The woman at the center of a lethal mushroom mystery gripping Australia has given her account of the events surrounding the meal now linked to the, and the hospitalization of a fourth person.
For weeks, speculation has been mounting around a close-knit community in rural Australia after a family mushroom lunch ended with three people dead and a local preacher fighting for his life.
The meal was cooked by community newsletter editor Erin Patterson. Police last week said she was being treated as a suspect but that investigators were keeping an open mind. In a statement to police, exclusively obtained by the Australia’s ABC, Patterson said she purchased the mushrooms from an Asian supermarket and that she too fell ill after eating the meal.
Police believe the dish was tainted with “death cap” mushrooms, which grow freely in the rolling foothills surrounding Leongatha – a small town about two hours’ drive southeast of Melbourne.
Patterson prepared the lunch, a beef Wellington, for her estranged parents-in-law, Don and Gail Patterson, on the afternoon of Saturday, July 29. She was married to their son, Simon, but had been living separately from him for some time.
Local Baptist pastor Ian Wilkinson and his wife, Heather, were also at the meal.
Later that night, the two couples started experiencing food poisoning symptoms and, with their health rapidly deteriorating, they sought help at local hospitals. Heather and Gail died the following Friday and Don died the day after that. Seventy-year-old Ian is still clinging to life, in critical but stable condition.
The investigation has fueled intense speculation as police try to separate clumsy cooking from an alleged act of malice.
According to Australia’s ABC, Erin Patterson told police in a statement on Friday that she is “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 love,” Patterson added.
She told police she had also been hospitalized after the lunch on July 31, with bad stomach pains and diarrhoea, and later released.
She described preserving the remains of the meal and handing it over to hospital toxicologists for examination. She has repeatedly protested her innocence, tearfully telling reporters last week that “I didn’t do anything. I love them and I’m devastated they are gone.”.
Patterson hasn’t been charged and police have provided no evidence of wrongdoing.