Former farm supervisor charged over Australia strawberry sabotage

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Workers process strawberries in the Glass House Mountains in Queensland on September 20, 2018. (AFP)
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Braetop Berries strawberry farmer Aidan Young poses amid strawberries he will destroy following the nationwide needle scare in this September 20 photo. (AFP)
Updated 12 November 2018
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Former farm supervisor charged over Australia strawberry sabotage

  • Pins and needles were found stuck into the fruit in September
  • Supermarkets pulled boxes from shelves across Australia and New Zealand and forcing farmers to dump crops

SYDNEY: Police investigating a major Australian strawberry needle contamination scare that sparked nationwide panic on Monday identified a former farm supervisor as their main suspect.
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.
My Ut Trinh, 50, who worked at one of the strawberry farms where the tampered produce was grown, was arrested and charged with seven counts of contaminating goods by Queensland state police on Sunday.
She faced court on Monday and bail was denied 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, the newspaper added.
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.
Wacker said Trinh, an Australian citizen, “was a supervisor at a farm,” with Queensland’s Courier Mail identifying her employer as the Berrylicious and Berry Obsession farm — one of the growers at the heart of the scare.
Wacker said investigators had “strong evidence” including DNA.
He said police collected 230 reports nationwide of strawberry contamination affecting 68 brands, most within his state, with the majority involving sewing needles.
Some cases were also found to be “a hoax or a false complaint,” Wacker added. Police had earlier questioned at least two minors over suspected hoaxes.
The Queensland Strawberry Growers Association welcomed the arrest, but noted the high number of unresolved cases, adding that the seven counts in Trinh’s charge sheet suggested that most of the 230 reports were either copycat actions or hoaxes.
“It was a crisis driven by social media and the only real victims were the strawberry growers, and to some extent other Australian fruit growers and exporters,” the association said in a statement.


China charges 10 over riot at a military veterans’ protest

Updated 14 min 14 sec ago
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China charges 10 over riot at a military veterans’ protest

  • The violence points to continued tensions between the authorities and ex-servicemen despite the establishment of a Cabinet agency to oversee veterans’ affairs
  • The government refused to confirm the riot at the time and censored reports about it on the Internet

BEIJING: China state media say 10 people have been charged with various offenses over rioting at a gathering of military veterans protesting for better benefits.
It wasn’t clear whether the suspects are veterans. However, the violence at the Oct. 4-7 gathering in the eastern city of Pingdu points to continued tensions between the authorities and ex-servicemen despite the establishment of a Cabinet agency to oversee veterans’ affairs.
Multiple protests have been staged in recent years, including in the capital, Beijing, to demand better pensions and health care.
The government refused to confirm the riot at the time and censored reports about it on the Internet.