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My Ut Trinh. (YouTube / TIME)
My Ut Trinh. (YouTube / TIME)

Fruit felony

News cameras catch glimpse of woman charged in devastating strawberry sabotage case

By WITW Staff on November 12, 2018

Police in Australia have accused a 50-year-old woman of planting sewing needles and pins into hundreds of strawberries that then landed on supermarket shelves.

According to The Guardian, My Ut Trinh, a former employee at a strawberry farm in Queensland, appeared in a Brisbane court on Monday, having been charged with seven counts of contamination of goods with intent to cause economic loss. News cameras caught a glimpse of the mysterious woman as she rode in the backseat of a car to her arrival at a courthouse. Trinh is expected to remain in police custody until her next hearing later this month.

The needles were first discovered on September 9 when a Queensland man was taken to the hospital with stomach pains after eating strawberries. Another 230 incidents were subsequently reported across the country. According to CNN, the needle-laced strawberries appeared in all six Australian states and in produce sold by at least six different brands. The state of Queensland was prompted to issue a warning to customers to cut up their fruit.

The economic impact of the needle scare was substantial. Farmers had no choice but to dump tons of fruit, while some local and overseas groceries opted to stop selling Australian strawberries entirely. Australia’s government quickly raised the maximum prison sentence for fruit tampering from 10 to 15 years, and Prime Minister Scott Morrison vowed to “throw the book” at anyone responsible for the contamination, according to the BBC.

Within days of the first report, police had honed in on Trinh as a suspect. Authorities are still investigating the case, but according to The Guardian, magistrate Christine Roney said Trinh appeared to have been “motivated by some fight or revenge.”