Former strawberry farm supervisor My Ut Trinh, 52, was a person of interest early in the investigation into deliberate strawberry contamination in 2018, says Detective Sergeant Gary Perrett.
But officers found there was insufficient evidence to charge Trinh until they received DNA test results linking her to a needle, he told a committal hearing in Brisbane Magistrates Court on Monday.
Trinh is charged with six counts of contamination of goods to cause economic loss.
She was working at Berrylicious in her hometown of Caboolture, north of Brisbane, between September 2 and 7, 2018, when she allegedly inserted needles into the fruit.
A man found a needle when he bit into a contaminated strawberry on September 9, sparking a national food safety frenzy with strawberries stripped from shelves nationwide.
Detective Sergeant Perrett said more than 240 copycat incidents were reported after the initial incident.
“It went berserk,” he told the court.
Perrett was asked about leads like a report of a suspicious person seen on a road in a strawberry farm a few days before news about the contamination broke.
He was unable to provide information about any follow-up to that report, but told defence barrister Terry Morgans strawberry farms are open to the public.
“You can walk into these strawberry farms at any time at any place—he may have been stealing strawberries,” Perrett said.
The officer said leads provided to police were followed up and documented by other officers, while he and a colleague focused on the investigation into Trinh.
The hearing was adjourned until July 27 for information about leads provided to police and how they were followed up to be given to the defence team.
By Cheryl Goodenough