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Family Lunch Turns Deadly After 3 Guests Die From Suspected Mushroom Poisoning

Investigators suspect lunch guests were fed death cap mushrooms, the most deadly mushroom on the planet. 

Mushrooms are a controversial vegetable. Some people don't like the taste, while others are simply grossed out by the thought of eating funghi. And then, there is also the fact that they can be deadly. Death cap mushrooms, similar to conventional mushrooms, are responsible for 90 percent of fatal fungi ingestions worldwide. This week, authorities are investigating the deaths of three individuals in Australia, who they believe were poisoned by their host with toxic veggies.

Erin Patterson, 48, Hosted Two Couples for Lunch

According to reports, Erin Patterson, 48, hosted a gathering in late July at her palatial country house in Leongatha, about 70 miles from Melbourne. She invited her parents-in-law, Gail and Don Patterson, both 70, and Heather Wilkinson, 66, and her husband Ian Wilkinson, 68, a local pastor, over for lunch.

Three of the Four People Are Dead, and the Fourth Is Seriously Ill


Later that night, all four guests became seriously ill, believing it to be food poisoning. Within a week, Gail, Don, and Heather were dead, while Ian remains in the hospital awaiting a liver transplant. Erin and her two children are fine. 

Investigators Believe They Were Fed Death Cap Mushrooms


Investigators suspect the victims consumed death cap, or Amanita phalloides, as their symptoms correspond to mushroom poisoning. 

Investigators Brought Patternson In for Questioning and Searched Her Home

Patterson's home has been searched by detectives. They seized various items, including dehydrated food found in a local landfill. This week she was also taken for questioning but released without charges filed. 

It''s a "Complex Investigation"

"It's a complex investigation," Detective Inspector Dean Thomas, head of the Victorian police homicide squad, said at a press conference. "At this point in time, the deaths are unexplained." He added that the host is only a suspect "because she cooked those meals for the people." But added, "We have to keep an open mind in relation to this that it could be very innocent."

Patterson Maintains Her Innocence

Patterson told reporters she'd made the meal for "the best people 've ever met" and was devastated by their deaths. "I just can't fathom what has happened." She didn't discuss what she cooked for lunch or whether she had eaten the meal, but according to police, her kids were given something different. 

She "Didn't Do Anything," She Says

Australian Herald

"I can't believe that this has happened and I am so sorry that they have lost their lives," a tearful Patterson told reporters. "I didn't do anything, I loved them, and I'm devastated that they're gone."

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Her Estranged Husband Suffered "Serious Gut Problems" Last Year

According to local media, Patterson's estranged husband, Simon Patterson, nearly died last year from what he described as "serious gut problems." According to a Facebook post he collapsed at home and spent 16 days in an induced coma, undergoing several operations, mostly on his small intestine.

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