Survivor of suspected mushroom poisoning was ‘experienced forager’ of wild fungi

‘Patterson family would pick mushrooms each year when they were in season,’ family friend claims

Namita Singh
Wednesday 16 August 2023 11:59 BST
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Melbourne minister says locals are in ‘disbelief’ over mushroom poisoning

The woman who cooked a beef Wellington mushroom dish that killed three people, was an “experienced fungi forager”, according to a family friend.

Erin Patterson, 46, was known to expertly pick wild mushrooms, and was “very good at foraging”, a family friend was quoted as saying by Daily MailAustralia.

“The Patterson family (including Erin and estranged husband Simon) would pick mushrooms each year when they were in season,” the friend said.

Tragedy struck in Australia last month when Ms Patterson invited her former parents-in-law Gail and Tom Patterson for a meal, along with Gail’s sister Heather Wilkinson and her husband, Ian. Within days of the meal, Gail and Tom, both 70, and Heather, 66, were all dead and Ian, 68, was left fighting for his life.

Ms Patterson, who does not face any charges, has given a detailed account of the sequence of events to the authorities, according to local media reports.

In her statement, Ms Patterson claimed that she didn’t know the mushrooms were poisonous when she prepared the meal in Leongatha, South Gippsland last month. Ms Patterson’s former partner, Simon, had been invited to the meal but was unable to attend.

In a statement to the police, she also reportedly claimed spending time in the hospital after eating the meal, adding that her children ate left over the next day while scraping out the mushrooms.

“I am now devastated to think that these mushrooms may have contributed to the illness suffered by my loved ones,” the 48-year-old said. “I really want to repeat that I had absolutely no reason to hurt these people whom I loved.”

Meanwhile, a man commissioned to paint a graffiti told new.com.au on the condition of anonymity that the former home of Ms Patterson in Korumburra had an eerie “death wall” with children’s drawings and the warning, “you don’t [have] long to live”.

The wall was covered in red, blue, and black graffiti with another section reading “your dead from my sword”.

Among the many things, it has two stick figures of a man and a woman containing the texts “I am dead” and “no I am really dead”.

Below it were two tombstones with “RIP” and “Me RIP” written on them, according to the pictures shared by the outlet.

“I’ve looked at it and gone, holy sh*t, what the hell’s going on here?” the person told the outlet. “I went, this is actually really scary for kids to do this inside the kitchen-dining room. I didn’t think it was right, it looked scary. It just didn’t look right to me as a parent.”

A paramedic tending to those who died in the incident was so concerned by their final words that he passed them to the investigators, reported Herald Sun, quoting a source close to the investigation. However, the contents of the statement were not shared.

Overwhelmed by the press intrusion, Ms Patterson said: “I lost my parents-in-law, my children lost their grandparents. And I’ve been painted as an evil witch”.

“And the media is making it impossible for me to live in this town. I can’t have friends over,” she told The Australian.

“The media is at the house where my children are at. The media are at my sister’s house so I can’t go there. This is unfair.”

The mushrooms in question were a combination of button mushrooms purchased from a supermarket and dried mushrooms sourced from an unspecified Asian grocery store in Melbourne.

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