The NSW Police Force has commenced an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the docking and disembarking of the Ruby Princess last month.
The news comes after the Local Hunter New England Health district recorded its first death as a result of COVID-19.
The 76-year old male, a resident from the Hunter New England District, was a passenger on the Ruby Princess.
He had previously been diagnosed with COVID-19, before being admitted to Westmead Hospital where he passed away on April 5.
After being tasked by the NSW Premier to conduct initial investigations, NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller announced that a criminal investigation is now underway to fully examine the communications, actions, and other circumstances that led to the docking and disembarking of the vessel at Sydney Harbour on March 19.
The investigation is being led by the Homicide Squad’s Detective Chief Inspector Jason Dickinson with oversight from the NSW Coroner.
It is expected the investigation will involve interviewing thousands of witnesses, including the Ruby Princess’ captain and doctors, the crew and passengers; and staff from various Commonwealth and NSW Government offices and agencies.
Commissioner Fuller said his initial assessment of the vessel’s pratique left questions about the transparency in conceptualising the health conditions of passengers and crew in relation to COVID-19.
“I’ve examined a number of phone calls between NSW Ambulance, NSW Port Authority and NSW Police that stemmed from the initial 17-minute Triple Zero call from the ship to NSW Ambulance on 18 March,” he said.
“There appears to have been an exceptional amount of effort put in by Ports to determine the true nature of the conditions on board – and even delayed the vessels arrival until they were provided additional information.
“After reviewing the information at hand, the only way I can determine whether our national biosecurity laws or our state laws were broken is through a criminal investigation.”
The Commissioner added that investigators will examine the actions of everyone involved – whether from the cruise company or government agencies.
“This is a complex issue and we will need information from many witnesses to answer all the questions about how this ship ended up docking last month,” he said.
“We are mindful that some of the key information we need will also come from passengers, so I urge those who were on-board to reach out to us – please contact Crime Stoppers as soon as possible.”
Anyone who was on-board the Ruby Princess and has information relevant to the investigation, including details of symptoms, illness, or medical advice during the journey is urged to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or https://nsw.crimestoppers.com.au.
Information is treated in strict confidence. The public is reminded not to report crime via NSW Police social media pages.
Aspen Medical is continuing to assess the health of the crew onboard the Ruby Princess and have developed a plan in conjunction with NSW Health, the NSW Police Force’s Marine Area Command, and Australian Border Force to manage their welfare until they can depart Australian waters.
Police have been advised that up to 200 of the 1040 crew members currently onboard the vessel are displaying symptoms, while 16 crew members are confirmed to have returned positive results for COVID-19.