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Strawberry needle suspect 'motivated by spite or revenge in act of sabotage'

Mirror logo Mirror 12/11/2018 Chris kitching
My Ut Trinh, 50, was arrested after a months-long investigation by police © AAP My Ut Trinh, 50, was arrested after a months-long investigation by police

A woman accused of putting sewing needles in strawberries that were later sold on supermarket shelves was motivated by spite or revenge, a court heard.

My Ut Trinh, who worked as a farm supervisor, contaminated the fruit in an act of sabotage, it is claimed.

The 50-year-old appeared in court for the first time after the episode in September spurred one of Australia's biggest food scares.

There were nearly 200 complaints of sewing needles found in strawberries and other fruit, and supermarkets withdrew the berries as shoppers abandoned purchases.

Trinh, who was arrested after a nationwide hunt, is the first person to be charged, but it is not clear how many cases she is alleged to have caused.

a close up of a red fruit: A sewing needle stick out from a strawberry © Facebook A sewing needle stick out from a strawberry

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She was charged with seven counts of contamination of goods with intent to cause economic loss. She faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

Brisbane Magistrates' Court heard on Monday that that Trinh's DNA had been found on strawberries in the state of Victoria.

Magistrate Christine Roney said: "The case that is put is that it is motivated by some spite or revenge.

"She has embarked on a course over several months of putting a metal object into fruit."

Trinh, from Caboolture, was a supervisor at the Berrylicious farm.

a man wearing a suit and tie holding a gun © Credits: DAN PELED/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock

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Michael Cridland, defending, said her role did not involve picking strawberries or working in packing sheds.

Prosecutor Cheryl Tesch opposed bail, saying there was "an unacceptable risk of witnesses being interfered with", ABC reported.

Ms Tesch also argued that Trinh should be remanded in custody for her own safety.

She added: "There may be retribution from people seeking to locate her."

Mr Cridland said there was no evidence of direct threats against his client, and police had "not articulated" an actual alleged grievance.

He told the court that his client is not a flight risk.

Trinh, who was arrested in suburban Brisbane on Sunday, was remanded in custody after her barrister withdrew a bail application.

She did not enter a plea to the charges, and will return to court later this month.

During the scare, a man was taken to hospital with stomach pains after swallowing half a needle, and parents told how their children had bitten into needles hidden inside berries.

Some growers were forced to destroy fruit and slash their workforce amid warnings of widespread bankruptcies.

The Queensland state government has set aside $1m (£560,000) to help farmers affected by the crisis.

Police said they received 186 complaints of fruit contaminated with needles, of which 15 had been found to be hoaxes.

There were also calls for copycat offenders to be punished.

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