Australian woman appears in court charged with poisoning husband and his relatives with mushrooms

A woman accused of serving her ex-husband’s parents and an aunt poisonous mushrooms with lunch has appeared in an Australian court charged with three counts of murder and five of attempted murder

Via AP news wire
Monday 22 April 2024 05:59 BST
Australia Mushroom Poisoning
Australia Mushroom Poisoning (AAP Image)

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Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas

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A woman accused of serving her ex-husband’s parents and an aunt poisonous mushrooms with lunch appeared in an Australian court on Monday charged with three counts of murder and five of attempted murder.

Erin Patterson, 49, appeared briefly in the Latrobe Valley Magistrates Court by video link from a Melbourne prison where she has been held since she was arrested in November last year.

Magistrate Tim Walsh said he would announce on May 7 whether Patterson will face a committal hearing in the same court in Morwell or in Melbourne. Morwell is a rural town near Patterson’s home about 150 kilometers (90 miles) east of Melbourne, the Victoria state capital.

Committal hearings determine whether prosecutors have sufficient evidence to put charges before a jury in a Victorian Supreme Court trial.

It was Patterson’s second court appearance on the charges. She has yet to enter any pleas and has not applied to be released on bail.

She is accused of killing her former parents-in-law, Don and Gail Patterson, both 70, and Gail Patterson’s sister, Heather Wilkinson, 66.

All three died in a hospital days after consuming a meal at Patterson’s home in July last year.

She is also accused of the attempted murder of her ex-husband, Simon Patterson, at that lunch and on three previous occasions dating back to 2021. Simon Patterson did not accept an invitation to attend the lunch.

She also is charged with the attempted murder of Wilkinson’s husband, Ian Wilkinson, 68.

Ian Wilkinson spent seven weeks in a hospital following the lunch.

Police say the symptoms of the four sickened family members were consistent with poisoning from wild Amanita phalloides, known as death cap mushrooms.

The potential maximum sentence in Victoria for murder is life imprisonment, and for attempted murder is 25 years in prison.

Patterson appeared in court on Monday wearing a blue prison sweater.

Walsh asked if Patterson could hear at the outset of the hearing, and she replied, “Yes, thank you.”

Her lawyer, Colin Mandy, said his client wanted the committal hearing held in Morwell, even if that meant a delay until next year.

“If it happens next year, then Ms. Patterson’s content to wait for that,” Mandy told the magistrate.

Mandy said she wanted the hearing to take place close to her home.

Defense lawyers have provided prosecutors with a list of anticipated witnesses to be called at the committal.

Mandy said he expected the hearing would last three weeks.

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