Major update in 'poison' mushroom case as family friend of chef speaks out

A woman who cooked up a beef wellington lunch with toxic mushrooms that killed three of her relatives and left one fighting for his life is an experienced fungi forager, according to a family friend.

Erin Patterson has denied any wrongdoing after serving a deadly meal to her ex-husband’s parents and former in-laws.

But now a source close to the family has said she was known to expertly pick wild mushrooms around Victoria’s Gippsland region on a fairly regular basis.

The 48-year-old was ‘very good at foraging’ and identifying the different types of mushrooms, a friend of the Patterson family said.

They told Daily Mail Australia: ‘The Patterson family (including Erin and Simon) would pick mushrooms each year when they were in season.

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

Erin’s estranged husband Simon Patterson was due to be at the lunch at her home in Leongatha, Victoria, Australia on July 29 but he pulled out at the last minute.

Those who were at the fateful meal were Simon’s parents Gail and Don Patterson, both 70, Gail’s sister Heather Wilkinson, 66, and Gail’s husband Ian Wilkinson, 68.

They had gathered for a ‘mediation’ meeting to discuss Erin and Simon’s relationship, but within days the Pattersons and Ms Wilkinson were dead.

Mr Wilkinson, meanwhile, remains in a critical condition at Austin Hospital in Melbourne awaiting a liver transplant.

He is also thought to have suffered severe damage to his kidneys and is understood to be heavily sedated after spending several days on life support in a coma. 

As the lone survivor, his recovery could hold the vital key to the case and shed light on what really happened that day. 

Homicide detectives are investigating the three ‘unexplained’ deaths, thought to have been caused by death cap mushrooms, which are known for being among the world’s most poisonous. 

After briefly going ‘missing’ last week, Erin has since issued a lengthy written statement to Victoria Police to protest her innocence. 

In her first detailed account of events, she claimed the mushrooms were a mixture of button mushrooms from a supermarket and dried mushrooms she bought at an Asian grocery store in Melbourne months ago.

She was unable to identify which Asian grocer she had visited but said the dried mushrooms came in a package with a hand-written label. 

What was left of the meal has been passed on to the authorities for testing.

Erin admitted lying to police about when she dumped a vegetable dehydrator used to prepare the dish after initially claiming she had disposed of it ‘a long time ago’.

Food dehydrators are used to dry out mushrooms before they are put into a beef wellington.

Police have since seized the appliance from a nearby tip for forensic examination and Erin has admitted she threw it away after her guests became sick. 

Officers are now examining CCTV from the landfill to work out exactly when she dumped the dehydrator. 

Erin also revealed that she had also become unwell following the lunch – and that her ex Simon accused her of poisoning his parents while she was in hospital.

She claims that she was at the hospital with her children ‘discussing the food dehydrator’ when Simon asked: ‘Is that what you used to poison them?’

In response, Erin claims the accusation caused her to panic and was worried about losing custody of the children, which is why she got rid of it.

Her children ate the same meal the following day, she claims, but picked out the mushrooms because they don’t like them. 

It had previously been claimed they were at the meal, but Erin says they were both at the cinema at the time.

The dying words of one of the victims were so alarming that they made paramedics call the police ‘immediately’ to relay what they had heard, according to reports.

It also emerged following the tragedy that Simon had recently recovered from a mystery stomach illness that left him in intensive care for 21 days.

Police are continuing to investigate and Erin has not been charged with any offences.

Detective inspector Dean Thomas told reporters last week that Erin was a ‘person of interest’ because she cooked the meals, but stressed that officers are still working to determine whether or not the poisonings were accidental or suspicious. 

Erin’s leaked statement read: ‘I now very much regret not answering some questions, given the nightmare that this process has become.

‘I am now wanting to clear up the record because I have become extremely stressed and overwhelmed by the deaths of my loved ones.

‘I am hoping this statement might help in some way. I believe if people understood the background more, they would not be so quick to rush to judgement.

‘I am now devastated to think that these mushrooms may have contributed to the illness suffered by my loved ones. I really want to repeat that I had absolutely no reason to hurt these people whom I loved.’

In another twist, a tradesman claims to have taken a picture of what he called a ‘death wall’ in the Pattersons’ former home. 

It allegedly includes images of gravestones, daggers and decapitated heads, while scrawled messages state, ‘you are dead by the sword’ and ‘you will die within a year’. 

The anonymous handyman said: ‘It was disturbing.’ 

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