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12 June 2013, 15:26
A group of women have won compensation from a South Shields bar after suffering "terrifying'' burns when they drank cocktails with bleach in.
Hairdresser Lauren Murphy said she thought she was going to die after taking a sip of the contaminated drink while she was out celebrating her mother's 50th birthday in South Shields in February 2011.
The group were in Raffles and Dante's bar, now closed, when one of them ordered the pink kangaroo, which should contain tequila, vodka, cider, cranberry juice and orange juice.
But tests later showed the suspect drink was contaminated with bleach, normally used for cleaning bar pipes.
One woman vomited immediately after taking a gulp, while others suffered throat burns and ran to the toilet to wash out their mouths.
Ms Murphy, 22, said:
"I went in the toilets and my friend was nearly passed out because she had swallowed her sip all the way down.
The police were called and I gave my drink to the officer.
By this time everyone was getting burns and I had bleach stains on my black dress.
Three ambulances turned up and they shut the bar and we were taken to hospital.''
Ms Murphy, who comes from South Shields, said she has suffered from heartburn ever since the night out.
"I couldn't swallow properly for six weeks.
My mouth was swollen and my tongue piercing became all shiny.
It felt like a ball of fire inside, it was terrifying, I thought I was going to die.''
Five women won £2,500 compensation each from the bar's insurer in an out-of-court settlement.
Steven Thomson, from TLW Solicitors, which represented the group, said:
"We are delighted to have secured a settlement on behalf of our clients but disappointed a settlement could not have been reached without us having to issue court proceedings.
As a result, this process has taken far longer than it ought to have done, but at least now my clients can put this horrendous incident behind them.
Many tens of thousands of drinks are bought on Tyneside every weekend and in each case, the customer puts their trust in the bar or pub that the product will be safe to drink.
I hope lessons will be learned from this incident that the safety of customers always has to be at the very top of the list of priorities.''