Suspected mushroom poisoning: Australian woman arrested over three deaths

Heather and Ian Wilkinson
Heather Wilkinson (left) was one of three people who died, while her husband Ian (right) was also taken to hospital

An Australian woman has been arrested over the suspected mushroom poisoning deaths of three people.

The trio had fallen ill after attending a family lunch in the Victorian town of Leongatha in July. A fourth person was taken to hospital in a critical condition.

The woman who served the lunch, Erin Patterson, was taken into custody on Thursday. She has not been charged.

Ms Patterson, 49, has strongly maintained she is innocent.

Victoria Police said the woman would be interviewed by detectives and a search warrant had been executed at her house.

Homicide squad Inspector Dean Thomas stressed the complexity of the case in a press conference, describing it as a tragedy that may “reverberate for years to come”.

“I cannot think of another investigation that has generated this level of media and public interest, not only here in Victoria, but also nationally and internationally,” he added.

Gail and Don Patterson – the parents of Ms Patterson’s ex-husband – were guests at the lunch along with Gail Patterson’s sister Heather Wilkinson and her brother-in-law Ian Wilkinson.

The four were taken to hospital on 30 July reporting violent illness, police say.

Within days the Patterson couple, both 70, and Ms Wilkinson, 66, had died. Mr Wilkinson, 68, later recovered after two months of treatment.

“This milestone marks a moment of immense relief and gratitude for Ian and the entire Wilkinson family,” his loved ones said in a statement in September.

Erin Patterson has said she herself was taken to hospital after the meal due to stomach pains, and was put on a saline drip and given medication to guard against liver damage.

She has said she served a beef wellington pie using a mixture of button mushrooms bought from a supermarket, and dried mushrooms purchased at an Asian grocery months earlier.

“I am now devastated to think that these mushrooms may have contributed to the illness suffered by my loved ones,” she wrote in a statement in August.

“I really want to repeat that I had absolutely no reason to hurt these people, whom I loved.”


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