A former farm worker accused of contaminating strawberries with needles will remain behind bars after being arrested in what Queensland police say is one of the most trying investigations they have conducted.
My Ut Trinh, also known as Judy, was arrested on Sunday and charged with seven counts contamination of goods, which has a maximum 10-year prison penalty.
Ms Trinh’s lawyer Michael Cridland made a bail application but withdrew it after magistrate Christine Roney advised it was “premature” because the motivation behind the alleged contamination was still unclear.
“The case that was put is that she was motivated by some fight or revenge,” Ms Roney said.
Detective Jon Wacker from state crime command told reporters on Monday the accused woman, 50, was an employee in the strawberry industry in the Caboolture area.
Police began investigating in September when sewing needles were found in fruit, with a further 230 incidents reported nationwide impacting 68 strawberry brands, the detective told reporters in Brisbane.
Ms Trinh was arrested amid a months-long, multi-jurisdiction investigation headed by Queensland police after the discovery of needles hidden inside a punnet of strawberries on September 12.
“The Queensland Police Service has allocated a significant amount of resources to ensure those responsible are brought to justice,” Superintendent Jon Wacker said.
Forty-nine brands were Queensland-based. In Queensland, 77 incidents were reported. Of those, 15 were believed to be a hoax or a false complaint, he said.
The investigation was not over, with further investigative strategies being undertaken.
“This has probably been one of the most trying investigations that I’ve been part of. It’s a fairly unique,” Supt Wacker said.
Ms Trinh, a former refugee who arrived in Australia by boat more than two decades ago, will remain in custody until her next hearing later on November 22.
The 50-year-old woman worked as a supervisor of fruit pickers at the Berry Licious or Berry Obsession farm – which was traced back as the source of the needle contamination, the Courier-Mail reported.
The operation was multi jurisdictional also including Queensland Health, the Victoria Police, and Australian Border Force and Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission
PM unveiled new sabotage laws after strawberry crisis.
The state government has previously revealed more than half the $1 million it put forward in response to the saga will be spent on an advertising campaign, with $250,000 allocated for safeguarding supply chain integrity.
Funds will also be given to the Queensland Strawberry Growers Association and Growcom to distribute to affected farmers.
The federal government also stumped up $1 million for the industry and rushed through laws to see those responsible face up to 15 years behind bars.
QSGA said it was pleased an arrest was made and called for copycats to face charges too.
“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,” it said in a statement.