Toxicologist reveals horrific final moments of guests who ate beef wellington meal 'containing death cap mushroom'

29 August 2023, 10:00 | Updated: 30 August 2023, 13:45

Erin Patterson insisted she ate the same meal that killed three others and left another fighting for his life
Erin Patterson insisted she ate the same meal that killed three others and left another fighting for his life. Picture: Alamy

By Will Taylor

A toxicologist has described the horrific final moments people feel when they ingest a deadly fungus after three were suspected of eating a beef wellington containing the death cap mushroom.

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Police are investigating the deaths of Gail and Don Patterson, and Gail's sister Heather Wilkinson, after they ate a meal at the home of Erin Patterson, their former daughter-in-law, in Leongatha, Australia.

Wilkinson's husband Ian is fighting for his life after joining them at the meal, which police believe contained death cap.

Patterson's estranged husband was invited but had to skip it at the last minute.

Read more: Australian police blast media over 'unhelpful' reporting of Erin Patterson poisoned mushroom case

Patterson said she also ate the meal but has survived, and insisted she used button mushrooms and dried mushrooms bought from a supermarket and an Asian grocery shop.

Her children ate the beef wellington the following day but without the mushrooms, she said.

Patterson said she also ate the beef wellington but survived
Patterson said she also ate the beef wellington but survived. Picture: Screenshot
Heather Wilkinson died and Ian is fighting for his life after eating the beef wellington
Heather Wilkinson died and Ian is fighting for his life after eating the beef wellington. Picture: Handout

Now, Dr Michael Robertson, a forensic toxicologist, has explained what happens when a person eats the deadly mushroom.

They usually feel ill hours after eating it, then horrible symptoms start to show.

"We've heard about the violent vomiting and diarrhoea and that first phase can be quite debilitating in itself," he said.

Read more: 'This is not Midsomer Murders': Local mayor calls for privacy after Erin Patterson’s deadly mushroom lunch

In a cruel twist, victims actually start to feel they are improving and may think they are over the hump - but they are far from out of the woods.

"It's one of those toxins that gets into your system," he told Australia's Channel Nine.

"It gets absorbed into the bloodstream, it then gets transported to the liver and absorbed. The body doesn't break this toxin down.

Simon Patterson pulled out of the meal late on
Simon Patterson pulled out of the meal late on. Picture: Handout

"We've got to get rid of it usually in the urine but also in the bile, and the bile duct drops bile back into the intestines.

"It's triggering basically the death of the liver cells."

He expected the victims would have entered comas and would have had a "horrible" experience if they were still conscious.

Dr Heike Neumeister-Kemp, a mycologist, said: "One of the things that happen with toxicity is when you start vomiting, you can also partially be hallucinating.

"Mushroom poisoning is so nasty because we don't really have an antidote. On a DNA level you're regurgitating the toxin but slowly and consistently your liver dissolves."

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