Thursday, 22 August, 2019

Strawberry needle investigation leads to Australian woman’s arrest, police say

BREAKING: Woman arrested following major investigation into national strawberry contamination Woman (50) arrested over strawberry needle crisis
Patty Aguilar | 12 November, 2018, 03:31

Queensland Police coordinated a national investigation with multiple government, law enforcement and intelligence agencies and setup a dedicated taskforce to identify and locate the person responsible for the contamination.

Police said a 50-year-old woman was arrested on Sunday afternoon "following a complex... and extensive investigation" into the contamination case.

It was followed by needles being found in packets of strawberries in other states and in other fruit, as well as copycat incidents and a statewide campaign by the Queensland government to encourage consumers to back farmers by buying their produce.

She is expected to be charged this evening and will appear in the Brisbane Magistrates Court tomorrow.

Australian strawberry brands were recalled after needles were found in them.

Queensland police released few details in their arrest announcement on Sunday and did not speculate on a motive.

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The Australian government also announced tougher penalties for food tampering, increasing the maximum prison term from 10 years to 15 years.

Queensland authorities notified the public of the safety risk on September 12, and reports of needle-filled strawberries cropped up in all of the Australian states in the subsequent weeks.

"I would also like to thank those within the strawberry industry for their co-operation and members of the public who assisted us with our inquiries". In total, coops dealt with around 100 reports of needles inside berries, but many were suspected to be copycats incidents or hoaxes carried out by idiots hoping for a bit of viral social media fame.

Queensland Police Detective Superintendent Jon Wacker, of the Drug and Serious Crime Group, said the investigation had been unprecedented.

Queensland Strawberry Growers Association vice president Adrian Schultz told The Associated Press in September that what had started as a single act of "commercial terrorism" had brought a multimillion-dollar industry to its knees.

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