Photo by Paul J. Richards via Getty Images

Officials say she was acting out of spite or revenge

Mike Pomranz
November 12, 2018

Australia’s long strawberry nightmare may finally be over. Back in September, many sewing needles were found in strawberries, shocking the country. As weeks went by, the epidemic only got worse, with authorities believing that all the publicity sparked numerous copycat criminals. In the end, every state in Australia and New Zealand were affected by the crisis, leading to as many as over 200 incidents involving 68 fruit brands. But finally, a suspect has been jailed.

My Ut Trinh, a 50-year-old former supervisor of fruit pickers at a farm in Queensland, allegedly began putting needles into fruit as part of a plan to cause financial damage to the business. What precisely spawned her anger is not yet entirely clear. “The case that is put is that it is motivated by some spite or revenge,” Magistrate Christine Roney said, according to the BBC. “She has embarked on a course over several months of putting a metal object into fruit.” She will now be facing seven charges of strawberry contamination, which could lead to a maximum sentence of ten years in jail.

While fruit lovers can take a bit of a sigh of relief, it seems highly unlikely that Trinh alone was behind all of those incidents, which also included other fruits like apples and bananas. Though some of the incidents were traced back to where Trinh worked, as Queensland Strawberry Growers Association spokeswoman Jennifer Rowling points out, the charges alone would make it seem like other suspects are still out there. “It is disconcerting that the charges relate to only six or seven punnets (plastic boxes) of strawberries, proving that the majority of ... incidents were copycats or false reports,” Rowling said.

Even authorities admitted that finding their suspect wasn’t easy. “This is a major and unprecedented police investigation with a lot of complexities involved,” Detective Superintendent Jon Wacker said. “The Queensland Police Service has allocated a significant amount of resources to ensure those responsible are brought to justice.” He also said, “This has probably been one of the most trying investigations that I've been part of. It's a fairly unique.”

As a result, the police also stated today that the case is “far from over.” Maybe it’s still a good idea to keep slicing those Australian strawberries in half before eating them just in case.

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