Inside the mushroom deaths investigation: Why cops are in no rush to close their probe into Erin Patterson and the mysterious case that has gripped the world
It could take months for Victorian detectives to complete their investigation into the mysterious deaths of Erin Patterson’s luncheon guests.
As the intriguing saga enters its second month, Daily Mail Australia can reveal that the Victoria Police Forensic Services Department has been asked to prioritize the analysis of biological material linked to the investigation.
Pastor Ian Wilkinson was the only one of four guests to survive the poisonous beef wellington served July 29 by the stay-at-home mom in Leongatha, Victoria.
Erin Patterson is a person of importance in the cause that has gripped the nation
Detectives have asked forensics to prioritize tests related to the case
The burial places of Gail and Don Patterson at Korumburra General Cemetery
Mr Wilkinson, his wife Heather and her sister Gail and husband Don Patterson were invited to lunch as part of a ‘mediation meeting’ to discuss Mrs Patterson’s relationship with her estranged husband Simon, who backed out at the last minute.
Daily Mail Australia does not suggest that Erin Patterson is responsible for their deaths.
Victoria Police’s forensic department has long been besieged by demands from eager detectives.
The courts are inundated with cases delayed by overworked forensic staff, with some cases delayed for up to a year.
With the mushroom deaths unrelated even in court, and the media frenzy surrounding the case, it is believed the writ is eager to push the forensic tests through sooner rather than later.
While delays in testing have raised some concerns, police sources have told Daily Mail Australia detectives will hardly have a ‘cue in the rack’.
It has been more than two weeks since Victoria Police issued a public update on its investigation.
At the time, Detective Dean Thomas gave mixed reports to the media about their treatment of Ms. Patterson.
Don and Gail Patterson died after consuming supposedly poisonous mushrooms served by Erin Patterson
Ian Wilkinson and Heather Wilkinson (both pictured) became seriously ill after eating wild mushrooms. Mrs Wilkinson died while her husband was in hospital
Detective Inspector Dean Thomas gave a media update after police raided Erin Patterson’s home. Police have since declined to discuss the case
The house where Erin Patterson fed her guests a deadly beef wellington
The seasoned detective began his briefing by stating that her relatives’ deaths were “not suspicious.”
“The deaths are unexplained and for that purpose we are involved and working as hard as we can to try to identify why these deaths happened and the circumstances surrounding them,” he said.
But under fire from reporters, Inspector Thomas arranged a stumbling backflip.
“The 48-year-old is, well, she’s (a suspect), um, she was, and she is because, um, she cooked those meals for us, for the people who were present,” he said.
Police raided Ms. Patterson’s home on August 5, taking her phones and computers for analysis.
She gave an interview without comment and was released that night.
News of that raid came out the next day, resulting in a media frenzy descending on the small country town where she lived with her two children.
Inspector Thomas then told reporters that Ms. Patterson had not shown any symptoms at the hospital – a claim she later refuted in a written statement she later provided to detectives after seeing a lawyer.
Leongatha (pictured) has been inundated with reporters since news of the case broke
Korumburra – a little further from Leongatha – was the place where the dead lived
He said homicide detectives would work to get to the bottom of the case.
“We still have a lot of work to do. We need to understand what caused these symptoms, which ultimately caused the deaths of these three people,” the detective said.
“We need to understand what happened, what caused the injuries… what caused their deaths and the circumstances surrounding it all. So it’s a very complex thing… it’s really interesting. You know four people show up and three have died.’
Reporters camped outside Ms. Patterson’s home for much of August, with her estranged husband Simon Patterson hiring a publicist to try and deflect requests from around the world.
In the background, detectives will watch aanalyzing Ms. Patterson’s phone records and movements over the past few weeks and maybe months.
Her allegations in that written statement will be investigated.
While technical experts sift through the data, agents on the scene will talk to anyone who can help them get closer to the truth.
Detectives will closely monitor the recovery of Mr. Wilkinson, who remains seriously ill at Austin Hospital.
What he says will probably help detectives in one way or another as the case progresses.
Ms Patterson’s former husband’s much-publicized illness will be thoroughly investigated, with officers trying to rule out any links to her cooking.
Erin Patterson is approached by the media outside her home on August 8
Mr. Patterson was in an induced coma for 16 days, requiring three emergency surgeries, mainly on his small intestine.
“My family was asked twice to say goodbye to me because I didn’t expect to be alive,” he posted on social media shortly after splitting with his wife.
The investigation into his illness will prove difficult, especially if forensic material from that time is no longer available.
When confronted by the media earlier this month, Ms Patterson burst into tears and stated she had done nothing wrong.
“I am so devastated by what happened and the loss to the community, the families and my own children. They have lost their grandmother,” she told reporters on Aug. 8.
Six days later, her leaked statement to the detectives made the news.
“I would very much like to reiterate that I had absolutely no reason to hurt these people I loved,” she allegedly told police.
Ms Patterson said she made the amazing lunch with a mixture of mushrooms from a major supermarket chain and dried mushrooms from an Asian supermarket in Melbourne.
Simon Patterson would join his parents for the lunch that cost them their lives
In her statement, Ms. Patterson said she divided the meal into plates and let her guests choose their own plate.
She said she took the last remaining plate and ate a portion, later handing the leftovers over to the hospital’s toxicologists for examination.
A drying device she owned was later dumped in the local landfill, fearing her estranged husband would blame her for his parents’ deaths and gain custody of their two children, she said.
Ms Patterson told police she had had a good relationship with her in-laws, even after the split with their son.
‘I had a good relationship with Simon’s parents for a long time. Our relationship had continued in a fairly amicable way after I ended the relationship with their son Simon,” she said.
“Our relationship was affected to some extent by seeing them less after the breakdown of my marriage to Simon, but I’ve never felt differently about his parents.”