It started out on a simmer Saturday and quickly boiled over amid reports that stay-at-home mom Erin Patterson was being treated as a suspect in the deaths of her three in-laws.
Mrs. Patterson’s in-laws Gail and Don Patterson died after having lunch at their home.
As is Gail’s sister Heather Wilkinson with her husband Ian in the hospital fighting for his life.
Erin Patterson cooked the meal containing deadly mushrooms that killed three and left another fighting for his life.
Gail and Don Patterson died after eating the mushrooms. It is understood that Erin was previously married to her son, Simon.
Tributes to the dead: Everyone in Leongatha seems to have a theory about what happened at lunch
Sources told Daily Mail Australia that Ms Patterson, 48, also invited her ex-husband Simon Patterson to their former family home in Leongatha, Victoria’s Gippsland region, but he had to reluctantly cancel.
On Wednesday, the economic boom caused by the tragic incident was evident in Leongatha and nearby Korumburra, where many of those involved in the deadly luncheon resided.
Simon Patterson was supposed to join his parents for the lunch that killed them
Scene from the fateful family lunch that ended so tragically
Fungi seen on the family home in Leongatha in the Gippsland region of Victoria
Reporters from virtually every media outlet in Victoria had descended on the cities, and some news agencies around the world hired freelance reporters to cover the story.
A walk through the streets of both towns sees locals huddled together discussing the tragic lunch.
Many have a theory as to what happened, largely fueled by nothing more than the barrage of reports that have been published since the weekend.
On Wednesday, locals were sure those who died were served a deadly ‘casserole’ by Mrs Patterson.
The apparently distraught mother of two refused Tuesday to say what had been served to guests at her home.
Rescued by reporters at her home on Tuesday, Ms Patterson refused to answer questions about the menu, telling them she was close to “jumping off a bridge.”
She has strongly denied any suggestion that she deliberately caused harm to her loved ones.
“What happened is devastating and I am also grieving and you have no respect for that,” he said.
A man delivers flowers to Korumburra Baptist Church on Wednesday: The deceased family was deeply involved with the church.
A woman mourns the loss of those who died in the tragic mystery of the mushroom lunch
The family tree above shows the connections between the Pattersons and the Wilkinsons involved in the unusual tragedy of the Leongatha poisoning.
On the ground, the ‘facts’ have become cloudy.
The locals seem convinced they know exactly what’s going on.
“He served them a poisoned casserole,” the detectives said at lunchtime at the Korumburra bakery.
It’s a recipe that the locals seem sure was on the menu.
Police sources have told Daily Mail Australia that they are wrong.
But what was served won’t be released by Victoria Police any time soon, if at all.
On Wednesday, reporters were harassing local police officers, who, by all accounts, seemed upset if news of the poisonous mushrooms had ever gone public.
Victoria Police have closed a rolling comment on what he is doing.
“We will look at all relevant circumstances as part of the investigation,” a spokesperson told Daily Mail Australia on Wednesday.
If speculation ran high after police announced they were “suspicious” of the cook, reports posted online by Ms Patterson’s ex-husband put it into overdrive.
It was revealed on Tuesday that Simon spent 21 days in intensive care after collapsing at his home in May 2022.
“I collapsed at home and was then in an induced coma for 16 days during which I had three emergency operations mainly on my small intestine, plus one additional planned operation,” he wrote.
“My family was asked to come say goodbye to me twice because I was not expected to live.
“I was in intensive care for 21 days, after which I was in the general ward for a week, and now I am in a rehabilitation place.”
Those who know Mr. Patterson say he has never told anyone the reasons he was cut for the stomach condition.
A friend, who wished to remain anonymous, told Daily Mail Australia that if he knew what had caused the illness, he had not told any friends or family members.
‘He worked very hard to be rehabilitated. He left and stayed with his parents and at that time he did not talk to each other about anything bad, ”said the friend.
The couple had already separated when he fell ill with the mysterious disease.
During Mr. Patterson’s time in hospital, his ex-wife continued to keep concerned friends informed about his condition on social media.
‘As far as we all knew, they were quite friendly. He has never said a bad word about her. He wouldn’t. They have children together and he is that kind of person,” said another friend.
Locals say it’s not unusual for people to pick up mushrooms when they see them and eat them.
“People from the country, we have eaten mushrooms all our lives,” said a local.
Many residents have fond memories of buying mushrooms from a local merchant who foraged for them himself with the help of like-minded locals.
“At this time of year there are a lot of mushrooms, but from what is said, these were dehydrated,” said another local.
Ian Wilkinson and Heather Wilkinson (both pictured) became seriously ill after eating wild mushrooms. Ms Wilkinson died on Friday while her husband remains in critical condition at hospital.
Homicide detectives searched Ms Patterson’s property on Saturday as part of their investigation, seizing a number of items, including a food dehydrator believed to have been used to prepare the mushrooms.
A police source close to the investigation told The Age on Tuesday that police were carrying out forensic tests on the dehydrator, which was found in a nearby dump.
Ms. Patterson was apparently unharmed by the food, if she ate any.
‘If the children multiplied and won’t eat them, well, maybe they dehydrated them. Apparently he doesn’t eat them either,’ said a friend.
Daily Mail Australia has been told the case has so baffled forensic experts that others in the field are carrying out tests around the world.
Meanwhile, those most affected by the tragedy – and there are many – began showing up on Wednesday at the Korumburra Baptist Church, where the deceased were active members.
People were seen leaving flowers outside the church, with some openly crying as they paid homage in silent prayer.
With answers to the tragedy not coming anytime soon, the good people of Leongatha and Korumburra will no doubt have to put up with at least a few more days of intrusive media types banging on doors and filling their pubs.
MUSHROOM POISONING: A TIMELINE OF EVENTS
Saturday, July 29
Don and Gail Patterson and Heather and Ian Wilkinson (a pastor) meet for lunch at Erin Patterson’s home in Leongatha, north-east Melbourne.
Sunday, July 30
The four lunch guests show up at the hospital feeling ill. Initially it was thought that they had gastro.
As their condition deteriorates, they are transferred to hospitals in Melbourne.
Friday, August 4
Gail and Heather die at the hospital.
Saturday, August 5
Don dies at the hospital. The police search Erin Patterson’s house in Leongatha and confiscate various items.
Sunday, August 6
The police are seen returning to Erin’s house to question her. She is heard moaning loudly from inside the house before the four officers leave.
Monday, August 7
Victoria Police Detective Inspector for the Homicide Squad, Dean Thomas, confirms that Erin is being treated as a person of interest in the case.
However, he says the investigation is still in its early stages and whether the deaths are suspicious has yet to be determined.
A short time later, Erin breaks her silence and talks to reporters outside the house. She says that she is devastated and ‘loves’ the four relatives who came to her house. She denies any wrongdoing, but does not answer questions about where the mushrooms came from, who picked them, or what food she prepared for her guests.
Tuesday, August 8
In a bizarre twist, Simon Patterson was revealed to have suffered from a mysterious stomach illness in June 2022. He fell into a coma and was in ICU for 21 days. His case has not yet been explained by the doctors.
Forensic tests are underway to find any traces of the death hat fungus in a food dehydrator that was discovered in a landfill. Police believe it was used during food preparation.
Wednesday, August 9
Daily Mail Australia reveals Simon Patterson was expected to attend the lunch but pulled out at the last minute