Charged with murder, mother who ‘fed deadly mushrooms to her relatives’
A MOTHER will appear in court today accused of murdering three elderly lunch guests who were served beef wellington allegedly laced with poisonous mushrooms.
Erin Patterson, 49, was remanded in custody after being charged in the latest twist to a case that has shocked Australia.
In a dramatic development, Patterson also faces a further five charges of attempted murder – three of which relate to meals served to her ex-husband Simon, 48, in 2021 and 2022. Mr Patterson, the father of her children, ended up in intensive care after eating the allegedly deadly dishes.
Patterson has previously professed her innocence, tearfully insisting: ‘I didn’t do anything.’
Yesterday morning, she was arrested at her home in Leongatha in Victoria’s Gippsland region. She was quizzed by detectives for five hours, while officers searched her property.
The drama came 96 days after Patterson served beef wellington at a family lunch for four elderly guests, all of whom fell gravely ill after eating lethal death cap mushrooms garnishing the dish.
Gail and Don Patterson, both 70 and the parents of her ex-husband, had been invited to the Saturday lunch on July 29 with their grandchildren. They were joined by Gail’s sister and her husband – Heather and Ian Wilkinson, 66 and 69 respectively.
As the four guests headed home, lethal toxins were coursing through their veins, attacking their liver and kidneys. Later that evening, all four began to suffer stomach cramps and nausea, and were admitted to hospitals in Leongatha and nearby Korumburra, where Mr Wilkinson is a respected Baptist pastor.
Six days later, Gail and Heather both died in hospital. The following day, despite the efforts of some of Victoria’s most experienced doctors, Mr Patterson also died.
The only surviving guest, Mr Wilkinson, was left fighting for his life in a coma. After a liver transplant, he left hospital almost two months after the lunch.
For three months, a whirlwind of gossip and hearsay has swept the small town about the lunch party and Patterson, who lives with her two teenage children.
The case garnered international attention and on August 7, nine days after the lunch, Patterson came out to issue a heartfelt denial to the media.
She insisted Gail had been ‘like the mum I didn’t have’, and she told of the toll the suspicions were having on her.
‘My mum passed away four years ago and Gail had never been anything but good and kind to me,’ she said. ‘ Ian and Heather were some of the best people I’d ever met. They never did anything wrong to me. My own children have lost their grandmother.’
Through tears, she added: ‘I didn’t do anything. I loved them. I just can’t fathom what has happened.’ She declined to say where exactly the mushrooms had come from, who had picked them or even precisely what meal she had prepared for her guests.
The next day, police announced that forensic testing was under way on a food dehydrator suspected of being used to prepare the mushrooms, after it was found at a local rubbish tip. They also gathered CCTV footage and were reviewing the images to discover who had put it there the day after the lunch.
Meanwhile, a Facebook post from Patterson’s former husband, 48, resurfaced in which he revealed that a mystery illness had put him in intensive care for 21 days after he collapsed at his home in May last year. ‘I had three emergency operations, mainly on my small intestine, plus an additional planned operation,’ Mr Patterson said. ‘My family were asked to come and say goodbye to me twice – as I was not expected to live.’
Now his ex-wife is charged with trying to kill him with poisoned food on three separate occasions.
Detective Inspector Dean Thomas said: ‘Today’s charges are just the next step in what has been an incredibly complex, methodical and thorough investigation by homicide squad detectives.
‘I think it is particularly important that we keep in mind that, at the heart of this, three people have lost their lives. These are three people who by all accounts were much beloved in their communities and are greatly missed by their loved ones.’
Patterson is due to appear at Latrobe Valley Magistrates’ Court today. She has not yet been asked to enter a plea. Murder in Victoria carries a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison.
‘I didn’t do anything’
‘I was not expected to live’