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The Independent UK
The Independent UK
Matt Mathers

Erin Patterson: Everything we know about alleged mushroom poisoning deaths


An Australian woman accused of poisoning her in-laws with deadly mushrooms at a family lunch has been charged with murder and attempted murder.

Erin Patterson, 49, appeared in court briefly on Thursday charged with three counts of murder and five counts of attempted murder - three of which relate to her husband, court documents say.

Here’s what we know about the case so far.

On 29 July 2023, Ms Patterson hosted a lunch for her estranged in-laws and another couple at her home in the small, rural town of Leongatha in Victoria, about 85 miles southeast of Melbourne.

She invited Don and Gail Patterson - her ex-husband’s parents - and Gail’s sister Heather Wilkinson and her husband Ian Wilkinson.

For the meal, organised as a reconciliation effort for the sake of the two children she shared with her husband, Ms Patterson prepares a beef Wellington dish that included mushrooms.

Simon did not attend the meal and their children went to see a film instead.

Heather and Ian Wilkinson became ill afte the meal. Ian recovered but Heather died
— (The Salvation Army Australia Museum/Facebook)

The next day all four people who attended the lunch fell ill and were taken to hospital for symptoms similar to food poisoning.

Medics who treated the four people later said their symptoms were consistent with poisoning from death cap mushrooms.

Don and Gail Patterson died after eating the meal
— (Supplied)

Death cap mushrooms, which grow in the Leongatha area, are highly toxic and account for about 90 per cent of mushroom-related fatalities globally.

A few days after the meal, on 4 August, Gail Patterson and her sister Heath die in hospital.

Heather’s husband Ian, a pastor, is left in a critical condition but recovers months later.

On 5 August, Don Patterson dies in hospital. On the same day police, suspicious that a third person had passed away following the meal, decide to search Ms Patterson’s home and interview her.

Erin Patterson speaks to the media outside her home in Leongatha, Victoria
— (via REUTERS)

She is questioned by homicide investigators and later released without charge.

But a few days later, on 7 August, Victoria police tell local media that Erin is a suspect in the case because she had cooked the meal.

Detectives search the property of Erin Patterson in Leongatha, Australia, Thursday, 2 November 2023
— (AP)

Detectives caution that “it could be very innocent” and warn that the case is extremely “complex”.

Dean Thomas, homicide squad detective inspector, tells a press conference that Erin and her husband Simon are separated but they believe the split was amicable.

On the same day, a visibly emotional Erin makes a public statement about the deaths, insisting that she didn’t mean to harm anyone.

“I didn’t do anything,” a tearful Erin told reporters outside her home. “I loved them and I’m devastated they are gone.”

She adds that she is “so devastated” that her own children have lost their grandparents.

“They’ve lost their grandmother,” she continues. “I’m so sorry that they have lost their lives.”

A detective searches the property of Erin Patterson in Leongatha, Australia
— (AAP Image)

Four days later, on 14 August Erin puts out another statement.

“I really want to repeat that I had absolutely no reason to hurt these people whom I loved.”

Erin Patterson speaks to reporters after being named as a suspect in the poisoning deaths of three of her elderly in-laws
— (7 News)

She also reveals that she fed her children the leftovers from the Wellington on the day day after the fatal meal - but took the mushrooms out because her kids don’t like them.

Mushroom growers and Asian shops in the area said they did not have any issues reported to them.

They added that none of their products had been recalled and Victoria’s Health Department confirmed it had not issued health alerts for any mushroom sales.

Erin Patterson sobs in interview
— (News International)

A neighbour of Erin’s comes forward on the same day to claim that she was an experienced forager who regularly picked mushrooms in the area.

Simon Patterson, estranged husband of homicide suspect Erin, did not attend the 29 July meal
— (Facebook / Simon Patterson)

On 28 September reports say that forensic tests confirm the official cause of the deaths as mushroom poisoning.

On 2 November Errin is arrested again in connection with the deaths. Later that day she is charged with three counts of murder and five counts of attempted murder.

In court documents released to local media, prosecutors accuse Erin of attempting to kill her estranged husband on the occasions between November 2021 and September 2022.

Erin Patterson’s Lawyer Bill Doogue (C) departs from the Latrobe Valley Law Courts in Morwell, Victoria, Australia, 3 November 2023
— (EPA)

The alleged fourth attempt was on the day she served a beef Wellington lunch.

She was remanded in custody and due to appear at Latrobe Valley Magistrates’ Court on the morning of 3 November.

DI Thomas thanks members of the public who have contacted police with information about the case and says the charges are the “next step” in the probe.

“Today’s charges are just the next step in what has been an incredibly complex, methodical and thorough investigation by homicide squad detectives,” he said.

“Our thoughts today are with the families of those impacted and we will continue to ensure they are provided with all the necessary support they need.”

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