Hunt for schoolboy who threw Vegemite sandwiches at Gillard
Suspended schoolboy claims he was not the one who threw lunch during PM's visit
An investigation was under way yesterday into who threw Vegemite sandwiches at Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard as she toured a school in the state of Queensland.
Gillard tried to play down the prank on Wednesday at Marsden state high school in Brisbane. "One kid thought he might just be a little bit naughty," she said.
But the sandwich "whodunit" hit the headlines.
"I didn't see a sandwich in the air," Gillard told ABC radio yesterday. "I did see half a sandwich on the ground. What I actually saw was screaming, overexcited and enthusiastic kids being very warm and very friendly."
School principal Alan Jones and his staff quickly identified a culprit and suspended him for two weeks.
But student Kyle Thomson, 16, told reporters he was "not the one that threw the sandwich" and urged the school to "get its facts right".
Two sandwiches were in fact thrown.
Television footage showed a first bounce off another student in a noisy crowd but a second only just missed, falling behind Gillard's back.
Thomson told Channel Nine he tried to block the sandwiches covered with Australia's favourite sticky paste.
"I hit the sandwich out of the kid's hands because he threw it and there was another one so I hit it out of his hand," he said.
Brisbane's local radio described the incident as "sandwich-gate" and interviewed Gillard and Kyle, who told the prime minister he was innocent.
"It's not my job to be saying something different," she said, offering her sympathy.
Gillard laughed when asked if there would be a parliamentary pardon, and added it was a matter for the school principal.
"Hopefully the truth will come out," Thomson said.
His mother Anna said she believed her son and the incident had been blown out of all proportion.
"I honestly wonder if he would have been suspended on the first day without all the investigations being done if it wasn't the prime minister," she said.
She wanted all television footage shot of the incident reviewed as part of the school's inquiry. "I'm sure she's had more thrown at her than a sandwich throughout her life," the mother said.