Australian police arrest woman suspected of putting sewing needles in strawberries

Authorities in Australia launched an investigation in September 2018 after needles were found in strawberries sold at grocery stores in Queensland and Victoria.

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Authorities in Australia launched an investigation in September 2018 after needles were found in strawberries sold at grocery stores in Queensland and Victoria.

Authorities in Australia on Sunday arrested a 50-year-old woman accused of sabotaging several batches of strawberries sold across the country by putting sewing needles in them, prompting companies to throw out tons of the fruit at the peak of strawberry season.

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Police on Sunday afternoon arrested the woman, identified by Australia's 9News as My Ut Trinh, on seven counts of contamination of goods, officials said. The charges carry a three-year maximum penalty, although police said they plan to argue that the offenses were aggravated, making the maximum sentence 10 years imprisonment.

Authorities launched an investigation in September after a man reported he had swallowed half of a sewing needle after biting into a strawberry bought from a grocer in Strathpine, Queensland.

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Officials warned that they had received similar reports and asked consumers to take care while eating Berry Obsession- and Berry Licious-brand strawberries. In subsequent weeks, authorities launched investigations across the nation as more reports of contaminated strawberries surfaced, news.com.au reported.

Detective Superintendent Jon Wacker told 9News that authorities got a total of 230 reports of contamination, including 186 that included the use of sewing needles.

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Officials with the Queensland Strawberry Growers Association said in September that they had “reason to suspect that a disgruntled ex-employee may have orchestrated” the incidents.

Investigators believe Trinh, a former supervisor at a Berry Obsession/Berry Licious farm, planned for months before sabotaging punnets of strawberries while "motivated by spite or revenge" aimed at her employer, Kevin Tran, 9News and news.com.au reported.

According to 9News, Trinh was linked to the case by DNA found on one of the needles.

Authorities continue to investigate the case.