CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — The host of a weekend family lunch at her Australian country home was charged with murdering three guests with poisonous mushrooms and attempting to murder a fourth who was left fighting for life, police said on Thursday.
Police arrested Erin Patterson, 49, earlier Thursday at her home in Leongatha in Victoria state where her former husband’s parents Gail and Don Patterson, both aged 70, Gail Patterson’s sister Heather Wilkinson, 66, and her husband Ian Wilkinson, 68, were invited for lunch on July 29.
All four guests were hospitalized the next day and only Ian Wilkinson survived.
Erin Patterson was also charged with three counts of attempting to murder her former husband Simon Patterson, 48, who became ill after eating three meals in 2021 and 2022, a police statement said.
He did not attend the July lunch with his parents, who both died.
Erin Patterson will remain in police custody until she appears in a local court on Friday, when she can potentially apply to be released on bail. Bail for murder is usually a decision referred to a higher court.
She has publicly denied any wrongdoing.
“I’m devastated. I loved them. I can’t believe that this has happened and I’m so sorry,” she tearfully told reporters two days after the third death.
Police say the symptoms the four diners suffered were consistent with poisoning by wild Amanita phalloides, known as death cap mushrooms.
Australian Broadcasting Corp. reported that Erin Patterson had written in a statement that she cooked a beef Wellington steak dish for the lunch using mushrooms bought from a major supermarket chain and dried mushrooms from an Asian grocery store.
She wrote that she also ate the meal and later suffered stomach pains and diarrhea.
Ian Wilkinson, a Baptist pastor, was released from a hospital in late September and police say he continues to recover.
Murder in Victoria carries a potential maximum sentence of 25 years in prison.