Mushrooms are a favorite delicacy of people all over the world. But they can also be dangerous, and sometimes they can even serve as a murderous weapon. At least that’s what the police think, who accused a 49-year-old Australian woman of murdering three of her relatives. She had just prepared mushrooms for their lunch.
The unusual case shocked Australia. Erin Patterson, 49, was arrested Thursday morning and subsequently charged with murder. A woman living east of Melbourne was supposed to cook a family lunch on July 29, which resulted in the death of a total of three people, the BBC website reported.
The hosts’ former mother-in-law and father-in-law Gail and Don Patterson, both 70, Gail’s sister Heather Wilkinson, 66, and her husband Ian Wilkinson, 68, arrived for the fateful lunch. Erin’s ex-husband Simon Patterson was also invited to the lunch, but he did not arrive at the last minute.
The following day, after consuming the cooked meal, all four guests were taken to hospital in critical condition, where both the Pattersons and Heather Wilkinson died within days. Only Ian Wilkinson survived, but he spent two months in hospital.
Toxicology reports indicate that the victims consumed the green toadstool, which is extremely poisonous. Although Erin Patterson claims she is innocent, what intrigued the police about the case was that neither she nor her two children had any serious problems.
Police in the state of Victoria have already taken the woman into custody. Homicide Inspector Dean Thomas emphasized the complexity of the case at a press conference and described it as a tragedy. “I can’t think of another investigation that has generated this level of media and public interest, not just here in Victoria, but nationally and internationally,” he said.
The defendant, Erin Patterson, said she herself was taken to hospital after the meal with stomach pains, was given a saline drip and given medication to protect her liver from damage. She described serving her guests beef wellington with a mixture of supermarket mushrooms and dried mushrooms purchased at an Asian grocery a few months ago.
“I am devastated to think that these fungi could have contributed to the illness my loved ones suffered,” she wrote in a statement. “I had absolutely no reason to hurt the people I loved,” she added. Her children, who were said not to have been present at the lunch itself, ate the rest of the Wellington the next day. But they said they scraped the mushrooms off their food because they don’t like them, Erin said.
A fungus appeared in the Czech Republic this year, which is dangerous to humans and trees. See what it looks like: