An Australian woman, Erin Patterson, has been charged with multiple counts of murder and attempted murder in connection with a tragic incident involving poisoned mushrooms served at a lunch she hosted in July. The deadly meal claimed the lives of three individuals, and the investigation has unveiled more alleged poisoning incidents.
Patterson, aged 49, served beef Wellington, a dish containing mushrooms, to her guests during the ill-fated lunch held at her residence in the Victoria town of Leongatha. Toxicology reports indicate that the victims consumed deathcap mushrooms.
The charges against Patterson include three counts of murder, directly related to the fatal lunch, and two counts of attempted murder tied to the same event. While the police have not disclosed specifics regarding the attempted murder charges, it is known that one of the guests fell critically ill but survived.
The case extends further with three additional counts of attempted murder, involving a 48-year-old man who allegedly fell ill following meals served between 2021 and 2022. The exact details of these incidents have not been revealed.
Patterson, who maintains her innocence, was identified as a suspect after she and her two children remained unharmed following the lunch. She was taken into custody, and an extensive search of her home in Leongatha, located approximately 125km (78 miles) southeast of Melbourne, was conducted. Specialist technology detector dogs were employed in the investigation.
Homicide squad Inspector Dean Thomas emphasized the complexity of the case during a press conference, acknowledging that the tragedy might have lasting repercussions. He noted the extraordinary level of media and public interest in the case, both nationally and internationally.
The guests who attended the fatal lunch included Gail and Don Patterson, the parents of Erin Patterson’s former husband, as well as Gail Patterson’s sister, Heather Wilkinson, and her brother-in-law, Ian Wilkinson. The four guests reported violent illness on July 30 and were hospitalized. Tragically, within days, Gail and Don Patterson, both aged 70, and Heather Wilkinson, aged 66, had passed away. Ian Wilkinson, aged 68, was initially in critical condition but eventually recovered after two months of treatment.
Erin Patterson, who was also hospitalized after the meal due to stomach pains, claimed to have used a mixture of button mushrooms purchased from a supermarket and dried mushrooms bought from an Asian grocery months earlier in the beef Wellington. She expressed devastation at the possibility that the mushrooms contributed to the illness of her loved ones and vehemently denied any intention to harm them.
Patterson addressed questions about a food dehydrator discovered by the police at a local tip, admitting to owning it and explaining that she disposed of it in a state of panic after the deaths occurred.
Patterson has been remanded in custody and is set to appear at the Latrobe Valley Magistrates’ Court on Friday (03).