My Ut Trinh who is charged with strawberry contamination. Picture: AAP image, John Gass
My Ut Trinh who is charged with strawberry contamination. Picture: AAP image, John Gass

DNA links needle to strawberry worker

THE DNA found on a sewing needle in a punnet of strawberries in Victoria is "100 billion times likely" to be a match with the Queensland farm worker accused of contaminating the fruit in a move that "crippled" the state's agriculture industry, a court has been told.

My Ut Trinh, 50, a strawberry picking manager from Caboolture, has spent the past two weeks behind bars after she was charged over a string of incidents in which strawberries were laced with needles in September.

Police allege Trinh, who worked for the Berrylicious/Berry Obsession farm in southeast Queensland, contaminated the strawberries out of "spite" for her employer over a disagreement about paying for a speeding fine.

Police prosecutor Cheryl Tesch yesterday opposed Trinh's bid for bail in the Brisbane Magistrates Court, saying there was a strong case against her with DNA found on a needle in strawberries sold at a Victorian supermarket "100 billions times likely to be that of the defendant".

"It is alleged the offences committed had serious economic consequences and widespread economic ramifications, not just for the complainant farmer in this case who attests to financial ruin in his statements, but for the Australian economy as a whole," she said.

"It undermined consumer confidence in strawberries and had a crippling impact on the Queensland strawberry growers industry which is worth $160 million dollars.

"It impacted on the export of Australian strawberries and incited copycat offending."

Trinh’s Lawyer Nick Dore.
Trinh’s Lawyer Nick Dore.

Defence lawyer Nick Dore said his client's DNA could have been on the outside of the strawberry given she worked with the fruit at the farm and could have been transferred to a needle as it was pushed into the strawberry.

Mr Dore said much of the case against his client relied on a comment allegedly made by Trinh one to two years ago to a co-worker, saying: "If I hate anyone, I will put the needle in the strawberry and make them go bankrupt."

Mr Dore said Trinh, a Vietnamese refugee who moved to Australia almost 20 years ago, was not a flight risk and had fully co-operated with investigators.

The magistrate agreed to grant Trinh bail on the conditions she has no contact with witnesses in the case and surrenders her passport.

Her case will be mentioned again on December 17.