Woman accused of feeding poison mushroom lunch to in-laws disappears after failing to return home

10 August 2023, 15:40 | Updated: 16 August 2023, 09:38

Sobbing Erin Patterson (main) when quizzed by local tv about the deaths. Simon Patterson (top r)  Ian Wilkinson and Heather Wilkinson (bottom right)
Sobbing Erin Patterson (main) when quizzed by local tv about the deaths. Simon Patterson (top r) Ian Wilkinson and Heather Wilkinson (bottom right). Picture: social media

By Will Taylor

A mother who was alleged to have served a poisonous mushroom at a meal where three people died has disappeared.

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Erin Patterson cooked a Beef Wellington for her former in-laws and two others at her home in Australia on July 29.

It left Gail and Don Patterson, both 70, and Gail's sister Heather Wilkinson, 66 violently ill. All three have died, while Heather's husband, Ian, is in a critical condition in hospital.

Police believe their symptoms show sings of death cap mushroom consumption, and murder detectives say Erin is a suspect. She did not get sick and police, who are probing if she ate the same meal as the others, say she gave her children different food.

Erin, who denies any wrongdoing, left at 10am but did not return to her house in Leongatha after she said she was going to speak to lawyers in Melbourne.

A law firm representative arrived later in the day to deliver a letter, and said it was the only way she could be reached because police seized her phone and computer.

Erin did not return on Thursday night.

Her ex-husband Simon Patterson, Gail and Don's son, was supposed to go to the lunch but was unable to make it at the last minute.

He has said he suspects Erin may have already tried to poison him previously. She denies any wrongdoing.

His friend told The Herald Sun: "Simon suspected he had been poisoned by Erin.

"There were times he had felt… a bit off and it often coincided when he spent time with her."

Mushroom poisoning mother speaks out (Watch)

Erin Patterson
Erin Patterson. Picture: social media
Simon Patterson
Simon Patterson. Picture: social media
Ian and Heather Wilkinson
Ian and Heather Wilkinson. Picture: social media

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Officials have warned about two types of poisonous mushrooms that grow in Victoria during the cooler months.

Previously, Erin sobbed in front of local TV cameras saying: "I loved them and I'm devastated that they're gone.

"Gail was like the mum I didn't have because my mum passed away four years ago and Gail had never been anything but good and kind to me.

"Ian and Heather were some of the best people I'd ever met. They never did anything wrong to me."

Erin was previously married to Simon, and had been living at the Leongatha property for the past 12 months.

Her children were taken to hospital as a precaution and have been removed from their mother's care.

Detectives from the homicide squad questioned Erin when they searched the property on Saturday, and she was reportedly heard 'wailing' after cops visited the home at the weekend, according to Seven News.

Victoria Police Detective Inspector Dean Thomas said: "She hasn't presented with any symptoms but we have to keep an open mind in relation to this, that it could be very innocent but again we just don't know at this point."

The deaths are currently being treated as "unexplained".

He added: "We've seized a number of exhibits in relation to the matter, a lot of the items we have seized will be forensically tested in the hope that they can shed some light on what's occurred.

"We will be working closely with medical experts, toxicologists ... in the hope we can understand exactly what has gone on and provide some answers to the family.

"We're trying to understand who ate what at the lunch, whether that person that did not become ill did or did not eat the mushrooms... And of course, we're trying to ascertain what it is that has actually caused the poisoning ... to the four people that attended."

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