A woman who served four family members poisonous mushrooms before three of them died has tearfully denied doing anything wrong – as homicide detectives investigate her as a suspect in the case.
Erin Patterson was the only one who didn’t get sick after eating the meal at her home in Leongatha in Victoria, southeast Australia, on Saturday 29 July.
Her former in-laws Don and Gail Patterson, both 70, were among those who ate the meal which contained the poisonous fungi.
Gail Patterson’s sister Heather Wilkinson, 66, and her husband Reverend Ian Wilkinson, 68, were also at the table.
All four felt unwell by midnight that evening before Gail Patterson and Mrs Wilkinson died nearly a week later on Friday 4 August.
Don Patterson died the next day.
Reverend Wilkinson, a pastor at Korumburra Baptist Church, is still fighting for his life in hospital.
Erin Patterson’s two children were also at the lunch but were given a meal not containing the toxic mushrooms.
They have reportedly been taken into state care as a “precaution”.
The case has gripped Australia after police opened a homicide investigation and confirmed Mrs Patterson is a suspect.
The 48-year-old is reported to be separated from her husband – the son of Mr and Mrs Patterson – but their split was described as “amicable”.
It is suspected the four people were served mushrooms known as death caps – which are responsible for 90% of all toxic mushroom-related fatalities.
Read more world news
YouTube chef charged with murder
Italy to spend €2.9m on tackling blue crab invasion
Woman in critical condition after shark attack
Speaking outside her home on Monday, Mrs Patterson broke down in tears over the loss of “some of the best people I’ve ever met”.
“The loss to the community and to the families and my own children who have lost their grandmother… I just can’t fathom what has happened,” she said.
“I’m so sorry that they have lost their lives. I just can’t believe it.”
Mrs Patterson did not answer questions from reporters about the meal she cooked.
However, she denied any wrongdoing when she was reminded she was a suspect in the investigations.
“I didn’t do anything, I love them and I’m devastated they are gone,” she said.
Police have said the fact Mrs Patterson is being investigated doesn’t mean the deaths weren’t a tragic accident.
Detective Inspector Dean Thomas said: “I’m not aware of an investigation where we’ve had three people die as a result of an apparent food poisoning, whether that be by a mushroom or something else – so yes, it is quite unique.
“(Mrs Patterson) has not presented with any symptoms. So again, that forms part of our investigation whether she did or didn’t eat any of the mushrooms or anything else that may have been eaten on that particular day.”