened http://www.whatreallyhappened.com/RANCHO/POLITICS/MENA/TATUM/tatum.html
Subject: Re: What's the use of mindcontrol?
The Wall Street Journal
July 3, 1995
If you thought cocaine was bad news, wait until you hear about Burundanga.
Burundanga is a kind of voodoo powder obtained from a Colombian local plant of the nightshade family, a shrub called borrachero, or "drunken binge." Used for hundreds of years by Native Americans in religious ceremonies, the powder when ingested causes victims to lose their will and memory, sometimes for days.
When refined the powder yields scopolamine, a well-know drug with legitimate uses as a sedative and to combat motion sickness. But in Colombia, the drug's most avid fans are street criminals. Crooks mix the powder with sedatives and feed the Burundanga cocktail to unsuspecting victims whom they then proceed to rob--or worse.
Doctors here estimate that Colombian hustlers slip the odorless, colorless and soluble Burundanga in food or drink to about 500 unwitting victims in the city each month. About half of the city's total emergency room admissions for poison are Burundanga victims.
"It is a very serious problem," says Fernando Botero, Colombia's defense minister. Adds Camilo Uribe, the doctor who runs the city's formost toxicology clinic and who is in charge of toxicology for all of Bogota's public hospitals. "It's epidemic."
It seems that everyone in Bogota knows someone who has been victimized by the drug, Burundanguiado, as the say in Spanish. In one common scenario, a person will be offered a soda or drink laced with the substance. The next the person remembers is waking up miles away, extremely groggy and with no memory of what happened. People soon discover that they have handed over jewelry, money, car keys, and sometimes have even made multiple bank withdrawals for the benefit of their assailants. Because Burundanga is often given at seedy bars or houses of prostitution, many victims are reluctant to come forward.
"The victim can't say no; he has no will and becomes very open to suggestion. It's like chemical hypnotism," says Dr. Uribe. "From the moment it's given, the victim remembers absolutely nothing of what happened." He adds, "From a criminal point of view, it's got a lot of advantages."
Architect David Meneses says he was Burundanguiado twice in one week last December. Mr. Meneses' first encounter with Burundanga took place on a Friday night when he stopped at a pharmacy to buy antacid. Two well-dressed men approached his car. The last thing Mr. Meneses remembers is one of the men unwrapping a piece of candy. "I woke up the next day at noon at my house," he says. He had no memory of how he got there, though the doorman in his building told Mr. Menseses he saw him come in at 7 a.m. looking nervous and confused.
On Monday, Mr. Meneses checked with his bank, where he was told that his ATM card made 13 withdrawals for a total of about $700 on that lost Friday night. Concerned that he might have unwittingly been involved in criminal activity, or that his car had been used, Mr. Meneses went to the local prosecutors' office where he made a sworn statement saying he wasn't responsible for anything that had happened during the hours he was under the influence of the drug.
Three days later, the luckless Mr. Meneses noticed that he had a flat tire. Two men on the street approached him and offered to change it. "I remember they gave me something to drink, which I can't imagine why I drank," he says. Police found him asleep in his car six hours later. He had been robbed of his radio and about $125.
These days, Mr. Meneses is careful to drive with the windows rolled up. He doesn't venture out much at night anymore. "Burundanga is a very dangerous weapon in the hands of the underworld," he says.
Not all cases of Burundanga involve theft or robbery. Sometimes victims have been used as mules to carry cocaine, says Dr. Uribe's brother Manuel, a neurologist practicing at the clinic. In one incident, says Manuel Uribe, a well-known Colombian diplomat disappeared shortly after leaving a function in Bogota, only to reappear in Chile under arrest for cocaine smuggling. Medical tests showed he had been under the influence of Burundanga, and no charges
Camilo Uribe said that in a minority of cases Burundanga is used to lure young women who are then abused sexually. When they are found days later, they have no memory of what has happened to them. "You see that a lot with university coeds," he says.
