In Australia, a Victorian family lunch turned fatal with the suspected consumption of death cap mushrooms. The deaths of three guests within a week have triggered a homicide investigation by Victoria Police. Erin Patterson served the ill-fated meal to her former parents-in-law, Gail and Don Patterson, Gail’s sister, Heather Wilkinson, and her husband, Ian, at her Leongatha residence on July 29. Gail, Heather, and Don died in the hospital just days later. Ian Wilkinson remains critically ill and hospitalized.
During an emotional encounter with the media outside her home, Erin Patterson vehemently denied any wrongdoing. Fighting back tears, she expressed her love for her former family and professed her disbelief at the tragic outcome of the lunch. Erin Patterson, who cooked the meal, is a suspect in the investigation as she is the only adult at the gathering who did not fall ill.
During a press briefing, Detective Inspector Dean Thomas disclosed that police had searched Erin Patterson’s residence and confiscated several items for forensic testing. Although media reports hinted at the discovery of a dehydrator at a local rubbish dump, law enforcement refrained from providing specific details. Thomas hoped the forensic examinations of the seized items would shed light on the events that transpired during the lunch.
The symptoms experienced by the guests are consistent with the effects of poisoning by death cap mushrooms. However, further toxicology reports are required to determine the substance consumed conclusively. Victoria Health had previously cautioned against the consumption of death cap mushrooms, citing their extreme toxicity. Symptoms include violent stomach pains, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Even if initial symptoms subside, severe liver damage may have already occurred, leading to potential fatality.
Originating from Europe, death cap mushrooms were first identified in Australia during the 1960s. The specific source and typology of the mushrooms consumed during the lunch in Leongatha remain unknown.
In light of the ongoing investigation, the police are urging the public to avoid consuming wild mushrooms. They advise individuals only to consume mushrooms purchased from reputable sources or supermarkets.
The investigation remains ongoing, and Erin Patterson has not yet been charged in relation to the deaths.