Cook blasts Police probe’s decision to not press charges

Ian Cook from I Cook Foods. 202497_06 Picture: STEWART CHAMBERS

By Marcus Uhe

I Cook Foods founder Ian Cook has slammed Victoria Police’s decision to not lay charges against the Victorian Department of Health or Greater Dandenong City Council after concluding the criminal investigation into the ‘Slug Gate’ case involving his Dandenong South catering business.

It was reported on Friday 7 January by another media outlet that Victoria Police declared that no crimes had been detected after an extensive investigation into allegations of sabotage and evidence tampering.

Mr Cook told Star News that the decision is a reflection on the wider problem with authority in Victoria.

“I’m not happy with it but I’m not surprised,” Mr Cook said. “There’s no separation of powers in Victoria anymore between the Police and Parliament.

“(Daniel) Andrews tells everybody what they will or won’t do, who they’ll prosecute and who they won’t.

“Every Victorian needs to be very concerned, and very very nervous about what they are doing.“

ICF was closed in February 2019 by Acting Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton as part of an inquiry into the death of 86-year-old patient Jean Painter at Knox Private hospital, who suffered listeriosis.

The hospital was catered by ICF at the time.

41 employees lost their jobs and the business was forced to close due to the shutdown, according to Mr Cook.

Listeria was detected at I Cook Foods after a member of Greater Dandenong City Council collected 25 samples from the premises in February 2019, which was linked to the death of the patient in 2019 through genomic sequencing, according to a parliamentary enquiry.

The enquiry heard that on Monday 18 February 2019 Elizabeth Garlick from Greater Dandenong City Council observed several health and safety issues at I Cook Foods including finding a live slug on the floor.

ICF management alleged that the slug was planted in the business’ kitchen by a member of the City of Greater Dandenong Council and that evidence, including bodycam footage, was tampered with by council officials.

Greater Dandenong City Council Chief Executive John Bennie welcomed the decision by police, claiming that the council conducted themselves professionally at all times.

“We’ve now had the Ombudsman, two Parliamentary inquiries, and the Victoria Police, review and interrogate every aspect of this matter and, on every occasion, without exception, Council has been cleared of any wrongdoing,” Mr Bennie said.

“There has been no cover-up, no false information, no misleading documentation.

“How many more investigations are needed before we call this out for what it really is – nothing more than a series of baseless claims centred on a nasty, hurtful, conspiracy theory.”

This was the second investigation into the closure of ICF, after Police Chief Commissioner Shane Patton called for a review in April of the initial probe, where no persons of interest or witnesses were interviewed.

Detective Sergeant Ash Perry of Greater Dandenong Crime Investigation Unit wrote that he formed the opinion the shutdown of ICF was “unlawful” and the prosecution of the catering business was “malicious” in a leaked police briefing note.

Mr Cook said that ICF will continue to pursue a civil case against the City of Greater Dandenong and the Victorian Government.