Camilo Uribe is often called by companies and embassies to talk about the perils of Burundanga. One diplomatic mission that takes the problem very seriously is the U.S. Embassy. Its orientation manual warns freshman diplomats never to visit bars or nightclubs alone. "Druggings in group situations are far less common," the manual says, adding that food and drinks should never be left unattended. At the Colombian unit of Dow Chemical Co., security officials periodically tell employees how to avoid getting Burundanguiado. "There have been many cases," says Oswaldo Parra, the company's legal officer. "It's a very common practice in Colombia."
Curiously, just next door in Ecuador, where the plant is grown commercially for medical purposes, its criminal use is unknown. Instead, the plant is the subject of poetry and myth. If one sleeps under the plant in Ecuador, he will be able to tell the future, legends say.
Here, however, Pedro Gomez Silva, a forensic chemical expert, tells police cadets that for fear of Burundanga, Colombians shouldn't accept food, drinks or cigarettes from strangers, nor buy them from street vendors.
What's more, to be on the safe side, Colombians shouldn't help when asked for directions or the time of day. And forget sidewalk romances. The way things go with Burundanga, flirting with a stranger could lead to a really lost weekend.
Drug Turns Crime Victims Into Zombies
Tue June 17, 2003 08:44 AM ET
By Phil Stewart
BOGOTA, Colombia (Reuters) - The last thing Andrea Fernandez recalls before being drugged is holding her newborn baby on a Bogota city bus.
Police found her three days later, muttering to herself and wandering topless along the median strip of a busy highway. Her face was badly beaten and her son was gone.
Fernandez is just one of hundreds of victims every month who, according to Colombian hospitals, are temporarily turned into zombies by a home-grown drug called scopolamine which has been embraced by thieves and rapists.
"When I woke up in the hospital, I asked for my baby and nobody said anything. They just looked at me," Fernandez said, weeping. Police believe her son Diego was taken by a gang which traffics in infants.
Colorless, odorless and tasteless, scopolamine is slipped into drinks and sprinkled onto food. Victims become so docile that they have been known to help thieves rob their homes and empty their bank accounts. Women have been drugged repeatedly over days and gang-raped or rented out as prostitutes.
In the case of Fernandez, the mother of three was rendered submissive enough to surrender her youngest child.
Most troubling for police is the way the drug acts on the brain. Since scopolamine completely blocks the formation of memories, unlike most date-rape drugs used in the United States and elsewhere, it is usually impossible for victims to ever identify their aggressors.
"When a patient (of U.S. date-rape drugs) is under hypnosis, he or she usually recalls what happened. But with scopolamine, this isn't possible because the memory was never recorded," said Dr. Camilo Uribe, the world's leading expert on the drug.
Scopolamine has a long, dark history in Colombia dating back to before the Spanish conquest.
Legend has it that Colombian Indian tribes used the drug to bury alive the wives and slaves of fallen chiefs, so that they would quietly accompany their masters into the afterworld.
Nazi "angel of death" Joseph Mengele experimented on scopolamine as an interrogation drug. And scopolamine's sedative and amnesia-producing qualities were used by mothers in the early 20th century to help them through childbirth.
Finding the drug in Colombia these days is not hard.
The tree which naturally produces scopolamine grows wild around the capital and is so famous in the countryside that mothers warn their children not to fall asleep below its yellow and white flowers. The tree is popularly known as the "borrachero," or "get-you-drunk," and the pollen alone is said to conjure up strange dreams.
"We probably should put some sort of fence up," jokes biologist Gustavo Morales at Bogota's botanical gardens, eyeing children playing with borrachero seeds everywhere.
"If you ate a few of those, it would kill you."
Although scopolamine can be easily extracted from the seeds, experienced criminals hardly ever bother with them, police say.
Pure, cheap scopolamine is brought across the border from neighboring Ecuador, where the borrachero tree is harvested for medical purposes, Uribe said. The alkaloid is used legally in medicines across the world to treat everything from motion sickness to the tremors of Parkinson's disease.
The use of scopolamine by criminals appears to be confined to Colombia, at least for now, and it's not clear why the drug is such a rampant problem in Colombia. Some analysts blame it on a culture of crime in the Andean nation, home to the world's largest kidnapping and cocaine industries, not to mention Latin America's longest-running guerrilla war.
