An Australian woman, Erin Patterson, made the rounds in the media for a sinister act against her in-laws. Patterson allegedly invited her in-laws to dinner and fed them poisonous mushrooms.
The chilling horror of the incident has left many shaken. However, it has also raised questions as the legal proceedings unfold. While some think the Australian native knowingly fed her in-laws poisonous mushrooms, others believe she didn’t.
The Family Dinner
On July 29, 2023, Erin Patterson hosted her in-laws, Gail and Don Patterson, and Gail’s sister, Heather Wilkinson, and her husband, Ian. Although her estranged husband, Simon Patterson, was supposed to be there, he couldn’t make it at the last minute.
Unfortunately, what was supposed to be a regular family dinner for Patterson and her estranged in-laws ended as a tragedy.
What Happened at the Dinner?
According to reports, the dinner was uneventful. At the family dinner, Patterson served her in-laws beef Wellington, a meal she had cooked, and everything went well. However, the following days unfolded like a poorly written horror movie script.
Days after the meal, three of her four guests passed away mysteriously, and the investigation points to Patterson as the perpetrator. Consequently, she is now facing homicide charges.
Why Did the Authorities Turn to Patterson?
Authorities in Australia turned their suspicions to Patterson after she and her children were the only ones who didn’t become severely ill after eating the meal. However, despite the overwhelming evidence, she maintains her innocence.
In addition, toxicology reports indicate that the victims consumed poisonous mushrooms. Hence, the authorities charged her with three counts of homicide and five counts of attempted homicide in the tragic demise of Gail, Don, and Heather.
What Happened to Her Fourth Guest?
Days after the dinner at Erin Patterson’s house, Ian Wilkinson fell critically ill and was in the hospital for weeks. Fortunately, Wilkinson was the only guest at the dinner who survived. Consequently, the Australian authorities charged Patterson with the attempted homicide of Wilkinson.
In addition, authorities believe Patterson attempted to murder her estranged husband, Simon, four times over the past two years, according to The Guardian.
What Happened to Patterson’s Children?
Aside from Patterson’s in-laws, her children were also present at the dinner and ate the same food as everyone. However, the kids are okay; unlike Wilkinson, they did not fall ill.
While speaking to the authorities, Patterson claimed that her children did not become sick because they removed the mushrooms from the dish. She added that her kids removed them because they didn’t like them.
Did Patterson Serve Her In-Laws Poisonous Mushrooms?
Patterson revealed to the authorities after her arrest that she used button mushrooms from the supermarket. She also added that she used dried mushrooms from an Asian grocery store she had bought months earlier.
“I am now devastated to think that these mushrooms may have contributed to the illness suffered by my loved ones,” Patterson wrote in a statement, further emphasizing her innocence in the case.
The Authorities Found a Food Dehydrator in Patterson’s House
During her interrogation, the authorities questioned Patterson about a food dehydrator they reportedly found in the trash days after the incident. While the Australian authorities were looking to test the dehydrator for traces of the deadly mushroom, Patterson admitted to owning it.
However, she explained that she got rid of it in a state of panic following the tragic demise of her guests in a BBC report.
Are Mushrooms Poisonous?
Mushrooms are a low-calorie food that packs a nutritional punch. However, some are poisonous and deadly, especially death cap mushrooms. Death cap mushrooms are highly toxic to humans.
According to reports, eating them “melts down a person’s liver,” and even consuming the liquid you cooked the mushrooms in can be fatal. Medical experts believe death cap mushrooms are deadlier than nightshade.
How Often Does Mushroom Poisoning Occur?
Deaths from consuming the death cap mushrooms are rare. However, the ones that occur have almost exclusively been accidents. For example, a three-year-old boy tragically passed away in 2016 from mushroom poisoning in Canada.
According to reports, the unfortunate incident occurred after the young boy mistook the death cap mushroom for an edible one while his family was foraging wild mushrooms.
Can One Distinguish Between Poisonous and Edible Mushrooms at Home?
Contrary to popular belief, home tests can not successfully distinguish between edible mushrooms and poisonous varieties. The only way to tell whether a wild mushroom is safe to eat is to have it identified by a mycologist, a mushroom expert.
Also, buying mushrooms is risky because some mushrooms are drugs and hallucinogenic. Hallucinogenic mushrooms can give people diarrhea and stomach cramps or make them throw up.
What Happened to Patterson?
After months of police investigation, media attention, and public fascination, her first hearing in the Morwell magistrates court lasted less than 15 minutes. However, the Australian authorities, who have long been tight-lipped about their investigation, broke their silence.
Detective Inspector Dean Thomas, from the homicide squad, said he could not recall an investigation that generated the same level of media and public interest domestically and internationally.
Is Erin Patterson Guilty?
Despite the charges leveled against her, Erin Patterson maintains her innocence. In a televised interview on a national current affairs program. Patterson said, “I really want to repeat that I had absolutely no reason to hurt these people whom I loved.”
The Australian authorities have months before the next hearing to finalize their theory about what happened. Consequently, time will tell if Patterson is guilty or innocent.