A Victorian woman who is under investigation by police after mushrooms she served at a family lunch is suspected of fatally poisoning three guests and leaving another fighting for life was known as “forceful” and somewhat shy by residents of his little town.
Erin Patterson, 48, from Leongatha two hours southeast of Melbourne, IShe is said to have invited her husband Simon Patterson, her parents Gail and Tom Patterson, 70, along with Gail’s sister Heather Wilkinson and her husband, Ian, 68, to the meal.
Simon pulled out of the July 29 luncheon at the last minute, but Gail, Tom and Heather died within a week and Ian remains in critical condition in hospital.
Initially, doctors believed the patients had gastroenteritis, or possibly a nasty bout of food poisoning. But as the weekend drew to a close, it became clear that the situation was much more dire.
Police interviewed Ms Patterson, who said the victims’ symptoms were consistent with eating death caps, which are the most poisonous mushrooms in the world. An official toxicology report has not yet been completed.
According to emerging accounts from residents of Leongatha, a largely Christian rural town, Mrs Patterson was a harmless, if aloof and somewhat strange person, who liked to cook, was a good mother and, as a neighbor described to her . the aussiehe was naive and ‘into unicorns’.
Erin Patterson is understood to have initially told police during an interview that she bought the mushrooms from a grocer in the Leongatha area.
Syd Whyte, who has been president of the Korumburra Community Development and Action Group for more than a decade, said Ms Patterson was responsible for putting together the community newsletter.
The Burra Flyer is published four times a year and contains local news, event information, and advertising for local businesses.
Whyte said he found Patterson’s way of speaking blunt and rarely talked about trivial things, but he did his job well.
“She was quite capable of putting the Flyer together… I found her good,” Mr Whyte told The Australian.
Other parents in the city, population 5,800, noted that Ms. Patterson mostly kept to herself during school pickups in her bright red SUV.
Mrs Patterson and her former partner Simon have two school-age children.
The children were also present at the lunch but, along with Ms Patterson, did not fall ill after being served food other than the potentially contaminated Wellington beef, although all three went to hospital when the other guests showed symptoms.
Ian Wilkinson and Heather Wilkinson (both pictured) became seriously ill after eating wild mushrooms. Mrs. Wilkinson sadly died while her husband is in critical condition in hospital.
Simon’s parents Gail and Tom Patterson, 70, fell ill after lunch with what was assumed to be food poisoning or gastroenteritis until their symptoms turned fatal.
Simon had previously spent 21 days in ICU after falling ill when he collapsed at the family home in 2022.
It was one of several mysterious bouts of illness.
Daily Mail Australia is not suggesting that Erin tried to poison Simon or his four guests.
Several of Simon’s friends have told Daily Mail Australia that he never accused his wife of foul play.
Sources even told Daily Mail Australia that the fatal lunch had been an attempt to repair the failed marriage as part of church mediation.
Mrs. Patterson was involved in the church, although it seems not as much as her in-laws. Ian Wilkinson, clinging to life in hospital, is pastor of the local Korumburra Baptist Church.
Simon Patterson (pictured), who is Erin’s estranged husband, allegedly suffered bouts of mysterious stomach ailments in the past.
According to accounts from neighbors, Mrs. Patterson also has a fondness for animals and raised sheep on the family hobby farm.
The hobby farm is one of two properties he owns, the other being a semi-detached townhouse in east Melbourne worth more than $1 million that he inherited after his mother passed away four years ago.
A neighbor said at a previous family property that they had noticed graffiti scrawled on a wall.
Ms Patterson, who stayed at her family home this week while reporters camped outside, strongly denied that she intentionally hurt her in-laws.
‘I did nothing; I loved them. I just can’t understand what has happened,” she told reporters this week.
Homicide detectives continue to investigate how the four guests became seriously ill.
Detective Inspector Dean Thomas said the type of mushroom the guests ate was unknown, but the symptoms were consistent with eating a death cap.
He said it would take investigators a while to piece together what happened and that police are keeping an open mind.
“It could be very innocent but then again, we just don’t know,” he said.
The whole family was deeply involved with the Korumburra Baptist Church (pictured)
Fungi seen on the family home in Leongatha in the Gippsland region of Victoria
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 be suffering 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
Saturday, August 12
Locals in Ian’s Korumburra town begin calling local South Gippsland councillor, Jenni Keerie, to offer her their kidneys should she need a transplant.