There are so many scopolamine cases that they usually don't make the news unless particularly bizarre. One such incident involved three young Bogota women who preyed on men by smearing the drug on their breasts and luring their victims to take a lick.
Losing all willpower, the men readily gave up their bank access codes. The breast-temptress thieves then held them hostage for days while draining their accounts.
The U.S. Embassy in Bogota takes scopolamine very seriously and offers staff tips on how avoid being drugged. One piece of advice may seem obvious: Don't let your drinks out of your sight when at a Bogota bar or nightclub.
Still, at least three visiting U.S. government employees here have been drugged and robbed over the past two years. Other American victims from time to time appear at the embassy seeking help, still shaking off a scopolamine hangover.
"I remember one case, an American reported being drugged," an embassy official said. "He says to his doorman 'Why did you let them walk out with my stuff.' The doorman says, 'Because you told me to.'"
Telegraph Group Limited
Drugged and mugged
Steve Hide is an experienced traveller. He is also a burundanguiado - a victim of drugging. His story should serve as a caution to all of us.
Report Filed February 2000
IN five years' driving buses for tour companies in Latin America, I had heard a lot of travellers' tales. Some of the most far-fetched were about people who had been befriended on the road, drugged, and then robbed of everything they were carrying.
There was the backpacker who "lost" four days after accepting a biscuit on a Bogotá night bus; he woke in hospital 800 miles away. "The bus wasn't even going there" is the twist in the tale. There was the traveller in Quito, Ecuador, who went for a quick drink and woke up, two days later, naked and in a strange apartment. And then, in an interesting variation, there was the Chilean diplomat who was caught smuggling cocaine on an international flight while in a deep trance.
The stories were gripping, but I never saw them as anything other than entertainment. The account was always second- or third-hand, the victim always "a friend of a friend". Then, one night, in a Peruvian bar, the victim was me.
I was halfway through a sip of beer when I blanked out. It was as though someone had drawn a curtain across my conscious mind. Just as suddenly, I was conscious again, but blind. I could hear voices. I had an incredible feeling of calm. Then I blanked out again.
Luckily, friends got me safely back to the hotel. Next day, they gleefully explained the missing minutes from the night before: I had attacked a stranger at the bar, thrown punches, rolled about on the floor; then, in the taxi home, tried to clamber into the front seat and drive. I had needed restraining.
I listened aghast. I had no sense at all of having lost any time. My mind, like an old record player, had skipped a groove.
By chance, several days later, I met two travellers who had visited the same Lima bar. The South African told me he had suddenly got dizzy a few sips into his first beer. He staggered outside, followed by some locals. His friends got to him first, hailed a taxi and took him home. The Dutch traveller told me that the barmaid had warned her of a gang that laces the drinks of tourists and then robs them outside.
The penny dropped: I was a burundanguiado. That is an Andean word for a victim of burundanga, a potent plant extract based on shamans' old potions. A tasteless yellow powder, it has a fearsome reputation in Colombia, the centre of druggings in South America.
It comes from the datura plants once used by the Chibcha people to sedate the wives and slaves buried alive with deceased chiefs. It is still used in remote areas by curanderos (healers) to induce a "waking trance" state, sometimes preceded by sudden outbursts of violence.
Burundanga can be added to food, drinks or cigarettes. In recent decades, its sinister use on the streets has grown from its role as a weapon in Colombia's gang wars. In Bogotá, hospital doctors say it accounts for half of all poisoning admissions, 500 per month.
In other parts of the Andes, it is known as borrachera, "drunken binge". Across the divide in Brazil, drugging crimes are charmingly called Boa noite, Cinderella - Goodnight, Cinderella - after a popular Seventies television show.
Crimes involving datura are also being reported in Ecuador, where it is used as a "recreational" drug, peddled by local guides to thrill-seeking tourists.
It was in Ecuador that I once witnessed the power of a vine called wantu. On the last night of a four-day jungle trip, our local guides brewed up a bitter potion they said was used by experienced shamans. They then talked half of our group of backpackers into drinking it.
