Homicide detectives arrest mushroom cook Erin Patterson over fatal lunch

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Homicide detectives have arrested Erin Patterson, the woman at the centre of the investigation into the poisonous mushroom meal that resulted in the death of three people in Gippsland in eastern Victoria.

A source with knowledge of the case confirmed Patterson had been arrested and taken to Wonthaggi police station for questioning on Thursday morning.

Erin Patterson’s home in Leongatha.Credit: Marta Pascual Juanola; Paul Jeffers

Investigators are currently searching Patterson’s Leongatha home, where the deadly family lunch took place on July 29.

Four people were hospitalised after attending the lunch cooked by Patterson at her home in Victoria’s south-east.

Heather Wilkinson, 66, Gail Patterson, 70, and Don Patterson, 70, all died days later in hospital. Ian Wilkinson, 68, was released from Austin Hospital after seven weeks of treatment. Police said investigators believe the group had eaten death cap mushrooms.

In a statement, Victoria Police said homicide detectives had arrested a woman on Thursday as part of their investigation into the deaths of three people following an incident in Leongatha earlier this year.

“A search warrant has been executed at the Gibson Street address, with assistance from the AFP’s [Australian Federal Police] technology detector dogs,” police said.

“The woman will now be interviewed by police and the investigation remains ongoing.”

Police had previously named Patterson – the estranged wife of the Pattersons’ son, Simon – as a suspect because she cooked the meals. Patterson has strenuously denied wrongdoing and said she could not explain how the meal caused the group’s illnesses and deaths.

The death cap is responsible for 90 per cent of mushroom poisoning deaths. One bite is enough to kill someone, causing severe gastroenteritis and eventually organ failure. Anyone who becomes ill after eating a wild mushroom is urged to seek urgent medical care and, if possible, take samples for identification.

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