Australian woman accused of mushroom poisoning murders pleads not guilty

Erin Patterson to be tried in Supreme Court after case fast-tracked

Shweta Sharma
Tuesday 07 May 2024 16:17 BST
Melbourne minister says locals are in ‘disbelief’ over mushroom poisoning

An Australian woman charged with killing her in-laws with a poisonous mushroom dish during a family lunch has pleaded not guilty to murder.

Erin Patterson, 49, a mother of two, was charged with three counts of murder and five counts of attempted murder after the parents and one other relative of her ex-husband died after eating a beef Wellington in July last year.

She was also charged with three counts of attempted murder of her estranged husband Simon Patterson.

Ms Patterson appeared in the courtroom via a video link from the Dame Phyllis Frost Centre, in Deer Park, Victoria, where she is being held on remand on Tuesday.

“Not guilty your honour,” she repeated eight times as the magistrate read the charges in a brief hearing in the Latrobe Valley magistrates court in Morwell.

The court also heard that Ms Patterson had elected to “fast-track” her case which means that it would be directly heard in the Supreme Court, skipping a committal hearing in the magistrates’ court.

The evidence against her would be seen by the Supreme Court where a jury will test them for the first time and decide her fate.

Sarah Lenthall, the prosecutor, told the court that three of the attempted murder charges against Ms Patterson concerning her former husband had been updated to specify the locations where the alleged incidents took place.

Erin Patterson sobs in an interview
Erin Patterson sobs in an interview (News International)

On 29 July 2023, Ms Patterson hosted a lunch for her estranged in-laws and another couple at her home in the small, rural town of Leongatha in Victoria, about 85 miles southeast of Melbourne.

She invited Don and Gail Patterson – her ex-husband’s parents – and Gail’s sister Heather Wilkinson and her husband Ian Wilkinson.

For the meal arranged as a reconciliation gesture for the sake of their two children, Ms Patterson cooked a beef Wellington dish, which incorporated the mushrooms.

The next day all four of the guests at the lunch fell ill and were taken to hospital with symptoms similar to food poisoning.

In a few days, her in-laws, both 70, and Heather Wilkinson, 66, died while Mr Wilkinson, 68, survived after treatment in hospital for three months.

Don and Gail Patterson died after eating mushrooms at Erin Patterson’s home in Victoria, Australia, on 29 July
Don and Gail Patterson died after eating mushrooms at Erin Patterson’s home in Victoria, Australia, on 29 July (Supplied)

Their deaths were linked to the death cap mushrooms which grow in the Leongatha area, are highly toxic and account for about 90 per cent of mushroom-related fatalities globally.

Ms Patterson, who remained unharmed following the incident, was named as a suspect in the deaths.

On 2 November, Ms Patterson was arrested in connection with the deaths and charged. After months of investigations, it was also alleged that Ms Patterson attempted the murder of her husband on three occasions between 2021 and 2022.

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