Mayhem ensued. The jungle camp turned into a scene from Night of the Living Dead as the dozen or so imbibers crashed zombie-like through the undergrowth, while trying to tear up money or passports - not very successfully, because they had lost most of their faculties, including
Some lay in their hammocks having hallucinations about beasties. Others tottered towards the banks of the Rio Napo, a swift Amazon tributary that is no place to play blindman's buff. We shepherded them into a wooden hut and guarded them until dawn for their own safety.
The next day, our zombies had returned, partly, to the land of the living, although their eyesight was still a bit haywire (some still could not read their watch faces several days later). None could fully recall their antics of the night before and, irritatingly, they did not believe our version of events.
Wantu, like other datura-based drugs, contains a chemical called scopolamine, which has many legitimate medical uses and is cropped for pharmaceutical companies in South America. Minute doses are used as a seasick cure, stronger ones in anaesthesia.
Scopolamine induces a dry mouth, disorientation, loss of vision, a hypnotic state and hallucinations. An overdose can cause heart failure. It also causes memory loss, which is seen as a benefit to patients undergoing surgery. That is less of a benefit to victims on the street, as Elliott Stares, a 26-year-old Londoner, found when he and his brother were coerced to change hotels before being robbed by a "friendly" couple in Recife, Brazil.
"We met them for some drinks, but were quickly rendered completely compliant to their will," he recalls. He remembers being in a bar, then has only glimpses of memory as the brothers were walked back to their hotel and told to collect their gear in readiness for a move to another hotel.
He now believes they were moved to make it easier to rob them. He has no memory of checking into the new hotel, but was later told by counter staff that he and his brother had seemed "drunk and dazed" when they arrived and had needed help from the Brazilian couple.
The brothers slept for 20 hours before waking in their strange lodgings. All their money and credit cards were gone. It took another day for them to get their senses together, says Stares, and through comparing notes and talking to hotel staff they managed to piece together the missing hours. "Sometimes things come back to me, little bites of information, but still most of the evening is vague."
He remembers at one point the Brazilian woman giving him a glass of powdery water, while his brother was lying unconscious nearby. "The amazing thing was that I knew what was happening without even realising any danger. I just went along with it."
This type of drugging is not exclusive to South America. Datura-type plants grow on most continents and have long been associated with druggings both in ritual and crime. Modern science has brought us more refined Mickey Finns such as Rohypnol, Halcion and GHB, chemical hypnotics used in "date rapes" in North America and occasionally turning up in Britain.
The Foreign Office says that embassies throughout the world have noticed a rise in drugging cases, but not enough to call a trend. "It's hard to say if the problem is growing or just being reported more, although it is wise to be alert to it," says a spokesman.
Any assessment of the risk is made more difficult by the entanglement of genuine cases with the fictional. Drugs such as burundanga are often a feature of that durable travellers' tale, "I woke up minus a kidney". Stories of organ theft, which proliferate through the internet, have been thoroughly debunked as modern myth (in one study by the UN, no less). They creep so often into mainstream media, however, that in New Orleans (often named as a city where travellers get separated from their body parts) the police department has threatened legal action against those who publish them. "These allegations . . . are completely fictitious and a violation of criminal statutes concerning the issuance of erroneous and misleading information," says the city's Office of Public Affairs.
In other respects, the internet has been a positive force. Real victims of drugging have turned to it as a way to warn other travellers or to secure justice.
A German backpacker, who was drugged and sexually assaulted by a guide on a jungle tour in Rurrenabaque, Bolivia, in 1998, publicised her ordeal on popular traveller internet sites, describing how in the aftermath she had met with "nothing but indifference from the local police and 'my' German embassy".
Her report gained credibility when several other victims came forward. Warnings were posted inside guidebook covers and on hostel walls. Bolivian police eventually arrested the guide last December, but not before two more alleged attacks. He now faces multiple charges of rape and assault.
In some parts of the world, drugging is linked to sex tourism and the victims are reluctant to talk. Sometimes, they are silenced for good. In the Thai resort of Pattaya, police were called to investigate a spate of deaths from heart attack among men - more than could be explained by heatstroke, over-exertion and over-the-counter Viagra. In nine months, 45 male tourists had dropped dead. According to Thai newspapers, police arrested a gang of prostitutes who had been smearing a knock-out paste on their breasts; they had been a bit over-zealous in the application.
