On Thursday, Australian police arrested a luncheon hostOf suspected mushroom poisoning and a local preacher is fighting for his life.
Victoria Police executed a search warrant at the home of Irene Patterson in Leongatha where her ex-husband’s parents, Jill and Dawn Patterson, both 70, Jill Patterson’s sister, Heather Wilkinson, 66, and her husband Ian Wilkinson, 68, had gathered on July 29 for a meal. Lunch. .
The four guests were taken to hospital the next day and only local priest Ian Wilkinson survived. He spent nearly two months in hospital in serious condition before being released on September 23.
Victoria Police Inspector Dean Thomas said homicide investigators would interview Erin Patterson after completing a search of her home.
“Today’s arrest is just the next step in a complex and extensive investigation by Homicide Squad detectives that is far from over,” Thomas told reporters.
He added that the investigation had been subject to “incredibly intense” media and public interest in Australia and internationally.
“I think it’s especially important to keep in mind that the three people at the heart of these people lost their lives,” Thomas said.
In smaller communities, “a tragedy like this could reverberate for years to come,” he added.
Police said they arrested Patterson in the morning and began searching her home with the help of “technology detection dogs” that can sniff out electronic devices such as USB keys.
Investigators had previously interviewed the 49-year-old about the fatal lunch, but no charges were brought against him.
She has publicly denied any wrongdoing.
“I am now devastated to believe this fungus may have contributed to the illness my loved ones are suffering from,” she said in a statement provided to Australian media at the time. “I really want to reiterate that I had absolutely no reason to hurt these people that I loved.”
A memorial service for Don and Jill Patterson was held at the end of August. Pastor Fran Grimes told the congregation that the community was trying to “protect and shield the family from cruel speculation and gossip.”
Death cap mushroom
Police say the symptoms experienced by the four restaurant patrons are consistent with wild poisoning.
The death cap mushroom grows freely throughout moist, warm parts of Australia and can easily be confused with edible varieties.
They are said to taste sweeter than other mushrooms but contain powerful toxins that slowly poison the liver and kidneys.
Death caps are responsible for 90% of fatal mushroom poisonings globally, the BBC reported. In 2020, a wave of poisonings in Victoria killed one person and hospitalized seven others.
Erin Patterson wrote in a statement that she cooked a beef Wellington steak dish for lunch using mushrooms purchased from a major supermarket chain and dried mushrooms from an Asian grocery store, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported.
She wrote that she also ate the meal and later suffered stomach pain and diarrhea.
Her children, who were not present at lunch, ate some of the leftover beef Wellington the next day, BBC reported. She added that the mushrooms were removed from the dish because they did not like them.
Police had previously searched her home on August 5, the day the third diner died.
AFP contributed to this report.
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