Erin Patterson Case: Australian Woman Accused of Murder With Mushrooms (2024)

Erin Patterson, an Australian woman who is accused of murdering her ex-husband’s elderly parents and aunt last year by serving them poisonous mushrooms at a lunch, pleaded not guilty on Tuesday to three counts of murder and five counts of attempted murder.

The 49-year-old denied the charges via a video call from the Melbourne prison she’s been held in for months, having not applied for bail.

Days after consuming beef Wellington prepared by Patterson at her home in Leongatha, a rural town in regional Victoria, on July 29, 2023, three guests—her former parents-in-law, Don and Gail Patterson, both 70, and her ex-husband’s aunt Heather Wilkinson, 66—died in hospital. Wilkinson’s 68-year-old husband, Ian, was also hospitalized but survived after two months of care. Patterson was named as a suspect after she reportedly appeared unharmed by the food.

Police said they believed Patterson’s four guests had ingested highly lethal death cap mushrooms, and they arrested and charged her in November after what they described as “an incredibly complex, methodical and thorough investigation by homicide squad detectives.”

She is also accused of attempted murder of Ian Wilkinson and ofher ex-husband, Simon Patterson, from whom she had separated around 2020 and who could not attend the lunch gathering at the last minute.

Prosecutors are also charging Patterson with attempting to kill her ex-husband on three other occasions: in November 2021, May 2022, and September 2022. He suspected her of trying to poison him on several occasions, after he was hospitalized in 2022 from a mystery gut illness, a friend of his told local media in August.

Patterson has said that the July 2023 meal in question contained a mixture of button mushrooms bought at a supermarket and dried mushrooms bought from an Asian grocery store a few months earlier, but she maintains that she did not intentionally poison her guests.

The Victorian government has over the years issued advisories warning residents of poisonous mushrooms that grow in the region seasonally. An unnamed family friend told Daily Mail Australia that Patterson was known to be good at foraging wild mushrooms, and that the Patterson family would “pick mushrooms each year when they were in season”—an activity that they described as “very common” for residents in the area.

In August, Patterson provided police with a statement saying that she “had absolutely no reason to hurt these people whom I loved.” She added that she regretted giving a “no comment” interview to police immediately after the deaths, which she said she was advised to do.

“I am now devastated to think that these mushrooms may have contributed to the illness suffered by my loved ones,” her statement said. “I believe if people understood the background more, they would not be so quick to rush to judgement.”

She also told the police that she, too, was hospitalized after the lunch with stomach aches and diarrhea, put on a saline drip, and given medication to protect her liver against damage. Local healthcare services confirmed to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that a fifth person was brought to the Leongatha Hospital on July 30 with suspected food poisoning and was sent to Monash Medical Centre in Melbourne the following day.

The deaths have sent shockwaves through the small, close-knit community, which in August organized a vigil for the deceased.

Patterson, a stay-at-home mother who previously edited a local newsletter, told the Australian at the time of the vigil that she had been “painted as an evil witch” and that sensational media coverage was “making it impossible for me to live in this town.”

Read More: Once Labeled Australia’s Worst Female Serial Killer, Mother’s Murder Convictions Overturned

“Gail was the mum I didn’t have because my mum passed away four years ago,” Patterson told reporters. “My own children have lost their grandmother.”

Patterson’s two children, who were not present at the fatal lunch, also ate the beef Wellington leftovers the following day—though Patterson said that she had scraped mushrooms off her children’s meals because they did not like them.

Patterson admitted in her statement to the police that she had lied about throwing a food dehydrator, which investigators found at a rubbish dump, away “a long time ago.” After her husband asked her at the hospital if the kitchen appliance was “what you used to poison them,” she said she disposed of it out of panic and concern that she would lose custody of her children.

Patterson has opted to face trial at the Victorian supreme court under a “fast-track” process, which means that her case skips a committal hearing where a magistrate assesses evidence before deciding if it could support a conviction. She is expected to attend her next hearing on May 23.

Erin Patterson Case: Australian Woman Accused of Murder With Mushrooms (2024)
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