Detectives in full-body protective clothing and wearing masks have boarded the Ruby Princess in the criminal investigation of the coronavirus-riddled cruise ship.
NSW Police said overnight that more than 30 detectives had joined the probe “to examine the circumstances surrounding the docking and disembarking of the Ruby Princess”.
On Sunday, NSW Police launched the criminal investigation to pick apart how that disastrous decision was made, and by who.
“A team of 30 detectives from across State Crime, Counter Terrorism and Special Tactics and Marine Area Commands have been seconded to Strike Force Bast, who will be assisted by intelligence analysts and other specialist officers,” NSW Police said in a statement overnight.
“The first investigations briefing was conducted this morning, and taskings have since commenced.
“Strike force investigators will interview high-priority witnesses in coming days, but they are still urging those with relevant information to contact Crime Stoppers as soon as possible.”
The start of the examinations comes after NSW Police decided multiple passenger deaths linked to the ship could be viewed as “suspicious”.
A 62-year-old South Australian woman who was a passenger on the cruise died in Royal Adelaide Hospital on Wednesday morning.
At least 15 fatalities and more than 600 cases have been linked to the ship, a vessel owned by Carnival Cruises.
Cruise ships intending to dock in NSW had a “high responsibility” to report any COVID-19 symptoms and alert health authorities about any concerns, Police Commissioner Mick Fuller has said.
There are now also question marks over the roles NSW Health and other state and federal government apparatus played as the Ruby Princess was welcomed into Sydney with open arms.
NSW Police have also opened discussions with counterparts in New Zealand.
They are trying to work out what happened across the Tasman, where the Ruby Princess made multiple stops at NZ ports in the North and South Islands before it sailed back to Sydney.
Comm. Fuller said it was “way too early” to start talking about the kind of criminal charges that could follow.
NSW Police are working urgently to seize evidence on the ship before the hulking vessel, described as a floating Petri dish, is ordered out of Australian waters, in one week.
In coming days police will interview other high-priority witnesses about the scandal, while the vessel is expected to remain at Port Kembla for 10 days with 1040 crew members undergoing medical assessments.
About 200 crew have shown symptoms of coronavirus, while 18 crew have so far tested positive.
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