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Woman suspected of killing three people with toxic mushrooms inside beef wellington in Australia charged

A woman suspected of serving a beef wellington laced with poisonous mushrooms, which killed three family members, has been charged.

Erin Patterson, 49, cooked the meal at her home in Leongatha, a small rural town in southeast Australia, on Saturday 29 July.

Her former in-laws Don and Gail Patterson, both 70, were among those who ate the meal, which is suspected to have contained poisonous fungi known as death caps - which are responsible for 90% of all toxic mushroom-related fatalities.

Mrs Patterson's sister Heather Wilkinson, 66, and her husband Reverend Ian Wilkinson, 68, were also at the table.

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All four felt unwell by midnight that evening.

Mrs Patterson and Mrs Wilkinson died nearly a week later on Friday 4 August.

Mr Patterson died the next day, while Reverend Wilkinson was left in a critical condition in hospital. He is the only individual to have survived.

Victoria Police confirmed a woman had been charged on 2 November, as part of their investigation into the deaths, and also with other attempted murder charges relating to earlier incidents.

They did not directly name Patterson.

detective Inspector Dean Thomas of Victoria Police's Homicide Squad said: "A 49-year-old woman was arrested this morning and interviewed by police.

"The Leongatha woman has subsequently been charged with three counts of murder and five counts of attempted murder.

"The murder charges and two attempted murder charges relate to an incident on 29 July where four people were taken to hospital after they fell ill following a meal at a private residence in Leongatha.

"The further three attempted murder charges relate to three separate incidents in Victoria between 2021-2022.

"It's alleged a 48-year-old Korumburra man became ill following meals on these dates."

A police search at a home on Gibson Street was also being carried out, with the assistance of technology detector dogs.

'I didn't do anything'

Patterson has always denied any wrongdoing, and in August broke down in tears when speaking outside her home.

"I'm so sorry that they have lost their lives. I just can't believe it. I didn't do anything, I love them, and I'm devastated they are gone," she said.

In a separate voluntary statement to police, Patterson said she served the meal and allowed the guests to choose their own plates. She then took the last plate and ate some of the beef wellington herself.

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She said she suffered bad stomach pains and diarrhoea after the meal and was taken to hospital, adding she was transported by ambulance from the Leongatha Hospital to the Monash Medical Centre in Melbourne on 31 July.

Patterson claimed the mushrooms used to prepare the meal were a mixture of button mushrooms purchased at a supermarket, and dried mushrooms purchased at an Asian grocery store in Melbourne several months ago, which were in a hand-labelled packet.

Contrary to initial reports from police, Patterson's two children had gone to the cinema and did not eat the meal.

Police have urged anyone with any information to contact them.