true crime

A NSW boy has been arrested for hiding needles in strawberries.

A New South Wales boy has been arrested for inserting needles into strawberries, after admitting he performed the act as “a prank”.

NSW Acting Assistant Commissioner Stuart Smith announced the arrest on Wednesday afternoon, as Australia remains in the grips of the strawberry contamination crisis.

“In the last two days we found a young person has admitted to a prank, including putting needles in strawberries, and he’ll be dealt with under the youth cautioning system,” he told media.

Identifying details have been withheld due to the alleged offender’s age.

Sewing needles have been found in strawberries in all six Australian states since the first cases were reported by Queensland authorities on September 12.

Though several needles have been found in punnets in NSW, local detectives believe all are the work of copycats and pranksters.

Investigating police in each state are funnelling information back to detectives in Queensland, where the primary probe remains ongoing. The Queensland government has also offered a $100,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction of the person/s responsible.

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News of the NSW boy’s arrest on Wednesday comes just hours after Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced a five-year increase in the federal penalty for those engaging in food tampering, meaning the crime will now carry a 15-year prison sentence, in line with terror financing and child pornography possession.

Prime Minister Morrison also revealed plans to introduce a new 10 year penalty for “recklessness”, including pranks and hoaxes.

“It’s not a joke, it’s not funny. You’re putting the lives of hard-working Australians at risk, you’re scaring children, and you’re a coward and you’re a grub,” he told media in Canberra.

The toll of the crisis has been so devastating for the strawberry industry, that Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk on Tuesday announced a $1 million assistance fund for affected growers in her state.

“The crop is worth $160 million — it is the lifeblood for 150 growers and their workforces,” she said in parliament.

“Police are having to deal with not only the original contamination, but also apparent copycats. This is an attack on all of us.”

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