For most of us, the risk of being drugged will arise in less compromising circumstances. The Foreign Office warns tourists to take particular care with their food and drink in Brazil, India, the Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia, Turkey and the former Soviet countries. On Russian trains, the word is: "Don't accept any drinks from rail staff."
If you do fall victim, then the official advice is to tell the police and your nearest embassy or consulate as soon as possible. It might not be a good idea to return to your hotel or hostel. "There is a chance the druggers know where you are staying - they may even have copies of your keys - and you could be in continuing danger," says a Foreign Office spokesman.
The embassy itself can act as a temporary safe haven and help with lost tickets, passports and money. The Foreign Office is keen to hear of even minor incidents. If there is credible evidence of a persistent risk in an area, then it can instigate local inquiries and add warnings to its travel advisory bulletins.
Travellers sensibly avoiding the sleazy side of town should take care on buses and trains, and remember that there is no archetypal drugger. Last October, Peruvian police received a dozen reports of druggings by a "sweet middle-aged lady" handing out sweets to passengers on the night bus to Huaraz, a popular resort.
A whole Bolivian family was in on the act on the long-distance bus from Argentina to Bolivia. "They were very friendly," recalls their Danish victim, who passed out after accepting a sip of Fanta from grandmother. He woke to find the family and his bags gone.
Across the Pacific, a couple's trip to Manila last year went awry after they met three "nice, well-educated and rich" Filipinos who invited them to go for a snack. Their after-lunch nap lasted 33 hours, during which £4,000 was wiped off their credit cards.
Such cases make for depressing reading. The offer of food or drink is a time-honoured expression of friendship in most parts of the world (especially on Russian trains) and few travellers would want to miss out on it completely. But, when in doubt, it may be better to say no than take a risk. In areas they regard as dangerous, many experienced travellers make a habit of drinking only from bottles or cans they have opened themselves.
Given that so many druggings happen in bars, it is probably a good idea to ensure that when you have a night on the town it is with people you know and trust: go in a group and try to return together. If you do split up, make sure friends know where you are.
Fraser Devan, from London, says he owes his life to fellow backpackers who found him unconscious on his hotel-room floor 24 hours after his drink was spiked in a nightclub in Bangkok. They got him to hospital, where he spent six days in intensive care.
His narrow escape has not dampened his enthusiasm for travel or for Thailand. He is planning to return to Bangkok on his honeymoon in June - "and I'll be checking out that nightclub to see if anything comes back to me".
USUAL SUSPECT: datura extract is used to spike drinks
HOW YOU CAN AVOID BECOMING A VICTIM
Colombia is one country where the Foreign Office has noted a trend for robberies facilitated by drugging. The British Embassy in Bogotá says that "these attacks frequently occur on public transport and travellers should never accept food, drink or cigarettes from strangers, no matter how friendly or well dressed the individual appears". Food sold by street vendors or in cheap cafes might also have been impregnated with a drug.
Ben Box, the editor of the South American Handbook (Footprint), says that the Andean countries - Colombia, Ecuador and Peru - are particularly known for cases of burundanga poisoning, but that travellers should also be wary in Brazil, Bolivia and Venezuela, where drugs are constantly being smuggled across borders.
He offers the following advice: never accept a bar drink from an opened bottle unless you can see that the bottle is in general use; always insist that the bottle is uncapped in front of you. When buying bottled water, make sure that the seal is unbroken. When travelling in a drug-producing area, especially in Bolivia, Peru and Colombia, check with the embassy or tourist office before going off the beaten track.
Richard Danbury and Melissa Graham, co-authors of the Rough Guide to Chile, are less convinced that drugging poses a serious risk in South America. For safety's sake, however, they say that you should avoid taking a lot of money or jewellery into bars and carry a photocopy of your passport rather than the real thing.
