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Inside the mystery of the mushroom death ravaging Australia

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August 13, 2023 | 7:30 a.m

He was supposed to die for mushrooms.

An alleged poisoning is dominating the Australian media, as authorities suspect Erin Patterson, 48, of Leongatha, deliberately set up a luncheon for her ex-boyfriends – killing three people and seriously injuring a Baptist pastor.

The fatal introduction of the death cap mushroom—a highly toxic mushroom commonly found near oak trees—occurred July 29 at Irene’s home in Leongatha, where she prepared a meal that led to digestive problems for Jill and Don Patterson, the 70-year-old parents of her ex-husband.

Jill’s sister, Heather Wilkinson, 66, and her husband, Ian Wilkinson, a 68-year-old pastor in nearby Korumbura, were also hit.

Patterson and Heather later die in hospital, while Wilkinson fights for his life in the Melbourne facility while he awaits a liver transplant.

The detectives investigate the murders now that Erin, still a suspect, has been released without charges.

Erin Patterson prepared a lunch containing wild mushrooms for her ex-boyfriends on July 29 at her home in Leongatha, Australia. Within days, three of them were dead.
7 news

A fifth person who attended lunch also fell ill, but was discharged shortly afterwards. According to the Times of London.

Authorities said Irene prepared the killer dish — beef Wellington with mushrooms — but made a different meal for herself and her two young children, who were also at the gathering. She denied any wrongdoing this week, telling reporters that she prepared the meal for the “best people” in her life.

“I can’t believe this happened, and I’m so sorry they lost their lives,” Erin said she said outside her house. “I didn’t do anything. I loved them. I just can’t understand what happened.”

The ongoing criminal investigation is shaking Yonagatha and Korumbura, where detectives last responded to a murder investigation more than two decades ago. According to the Sydney Morning Herald.

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Heather Wilkinson (left) and Jill Patterson (right) died on August 4 of suspected mushroom poisoning. Don Patterson (second from right) died the next day. Ian Wilkinson (second from left) is fighting for his life.

“This kind of thing doesn’t happen here,” a Leongatha resident told the newspaper on Monday.

But this isn’t the first time Erin’s cooking has allegedly made someone sick.

Her ex-husband, Simon Patterson, reportedly spent 16 days in an induced coma with a mysterious bowel disease last year after eating food she was given.

“Simon suspects he was poisoned by Erin,” a source said. Herald Sun. “There were times when he felt… a little bit more comfortable and that coincided with when he was spending time with her.”

After recovering, Simon wrote about his baffling illness in May 2022 on Facebook.

Irene’s ex-husband, Simon Patterson, had suspected he might have been poisoned by her after developing a mysterious bowel disease that sent him into an induced coma.
@simonpatterson/facebook

“I collapsed at home, then fell into an induced coma for 16 days during which I had three emergency operations mainly on my small intestine, plus one additional operation planned,” he wrote. “My family was asked to come and say goodbye twice, as I was not expected to live.”

Patterson suspected that his unexpected illness had been linked to eating nightshade, a family of plants that includes tomatoes, potatoes, and peppers.

All nightshade vegetables contain alkaloids such as solanine, a chemical that can be toxic in high concentrations.

Investigators say Simon and Erin separated amicably after living in separate homes for years.

Irene’s in-laws and several church elders reportedly went to her home on the 29th to discuss new arrangements for Simon to see the ex-couple’s children.

Simon was supposed to attend the final fateful event, but canceled at the last minute.

Erin refuses to tell the detectives how she obtained her death cap mushrooms after initially suggesting they be purchased at a local supermarket, but no other illnesses have been reported in the customers.

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Authorities now believe the food dehydrator Erin used to make her lunch was dumped the next day and they are scanning CCTV footage around the dumpster.

Amanita phalloidesalso known as the “death cap” mushroom, is responsible for the majority of mushroom-related deaths worldwide, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
AFP via Getty Images

Patterson, who remains at large after being questioned by police, met with a lawyer on Thursday, according to The Sydney Morning Herald. Her two children were reportedly transferred to state care as a precaution.

The so-called “death cap” mushroom causes more deaths in people who eat foraged mushrooms than any other species worldwide, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Only one—whether cooked or raw—is believed to be sufficient to be fatal.

Locals in rural southeastern Australia said any seasoned Australian would know to steer clear of death cap mushrooms while foraging.

Reverend Ian Wilkinson is still in hospital awaiting a liver transplant after eating mushrooms prepared by Irene Patterson.
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“Very clearly a field mushroom is a field mushroom and most people wouldn’t choose anything else,” Bonnie Cook, 76, of South Gippsland, he told The Times Friday. “I know I’m not going to eat or pick or touch, even… so I don’t know – it’s just a very sad situation.”

Authorities are awaiting the results of the toxicology report to confirm the exact cause of the suspected poisonings.

Residents of Korumburra, a close-knit farming town famous for its dairy farms, are still struggling to come to terms with the sensational alleged triple poisoning.

“This is something no one will ever forget,” one told the Morning Herald.

Sources told the daily that the three dead relatives are selfless people who spread positivity at every opportunity.

The surviving man, Ian Wilkinson, works as a pastor at Korumbura Baptist Church and regularly mows the neighbours’ lawns. His late wife, Heather, reportedly taught courses at a community centre.

Korumbura Baptist Church, where Ian Wilkinson serves as pastor.
Google Maps

The source said the couple also welcomed newcomers along their street with biscuits and offered hot water to neighbors in need.

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The Morning Herald reported that Don and Gail Patterson, both former teachers, ran a local publication called The Burra Flyer for several years before he handed over the reins to Irene.

“[Don] “He didn’t have an evil bone in his body,” former student Sam Provan told the paper. “If there were more people like Mr. Patterson, we wouldn’t have half the problems we have here in this world.”

Erin Patterson, 48, has been released without charge and denies any wrongdoing in the three suspicious deaths. “I didn’t do anything. I loved them,” she told reporters in Australia.
7 news

Erin maintains her innocence, telling reporters outside her home:

“Gail was like a mother I never had because my mother passed away four years ago and Gail was never anything but kind and gentle to me. Ian and Heather were some of the best people I have ever met. They did nothing wrong with me.

“I am so devastated about what happened and the loss to the community and families and to my children, they lost their grandmother.”

Neighbors helped banish reporters from the homes of Wilkinson and Patterson since the killer intimate gathering looked straight out of a Hollywood thriller.

Close family friend Jenny Kerry told the Morning Herald: “It is a personal family tragedy and it reaches out to all the people whose lives it has touched.” “We’re trying to come to terms with what that means for our lives.”

“People are talking because the only person who didn’t get any kind of disease from the mushroom was the person who cooked it,” Max Villa, 16, who works in a supermarket in Korumbura, told the Times of London.




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