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Australian police blast media over 'unhelpful' reporting of Erin Patterson poisoned mushroom case
17 August 2023, 11:21
Detectives probing the death of three people following a poisonous mushroom lunch say the leaking of chef Erin Patterson's police statement has been "unhelpful" and hampered investigators.
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Patterson's legal statement was provided to police by her lawyers, but made its way into the hands of the press who have reported extensively on the suspect's response to allegations about a mushroom dish she cooked for relatives.
Patterson, 48, had cooked a beef wellington lunch for her former in-laws Gail and Don Patterson, Gail's sister Heather Wilkinson and her husband Ian Wilkinson in Leongatha on July 29.
Gail, 70, Don, 70, and Heather, 66, have all since died from suspected mushroom poisoning, while Ian, 70, remains in a serious condition in need a liver transplant.
Originally Patterson gave a no comment interview to police at the start of their investigation.
But in her leaked statement the mother-of-two revealed her initial decision to stonewall cops on it being a "terrifying and anxiety-provoking" experience.
Deputy Police Commissioner Wendy Steendam told ABC Radio Melbourne: "Working on an investigation through the media is unhelpful to our investigation.
"The matter needs to be dealt with by us, looked at (by) us, and determined by us thoroughly what's actually occurred, and using the evidence that we have to determine and understand exactly what's happened and if we can explain what caused the deaths."
She said the statement was not an official police document, as it was prepared and provided by Ms Patterson's legal team.
When asked about its contents, the Deputy Commissioner added she thought it would be inappropriate to "speculate" on what remained an active investigation.
"I don’t think it’s helpful to actually comment further on this investigation," she said.
"It is an active matter and when we have more to say publicly, we'll do that. But I think to speculate or to talk about the aspects of the investigation in detail is unhelpful."
In her statement, Patterson denied any wrongdoing and did not know how the meal caused three deaths.
Ms Steendam said the investigation remains ongoing adding: "I understand the interest and the desire to have more information about this, but given it's an active investigation … I am limited in what I actually can say about the matter, except to say, it's not going to be quick."
On Wednesday, Patterson protested her innocence and complained about her portrayal in the media.
"I lost my parents-in-law, my children lost their grandparents," she told The Australian.
"And I've been painted as an evil witch. And the media is making it impossible for me to live in this town.'I can't have friends over. The media is at the house where my children are at. The media are at my sister's house so I can't go there. This is unfair."
She claims she bought the mushrooms used in the beef wellington from a supermarket and an Asian grocer shop in Melbourne - but couldn't recall the name.
In her statement, she revealed that she became unwell after eating the meal and that while in hospital, her ex-husband Simon Patterson accused her of poisoning his parents.
She admitted that she then dumped the dehydrator at a nearby tip soon after because she was in a panic.