Family lunch leaves three dead and one critically ill after suspected wild mushroom poisoning
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A family gathering ended in tragedy after several people died following a suspected poisoning.
An investigation has been launched into the mysterious deaths of three people at a family lunch in Victoria, Australia.
Erin Patterson, from Leongatha, prepared a meal for her former in-laws, Don and Gail Patterson, both 70, as well as Gail's sister Heather Wilkinson, 66, and her husband Reverend Ian Wilkinson, 68, on 29 July.
Sadly, Gail Patterson and Mrs Wilkinson died almost a week later on 4 August, while Mr Patterson died the following day.
Ms Patterson and her two children were the only people not to fall sick, with the children having eaten a separate meal.
Mr Wilkinson remains in critical condition in hospital and is awaiting a liver transplant.
The mother was subsequently interviewed by police about the incident before being released without charge.
In an emotional statement offered outside her home, the 48-year-old was adamant that she was innocent of any wrongdoing.
She said: "The loss to the community and to the families and my own children who have lost their grandmother… I just can't fathom what has happened.
"I'm so sorry that they have lost their lives. I just can't believe it.
"I didn't do anything, I love them and I'm devastated they are gone."
Ms Patterson didn't answer reporters' questions about where the mushrooms came from and what meal they ate that day.
Victoria police said they were working with medical experts and the health department to determine what happened.
In a statement, Detective Inspector Dean Thomas said the investigation was still at a very early stage, and no charges had yet been brought.
“We have to keep an open mind,” he said. “It could be very innocent, but again we just don’t know at this point."
The police say that everyone who fell ill at the lunch had symptoms consistent with poisoning from the death cap mushroom.
The variant contains the poison amanitin, and is responsible for 90 percent of deaths by mushroom poisoning, it's said.
Symptoms from ingesting the mushroom can include vomiting and diarrhoea, and Victoria health department warns that eating just one can be deadly.
Despite the theory, however, an official cause of death for the family members has yet to be confirmed.
Anyone with information is urged to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or to make a confidential report at www.crimestoppersvic.com.au