Australia woman Erin Patterson under investigation after poisonous mushroom meal leaves three former in-laws dead
A lunch turned deadly last week when three elderly people died after eating what police suspect were poisonous mushrooms at their former in-law’s house.
The meal at Erin Patterson’s of Victoria, Australia, led to four people falling ill: her former in-laws Gail and Don Patterson, Gail’s sister Heather Wilkinson and her husband Ian, reported BBC.
Erin did not experience visible symptoms after the July 29 meal.
Gail, 70, and Heather, 66, died Friday, and Don, 70, died the following day.
Ian, 68, is awaiting a liver transplant while in critical condition, according to BBC.
Erin, 48, was previously married to the Pattersons’ son, Simon.
Police interviewed Erin and haven’t ruled out nefarious activity.
Police executed a search warrant and seized items for forensic testing, according to the Herald Sun.
Charges are not expected to be brought in the coming days, according to police.
“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,” Victoria Police detective inspector for the homicide squad, Dean Thomas, said.
He called the deaths “unexplained” during an interview on 3AW. He added that its undecided if the situation is a crime or an accident.
“It’s a very, very complex matter. We will be working closely with medical experts, with toxicologists and a whole range of experts throughout the course of this investigation in the hope that we can understand exactly what has gone on and provide some answers to family,” he said.
The guests fell ill around midnight after the meal with food poisoning-like symptoms and went to local hospitals where they died.
Police said they believe the group ate death cap mushrooms, which are highly toxic.
Death cap mushrooms are responsible for the most deaths of people who ingest foraged mushrooms, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Just one mushroom is enough to kill a person, regardless if it’s cooked or raw.
Victoria Health issued a warning about death cap mushrooms, telling residents not to consume wild mushrooms because it is often difficult to distinguish between edible and toxic varieties.
Erin denied any wrongdoing while speaking to the media in tears on Monday, reported the Herald.
“I didn’t do anything,” she said. “I loved them, and I’m devastated that they’re gone.”
She did not answer questions about where the mushrooms came from or how they were served.
While in tears, she explained that she saw Gail like a mother, especially after losing her own four years ago.
“I’m so devastated about what’s happened and the loss to the community and to the families and to my own children—they’ve lost their grandmother,” Erin said. “I loved them and I can’t believe this has happened, and I’m so sorry that they have lost their lives.”
Erin’s two children, who were present at the lunch but ate a different meal, were taken into state care as a precaution, according to BBC.
Residents in the small Australian town remembered the victims at a mass on Sunday.
“Their love, steadfast faith, and selfless service have left an indelible mark on our families, the Korumburra Baptist Church, the local community, and indeed, people around the globe,” a statement published by the victims’ family in the Sentinel Times said.
The local community is praying for Ian’s recovery at the local church where he is a pastor, according to 9News Melbourne.
The Victoria Police did not immediately respond to a request for comment.