Mushroom poisoning deaths: Family lunch mystery grips Australia

Two Saturdays ago, five people sat down for a family meal in a tiny Australian town.

Within a week, three would be dead, a fourth fighting for life, and the fifth under investigation for potentially poisoning her guests with wild mushrooms.

But the 48-year-old woman who cooked the lunch says she has no idea what happened, and that she loved her family and wouldn’t hurt them.

The peculiar case has captured national attention, puzzled police, and left a tight-knit community reeling. ‘Nefarious’ or ‘accidental’? The unusual tale began when Gail and Don Patterson stopped for lunch with their grandkids at their daughter-in-law Erin Patterson’s home in Leongatha – a two-hour drive southeast of Melbourne. With them were the Wilkinsons – Heather, Gail’s sister, and her husband Ian. All four were much loved members of the nearby town of Korumburra, where Ian was the local Baptist church pastor. But it was no ordinary lunch. Hours after the meal, all four guests took themselves to the local hospital with what they first believed was severe gastro. It quickly became clear it was something far worse, and they were transferred to a hospital in Melbourne to receive the best medical care the state had to offer. Despite that, Heather, 66, and Gail, 70, died on Friday, and Don, 70, on Saturday. Ian, 68, remains in a critical condition in hospital, awaiting a liver transplant.


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