Former farm supervisor charged over Australia strawberry sabotage

1 / 2
Workers process strawberries in the Glass House Mountains in Queensland on September 20, 2018. (AFP)
2 / 2
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
0

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.


Ending the silence on sex abuse: Vatican holds summit

Updated 20 min 39 sec ago
0

Ending the silence on sex abuse: Vatican holds summit

  • Survivors will be meeting with summit organizers and the bishops themselves ahead of the summit

VATICAN CITY: Pope Francis is summoning church leaders from around the world this week for a tutorial on how to deal with cases of sex abuse by clergy.
Many Catholic church leaders around the world continue to protect the church's reputation by denying that priests rape children and by discrediting victims, and the pope himself admits to having made similar mistakes.
But Francis has done an about-face and is bringing the rest of the church leadership along with him at the extraordinary summit starting Thursday.
The meeting will bring together some 190 presidents of bishops' conferences, religious orders and Vatican offices lectures and workshops on preventing sex abuse in their churches, tending to victims, and investigating abuse.
Survivors will be meeting with summit organizers and the bishops themselves ahead of the summit.