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Deadly mushroom twist: Chef an 'experienced' fungi forager, says friend

Author
NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Wed, 16 Aug 2023, 3:23pm

Deadly mushroom twist: Chef an 'experienced' fungi forager, says friend

Author
NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Wed, 16 Aug 2023, 3:23pm

The mushroom cook behind the toxic beef wellington that poisoned four people, leaving three of them dead, was an “experience fungi forager”, according to a source close to the family.

According to the Daily Mail Australia, Erin Patterson was known to often and expertly pick wild mushrooms around Victoria’s Gippsland region.

A friend of Patterson’s family revealed Erin was “very good at foraging” and at identifying different mushroom varieties.

“The Patterson family (including Erin and estranged husband Simon) would pick mushrooms each year when they were in season,” the friend said.

 “It’s very common for people to go mushroom picking around that area.”

Erin Patterson, the Australian woman who cooked the mushroom meal that killed three people, says she is being painted as an "evil witch" by the media.

Erin Patterson, the Australian woman who cooked the mushroom meal that killed three people, says she is being painted as an "evil witch" by the media.

Patterson’s former parents-in-law Don and Gail Patterson, Gail’s sister Heather Wilkinson and her husband Ian, fell sick after eating the fatal meal on July 29. It is suspected the beef wellington dish contained death cap mushrooms.

Don, Gail and Heather all died in hospital, with Ian left in a coma.

The lie Patterson told investigators

Earlier this week, Erin Patterson revealed more details about the day of the fatal meal, including admitting that she initially lied to police.

Her written statement, first reported by the ABC, was provided to Victoria police on Friday. In it, she said she wanted to “clear up the record” after the three deaths.

Media reported that police had seized a food dehydrator at a nearby rubbish tip, after it was reportedly dumped around the time the illnesses and deaths came to light.

Patterson admitted she lied to police by originally claiming she had dumped it “a long time ago”, the ABC reports.

She now claims she was at the hospital with her children “discussing the food hydrator” when her estranged husband, Simon Patterson, asked: “Is that what you used to poison them?”

Erin Patterson said she panicked and dumped the dehydrator, worried she might lose custody of her children.

In a statement to police, she also claims she spent time in hospital after eating the deadly meal. She claimed her children were not at the lunch and were instead at the movies.

Don Patterson and Gail Patterson, Erin's former parents-in-law, died after eating deadly mushrooms cooked in a beef wellington. Photo / Supplied

Don Patterson and Gail Patterson, Erin's former parents-in-law, died after eating deadly mushrooms cooked in a beef wellington. Photo / Supplied

She then went on to claim they ate leftovers the next day. She also claimed she and her children don’t like mushrooms so they scraped them out.

She also detailed how she served the meal and allowed the guests to choose their own plates. She then took the last plate and ate a serving of the dish.

Victim’s dying words passed to police

A paramedic who tended to one of the dying victims was so concerned by their final conversation that they passed details on to detectives.

The Herald Sun quotes sources close to the investigation as saying the ambulance officer felt it necessary to make police aware of what was said, though the details are yet to be released.

Patterson recently spoke out to deny leaking her earlier statement to police and to hit out at media coverage of the case.

Heather Wilkinson and pastor husband Ian Wilkinson. Heather died after eating the toxic meal and Ian remains in a coma. Photo / Supplied

Heather Wilkinson and pastor husband Ian Wilkinson. Heather died after eating the toxic meal and Ian remains in a coma. Photo / Supplied

“I lost my parents-in-law, my children lost their grandparents. And I’ve been painted as an evil witch,” Patterson told The Australian.

“And the media is making it impossible for me to live in this town. I can’t have friends over.

“The media is at the house where my children are at. The media are at my sister’s house so I can’t go there. This is unfair.”

She said she did not leak her police statement. “I didn’t put any statement out,” she told The Australian.

“I have no idea how it got out. I made a statement to the police.”

Patterson has not been charged but has been interviewed by police.

The investigation is continuing.

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