Police to take over NSW removalists probe

Callum GoddeAAP
VideoMother of infected removalists dies of COVID-19

The probe into a crew of NSW removalists who sparked Victoria’s Delta coronavirus outbreak is set to be handed to police imminently.

Premier Daniel Andrews has cleared up confusion surrounding which agency is the lead investigator into the allegedly illegal actions of the three-person removalist team.

The removalists weren’t wearing masks when they made two stops at Craigieburn and Maribyrnong on July 8, in a breach of the conditions of their worker permits.

Residents of the Ariele Apartments in Maribyrnong caught COVID-19 from the removalists, two of whom later tested positive, and unknowingly spread it into the community.

The Ariele Apartments in Maribyrnong, Melbourne
Camera IconResidents of a Melbourne apartment block are self-isolating after two removalists tested positive. Credit: AAP

The outbreak at the complex can be traced back to almost all 147 local cases and triggered the state’s fifth lockdown.

Based on a briefing on Friday morning, the premier confirmed the Department of Health’s compliance team is close to finalising their investigation and forwarding it on to police.

“If it is not with police, it is literally on the way to them and they will do as they see fit,” Mr Andrews told reporters on Friday.

“I expect if you were to ask the chief commissioner the same question on Monday it is probably a different answer.”

Premier Presser
Camera IconPremier Daniel Andrews says the trend was with Victoria. NCA NewsWire/Daniel Pockett Credit: News Corp Australia

Earlier, Chief Commissioner Shane Patton said police were assisting the health department, including tracking the removalists’ movements within the state.

But he was adamant Victoria Police were yet to formally take over the investigation.

Meanwhile, a publican in regional Victoria has been arrested and fined nearly $22,000 for openly flouting health directions.

Trevor Andrews of the Pastoral Hotel Echuca has been opening to patrons for three days, serving meals and drinks in defiance of lockdown rules.

The publican was warned and later fined twice before police made the decision to arrest him.

“We’re taking it very seriously because he has just been deliberately and blatantly breaching the CHO (Chief Health Officer) directions,” Mr Patton told Melbourne radio station 3AW.

“Common sense has not prevailed.”

The police commissioner said he had been bailed with specific conditions and faced the prospect of jail if he reopened again.

“We would probably be asking for him to be remanded. It’s nonsense what he’s doing,” he said.

Mr Patton said the stunt had ended up costing the community over $100,000, with another 47 staff and guests inside the hotel also slapped with fines.

It comes as police issued a stern warning to hundreds of people purportedly planning to attend an anti-lockdown protest in Melbourne on Saturday.

“There is talk of convoys potentially blocking the Bolte Bridge and a range of others,” Mr Patton said.

“We will take every action we can to stop them doing that.”

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