Erin Patterson, an Australian woman aged 49 faced murder charges in court on Friday following the deaths of three elderly individuals after a lunch in Leongatha, a rural town southeast of Melbourne. The three are reported to have allegedly consumed poisonous mushrooms.
Patterson has been charged with three counts of murder and five counts of attempted murder, as indicated in court documents. She however did not to seek bail and is scheduled for her next court appearance in May 2024, maintaining her innocence throughout the proceedings.
According to a Reuters report, the victims, Don Patterson, Gail Patterson, and Heather Wilkinson, fell ill and subsequently passed away after the gathering on July 29. Don and Gail Patterson were the parents of Patterson’s ex-husband, Simon Patterson, who was also present during the lunch.
Simon Patterson was listed in court documents as the alleged victim in four instances of attempted murder, spanning from 2021 to 2022. The most recent attempt was made during the lunch, where Patterson served a beef Wellington dish prepared with a mix of button mushrooms which she said she bought from a supermarket and dried mushrooms from an Asian grocery.
Heather Wilkinson’s husband, Ian, a local pastor, also fell seriously ill but recovered after being released from the hospital in September. Erin Patterson became a suspect after she and her two children emerged unharmed after the lunch.
Investigations which have been ongoing since August suggested that the victims’ symptoms were consistent with mushroom poisoning, a rare occurrence in Australia. Several months before the incident, the state of Victoria had issued a warning advising against the consumption of wild mushrooms unless one possessed expert knowledge, citing the highly toxic “Death Cap” mushroom and the similar-looking but poisonous yellow staining mushroom.
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All four guests fell ill and were hospitalized, with the Patterson couple and Heather Wilkinson succumbing to the poisonous effects of what is believed to be death cap mushrooms. Despite being named as a suspect, Patterson has denied any intention to harm her guests, emphasizing that she herself was hospitalized after the meal and received treatment to safeguard her liver from potential mushroom toxicity.