Ex-farm supervisor charged over Australia strawberry sabotage, Latest World News - The New Paper

Ex-farm supervisor charged over Australia strawberry sabotage

This article is more than 12 months old

SYDNEY A former farm supervisor has been identified by Queensland state police as the main suspect behind the strawberry needle contamination scare that sparked nationwide panic in Australia.

My Ut Trinh, 50, who worked at one of the strawberry farms where the tampered produce was grown, was arrested on Sunday and charged with seven counts of contaminating goods.

Pins and needles were found stuck into the fruit in September, leading supermarkets to pull boxes from shelves across Australia and New Zealand and forcing farmers to dump crops.

The sabotage and a rash of suspected hoaxes and copycat attacks also prompted the national government to raise criminal penalties for fruit tampering.

Trinh was denied bail yesterday after prosecutors said she could suffer retribution for her alleged actions, The Australian reported.

The court was told she was motivated by spite and revenge when she allegedly inserted the needles into the berries in early September.

Earlier, police spoke of the challenges investigators faced as they tried to figure out the source of the contamination.

"This has probably been one of the most trying investigations that I've been part of," Detective Superintendent Jon Wacker told reporters in Brisbane.

Supt Wacker said Trinh, an Australian citizen, "was a supervisor at a farm" which Australian papers identified as one of those at the heart of the scare.

SuptWacker said investigators had "strong evidence" including DNA.

He said police collected 230 reports nationwide of strawberry contamination affecting 68 brands. Some cases were also found to be hoaxes or false complaints, he added.

The Queensland Strawberry Growers Association welcomed the arrest and noted the hoaxes.

"It was a crisis driven by social media and the only real victims were the strawberry growers..." the association said in a statement. - AFP