Australian Cops Investigate Deadly Mushroom Lunch

Three people are dead, one more is hospitalized, and a daughter-in-law is a suspect
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 8, 2023 11:37 AM CDT
Australian Cops Investigate Deadly Mushroom Lunch
Amanita phalloides mushrooms, commonly known as the death cap mushrooms.   (Getty / adrianam13)

Police in rural Australia are trying to figure out whether a deadly mushroom meal was accidental or sinister. Three people are dead and a fourth remains hospitalized after they ate lunch at the home of Erin Patterson in Leongatha, reports the Guardian. Patterson herself is fine, as are her two children, who were also present for the lunch. "At this point in time, the deaths are unexplained," said homicide detective Dean Thomas, per the BBC. However, he said "nefarious activity" has not been ruled out. Investigators believe the victims, in their late 60s or early 70s, ate death cap mushrooms in the lunch prepared by Patterson.

Family ties are involved in the case: Erin Patterson is the daughter-in-law of lunch guests Gail and Don Patterson, both of whom died after the lunch. The other two guests were Gail's sister, Heather Wilkinson, who also died, and her husband, Ian, who is awaiting a liver transplant. Erin Patterson, 48, is divorced from the Pattersons' son, but police describe the split as amicable. "I didn't do anything," Erin Patterson tearfully told reporters outside her home on Monday. "I loved them. I just can't fathom what has happened."

Detectives can't, either. Neither Patterson nor her children apparently ate the tainted dish, and it remains unclear where the mushrooms came from. Asked specifically whether Erin is a suspect, Thomas said, "Yes she is ... because she cooked those meals," per the BBC. The Australian Age reports an intriguing detail: Last year, Erin's ex, Simon Patterson, nearly died in the hospital after experiencing what he described on social media as "serious gut problems." He spent more than two weeks in an induced coma but has since recovered. (More mushrooms stories.)

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