Boy in Australia Is Arrested After Admitting Putting Needles in Fruit as a ‘Prank’

Australian authorities have arrested a young boy after he admitted he put needles in strawberries as a “prank.”

The arrest was announced by New South Wales police on Wednesday, Sept. 19, with Acting Assistant Commissioner Stuart Smith saying the boy had been arrested in the last few days.

“Obviously in the last few days we found a young person has admitted to a prank, including putting needles in strawberries,” Smith said, according to the Daily Mail.

Police previously said that other fruit that had been contaminated across Australia had been the work of copycats.

Smith said that all offenders involved in the pranks would “feel the full weight of the law,” Seven News reported.

Police have said that those responsible could be jailed for 10 years, although the boy would be dealt with under the “youth cautioning system.”

Police in NSW said on Sept. 18 that needles had been found in more than 20 strawberry punnets, and there were also reports that a banana and apple had needles in them.

“Any incidents of self-contamination or copycat incidents impact on the industry and are very unhelpful for authorities,” NSW Detective Superintendent Danny Doherty told reporters in Sydney.

“They will be treated as contamination, which is a serious offense and carries 10 years in jail.”

The health scare spread across Australia and prompted supermarkets to recall brands and farmers to dump fruit amid the peak growing season.

Fortunately, there have been no reports of serious injuries from the needles, although one child from Newcastle found one in a banana while at school.

After biting into the fruit the child alerted teachers and police were called to the school.

“As you would have heard, this morning a student at St. Paul’s discovered a needle in a piece of fruit,” the school wrote on Facebook page on Wednesday night.

“The student fortunately discovered the fruit was contaminated before biting into it. The local police were informed, have visited the school, and are investigating. If you send fruit to school over the next few days, please cut it up first and send it in a plastic container.”

A man in Queensland posted on Facebook that his friend had swallowed half a sewing needle after eating a strawberry from Woolworths on Sept. 9 and had to go to hospital suffering from “severe abdominal pain.”

Strawberries Australia’s industry development officer Jennifer Rowling told the ABC that the industry is “devastated by this incident and it’s distressing to think that someone’s done something like this.”

With many people unwilling to buy fruit that could potentially be contaminated, farmers have been forced to dump their stock.

Gavin Scurr, owner of Pinata Farms in Wamuran, Queensland, told Daily Mail Australia: “We’re spending $25,000 [18,000 USD] a day just on labor to pick strawberries we’re dumping.

“We have to harvest it anyway because as soon as we don’t every two or three days, it gets rotten and disease and fruit flies come in and attack the whole crop.”

Reuters contributed to this report.