An Australian woman has been arrested for allegedly putting needles into fruit
Earlier this year, the entire nation of Australia was gripped in an unusual and horrifying series of fruit crises. Back in mid-September, members of the Australian public in all six states all reported chilling tales of needles being hidden inside fruits like strawberries, bananas and mangoes and sold at supermarkets like Woolworths and Coles.
Initially, the public thought the situation had been handled when a young boy was questioned in relation to the incident, but that turned out to be one of many copycat cases spreading throughout the country, with hundreds of reported instances of fruit contamination country-wide since the panic began.
But now, a 50-year-old has officially been arrested in connection with the incident - with law enforcement believing that "following a complex... and extensive investigation", they've got the right person in custody.
50-year-old My Ut Trinh, a former Queensland strawberry farm employee who is also known as Judy, appeared at Brisbane Magistrates court today after she was charged with seven counts of contamination of goods - carried out between September 2 and September 5 - with intent to cause economic loss.
These counts carry with them a maximum penalty, but with authorities believing that the woman's offences were aggravated, pushing up the maximum sentence to 10 years. As things stand, Trinh was not granted bail, and will reportedly remain in jail until her next court appearance, which is scheduled for November 22.
The court heard that Trinh - who used to work at the Berrylicious farm in Wamuran, north of Brisbane, as a supervisor - had planned the needle attacks months before, calling her actions "motivated by spite or revenge". She reportedly wanted to get back at her employer, Kevin Tran, though it's unclear at this stage why Trinh was angry at her boss.
The charges came after Trinh's DNA was found in one of the contaminated packages of fruit, and she has reportedly known that she was a person of interest since September 12, three days after the first needle was discovered. Detective Superintendent Jon Wacker from the Drug and Serious Crime Group said he is confident of securing a conviction.
"We believe the evidence is strong... We were provided assistance from Victoria Police in relation to an exhibit that was seized in Victoria. DNA evidence will be part of the brief of evidence that we will submit to the court."
Meanwhile, the Queensland Growers Association have welcomed the arrest, but argued in a statement that in light of the copycat incidents, the hammer of justice has to fall on more people than just Trinh.
"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."
Detective Wacker confirmed that there were 230 reported instances of fruit contamination in total. Of those 230 instances, 49 of them were in Queensland where Trinh lived, though police have reason to believe that 15 of these reports were hoaxes.