Appeal for public help after man coughs on Hunter supermarket employee

Police are appealing for public assistance after a man deliberately coughed on a supermarket employee at a Hunter region store earlier this week.

About 7.30pm on Tuesday (24 March 2020), a 35-year-old female employee was working inside a supermarket on Glenelg Street, Raymond Terrace, assisting customers to adhere to social distancing rules.

Police have been told a man and woman approached the register before a verbal altercation occurred between the man and the female employee and he deliberately coughed on her.

Officers from Port Stephens-Hunter Police District were notified and commenced inquiries into the circumstances surrounding the incident.

As inquiries continue, police have released images of a man they wish to speak to who may be able to assist with their investigation.

The man is described as being of Caucasian appearance, between 170-180cm tall, with a shaved head, and goatee-style facial hair. At the time, he was wearing cream shorts and black thongs.

Anyone who knows the man or has information which may assist investigators is urged to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

A number of COVID-19 ministerial directions been announced to date, covering incoming travellers, diagnosed persons, mass gatherings and social distancing rules, and the closure of social gathering places.

The Public Health Act 2010 (NSW) provides NSW Police with the power to enforce these orders. It is an offence for a person to fail to comply with an order, and severe penalties apply.

NSW Police can now issue Penalty Infringement Notices (PINs) to anyone found to be in contravention of a ministerial direction. PINs carry on-the-spot fines of $1000 for individuals and $5000 for businesses.

Minister for Police and Emergency Services, David Elliott, urges anyone with information to come forward.

“This kind of dangerous behaviour needs to stop immediately. It’s potentially putting the lives of workers and their families at risk.

“This isn’t a time to practice poor hygiene habits.

“For a disgusting act like this, you could find yourself charged with common assault and jailed for up to two years,” Mr Elliott said.

Anyone with information about this incident is urged to contact Crime Stoppers: 1800 333 000 or https://nsw.crimestoppers.com.au. Information is treated in strict confidence.

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