"Keep yourself as safe as possible by travelling in groups and avoid overnight trains, especially in anything other than a lockable compartment in first class. When travelling on public transport, lock your luggage to something solid." Finally, they say, be wary of people who are over-friendly and refuse to take no for an answer.
According to the poisons unit at Guy's & St Thomas' Hospital in London, symptoms of datura poisoning (other than those described by Steve Hide) include difficulty in swallowing and speaking, flushed skin, dilated pupils with blurred vision, vomiting, difficulty in passing urine, rapid pulse, high temperature, drowsiness, slurred speech, confusion, delirium, agitation and combative behaviour. The effects can last up to 48 hours, although the pupils may remain dilated for more than a week. Following recovery, the victim may have amnesia.
The Foreign Office website has updated advice on dangers in particular areas and individual embassies often have more detailed information.
The South American Explorers Club was set up to give advice to people visiting Latin America. Its website has noticeboards where travellers can recount their experiences.
Below is an an excerpt from "1977 Senate Hearing on MKULTRA: 'Truth' Drugs in Interrogation" ( http://web.archive.org/web/20031228151745/http://www.druglibrary.org/schaffer/history/e1950/mkultra/Hearing04.htm
SCOPOLAMINE AS "TRUTH SERUM"
Early in this century physicians began to employ scopolamine, along with morphine and chloroform, to induce a state of "twilight sleep" during childbirth. A constituent of henbane, scopolamine was known to produce sedation and drowsiness, confusion and disorientation, incoordination, and amnesia for events experienced during intoxication. Yet physicians noted that women in twilight sleep answered questions accurately and often volunteered exceedingly candid remarks.
In 1922 it occurred to Robert House, a Dallas, Texas obstetrician, that a similar technique might be employed in the interrogation of suspected criminals, and he arranged to interview under scopolamine two prisoners in the Dallas county jail whose guilt seemed clearly confirmed. Under the drug, both men denied the charges on which they were held; and both, upon trial, were found not guilty. Enthusiastic at this success, House concluded that a patient under the influence of scopolamine "cannot create a lie... and there is no power to think or reason."  His experiment and this conclusion attracted wide attention, and the idea of a "truth" drug was thus launched upon the public consciousness.
The phrase "truth serum" is believed to have appeared first in a news report of House's experiment in the Los Angeles Record, sometime in 1922. House resisted the term for a while but eventually came to employ it regularly himself. He published some eleven articles on scopolamine in the years 1921-1929, with a noticeable increase in polemical zeal as time when on. What had begun as something of a scientific statement turned finally into a dedicated crusade by the "father of truth serum" on behalf of his offspring, wherein he was "grossly indulgent of its wayward behavior and stubbornly proud of its minor achievements." 
Only a handful of cases in which scopolamine was used for police interrogation came to public notice, though there is evidence suggesting that some police forces may have used it extensively. [2,16] One police writer claims that the threat of scopolamine interrogation has been effective in extracting confessions from criminal suspects, who are told they will first be rendered unconscious by chloral hydrate placed covertly in their coffee or drinking water. 
Because of a number of undesirable side effects, scopolamine was shortly disqualified as a "truth" drug. Among the most disabling of the side effects are hallucinations, disturbed perception, somnolence, and physiological phenomena such as headache, rapid heart, and blurred vision, which distract the subject from the central purpose of the interview. Furthermore, the physical action is long, far outlasting the psychological effects. Scopolamine continues, in some cases, to make anesthesia and surgery safer by drying the mouth and throat and reducing secretions that might obstruct the air passages. But the fantastically, almost painfully, dry "desert" mouth brought on by the drug is hardly conducive to free talking, even in a tractable subject.
2. Barkham, J. Truth Drugs: The new crime solver. Coronet, Jan. 1951, 29, 72-76.
11. Geis, G. In scopolamine veritas. The early history of drug-induced statements. J. of Crim. Law., Criminal, & Pol. Sci., Nov.-Dec. 1959, 50 (4), 347-358.
14. House, R. E. The use of scopolamine in criminology. Texas St. J. of Med., 1922, 18, 259.
16. Inbau, F. G. Self-incrimination. Springfield: C. C. Thomas, 1950.