Erin Patterson served her estranged husband's family beef Wellington at a family lunch in July. Days later, three of them would be dead.
By all appearances, it was supposed to be a normal family dinner for Erin Patterson.
On July 29 of this year she was hosting her in-laws, Gail and Don Patterson, and Gail’s sister Heather Wilkinson and her husband, Ian. Her estranged husband, Simon, was also supposed to be there but couldn’t make it at the last minute.
Patterson served her in-laws a meal Patterson herself had cooked. She had made beef Wellington.
But in the days after the meal, three of her four guests were dead — and Patterson is now facing murder charges.
Erin Patterson has been charged with three counts of murder and five counts of attempted murder in the deaths of Gail, Don, and Heather. Toxicology reports indicated the victims consumed death cap mushrooms, of which a single bite can be deadly.
Authorities in Australia turned their suspicions to Patterson after she and her children were the only ones who didn’t become severely ill after eating the meal. However, she has maintained her innocence.
Patterson has also been charged with attempted murder of Ian Wilkinson, who fell critically ill and was in the hospital for weeks but survived. Authorities also believe Patterson attempted to murder her estranged husband Simon four times over the past two years, according to The Guardian.
Patterson claimed that her children did not become sick because they removed the mushrooms from the dish because they didn’t like them. She said she used button mushrooms from the supermarket and dried mushrooms from an Asian grocery store she had bought months earlier.
“I am now devastated to think that these mushrooms may have contributed to the illness suffered by my loved ones,” she wrote in a statement, according to the BBC. “I really want to repeat that I had absolutely no reason to hurt these people, whom I loved.”
Patterson was also questioned about a food dehydrator that she owned, and police had reportedly found in the trash days after the incident. Authorities were looking to test the dehydrator for traces of the deadly mushroom.
“She has admitted to having owned it, explaining that she got rid of it in a state of panic following the deaths,” according to reporting by the BBC.
Death cap mushrooms are extremely toxic to humans. A medical expert told the Daily Mail that eating them “melts down a person’s liver,” and that even consuming the liquid the mushrooms were cooked in can be fatal. According to the expert, death cap mushrooms are even deadlier than nightshade.
Deaths from consuming the death cap mushrooms have almost exclusively been accidents. In Canada, a three-year-old boy died in 2016 after mistaking the death cap mushroom for an edible one while his family was foraging for wild mushrooms.
After reading about the woman who allegedly murdered her family using death cap mushrooms, read about Katrina Fouts, the woman who was arrested for murdering her husband with poisonous mushrooms after police read her search history. Or, read about Graham Young, the serial killer who laced his victims’ tea with nightshade and thallium.