Police to search deleted social media of woman accused of mushroom poisoning deaths

Erin Patterson, 49, is alleged to have murdered three family members by poisoning a home-cooked beef wellington

Alexander Butler
Monday 01 April 2024 21:11 BST
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Police are set to scour the deleted social media of an Australian woman alleged to have murdered three family members by poisoning a home-cooked beef wellington.

Erin Patterson, 49, hosted a reconcilliation lunch for her estranged in-laws and another couple at her home in the small, rural town of Leongatha, Australia, in July 2023.

But the next day all four people who attended the meal fell ill and were taken to hospital for symptoms similar to food poisoning - which medics later said was consistent with poisoning from death cap mushrooms.

Ms Patterson’s former in-laws, Don and Gail Patterson, both 70, and Gail’s sister Heather Wilkinson, 66, all died days after. Mrs Wilkinson’s husband Ian Wilkinson, 68, survived.

Now, police will search Patterson’s deleted social media and internet history for the “tiniest” clue that could be used in a potential court case.

Erin Patterson, 49, is accused of murdering three family members by poisoning a home-cooked beef wellington (News International)

A police source told the Herald Sun: “It’s not easy but it’s doable on most occasions. She might be involved in conversations or narratives where she has talked about this stuff on online forums. It could be the tiniest thing.”

Ms Patterson was arrested at her home and charged with three counts of murder and five counts of attempted murder on 2 November last year.

The mother-of-two allegedly created several profiles under different names. She was known to delete her accounts and start new ones sporadically, according to the same newspaper.

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

Investigators discovered five iPads, two secure digital cards, a smartwatch and a trail camera among several hidden items at her house.

Death cap mushrooms, which grow in the Leongatha area, are highly toxic and account for about 90 per cent of mushroom-related fatalities globally.

Detectives said the deaths could be “very innocent” and warned the case was extremely “complex”.

Heather, 66, and Ian Wilkinson, 68, became ill after eating poison mushrooms at a lunch cooked by Patterson (The Salvation Army Australia Museum/Facebook)

Last year, Ms Patterson said: “I didn’t do anything. I loved them and I’m devastated they are gone. They’ve lost their grandmother. I’m so sorry that they have lost their lives.”

She also claimed she fed her children the leftovers from the wellington on the day after the fatal meal - but took the mushrooms out because her kids don’t like them.

Ms Patterson will return to Latrobe Valley Magistrates’ Court via video link on 22 April for a special mention ahead of a committal mention on 3 May.

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