Erin Patterson has been charged by homicide detectives over the poisonous mushroom meal that led to the death of three relatives three months ago.
Patterson was arrested at her home in Leongatha in Victoria’s Gippsland region on Thursday morning before police spent the day painstakigly scouring the property.
She was questioned at Wonthaggi Police Station for hours and has since been charged with three counts of murder and five counts of attempted murder.
Patterson was remanded in custody to appear at Morwell Magistrates’ Court on Friday morning.
The murder charges and two attempted murder charges relate to an incident on July 29 where four relatives were taken to hospital after they fell ill following a meal at Patterson’s home
Heather Wilkinson, 66, her sister Gail Patterson and her husband Don Patterson, both 70, all died in August, days after eating a beef Wellington cooked by Ms Patterson.
The Pattersons were the parents of Ms Patterson’s estranged husband, Simon.
Ms Wilkinson’s husband, Baptist church pastor Ian Wilkinson, 68, was the sole survivor but was left critically ill and spent almost two months in hospital.
A specialist police team of investigators is now currently searching Ms Patterson’s home where the fatal family lunch took place on July 29.
Forensic experts have been spotted rifling through a crowded garage attached to the home, and combing through the interior of her red MG ZS SUV in the property’s driveway.
Detectives have also brought in specially-trained ‘technology detector dogs’ – that can sniff out USB memory keys and sim cards – to help scour the property.
Police have arrested Erin Patterson, the woman at the centre of the investigation into the poisonous mushroom meal that led to the death of three people in Gippsland, eastern Victoria
Patterson was arrested at her home in Leongatha, eastern Victoria at about 8am on Thursday. No charges have been laid. She is now being questioned at Wonthaggi Police Station
Detectives have brought in specially-trained ‘technology detector dogs’ – that can sniff out USB memory keys and sim cards – to help scour the property
Detectives could be seen going through Erin Patterson’s car (pictured) during the search of her property on Thursday
Police could also be seen rifling through the crowded contents of the garage attached to the home on Thursday morning
The technology detection dogs have been supplied by Australian Federal Police who say they can find memory storage devices
The technology detection dogs have been supplied by Australian Federal Police who say they can find memory storage devices such as USBs, hard drives, mobile phones, storage device cards and SIM cards.
The dogs are considered to be the most elite of all sniffer dogs and capable of sensing the microns-thin coating that protects computer circuit boards.
Their noses are so sensitive, they can track down tiny SIM or memory cards buried in walls or even hidden in fruit.
The dogs were seen exploring various locations around the home, with a sofa on a rear deck of the home closely inspected.
Ms Patterson’s car was also given a thorough search several times by detectives and the sniffer dogs.
Five cars including Ms Patterson’s were parked in her driveway on Thursday morning. Ms Patterson’s empty bins remained uncollected outside her property.
Her arrest comes after pastor Wilkinson was said to be helping homicide detectives with the investigation following his release from hospital on September 23.
Police believe the symptoms the four diners experienced were consistent with the effects of eating deathcap mushrooms.
‘Today’s arrest is just the next step in what has been a complex and thorough investigation by homicide squad detectives, and one that is not yet over,’ said Detective Inspector Dean Thomas.
‘Once the search of the premises is completed, the female will be interviewed by homicide squad investigators. We will provide updates through the day.’
‘Over the last three months, this investigation has been subject to incredibly intense levels of public scrutiny and curiosity.
‘I cannot think of another investigation that has created this level of public interest, not only here in Victoria but nationally and internationally.’
He added: ‘Keep in mind that at the heart of this, three people have lost their lives.
‘These are three people who by all accounts were much beloved in their communities, and they are greatly missed by their loved ones.’
The dogs were seen exploring various locations around the home, with a sofa on a rear deck of the home closely inspected
A sign on the fence at Ms Patterson’s home warns visitors off from trespassing on the property
A police team of investigators are currently searching her home in Leongatha where the fatal family lunch took place on July 29
Five cars including Erin Patterson’s were parked in her driveway on Thursday morning
Ms Patterson became the focus of the police investigation after it was revealed she cooked the meal. She has strongly denied any wrongdoing.
She said she took the last remaining plate and ate a serving, later handing the leftovers to hospital toxicologists for examination.
In the wake of the tragedy, Ms Patterson spoke of her love for the victims of the poisoning, and especially her in-laws.
‘I am now devastated to think that these mushrooms may have contributed to the illness suffered by my loved ones,’ she said.
‘I really want to repeat that I had absolutely no reason to hurt these people whom I loved.’
Ms Patterson said she made the killer lunch with a mixture of button mushrooms from a major supermarket chain and dried mushrooms from an Asian grocery store in Melbourne.
In her statement to police, which was leaked to the media, Ms Patterson said she portioned the meal onto plates and let her guests pick their own.
A dehydrator was later dumped at the local tip over her concern that her estranged husband would blame her for his parents’ death and gain custody of their two children, she said.
Deathcap mushroom contain deadly amatoxin which catastrophically attacks a person’s body and essentially ‘melts down a person’s liver’, one medical expert told Daily Mail Australia.
It is so potent that you do not even need to eat part of the mushroom for it to be lethal.
Simply consuming liquid the mushrooms were cooked in can be enough to kill.
On Thursday morning, Victoria Police confirmed they had made an arrest in the case.
Erin Patterson was arrested on Thursday morning and taken to Wonthaggi police station for questioning. No charges are believed to have been laid at this stage
Heather Wilkinson (left) died after the fatal family meal in Leongatha on July 29. Her husband Ian WIlkinson (right) was the sole survivor
Erin Patterson’s estranged in-laws Don and Gail Patterson both died after the fatal family meal
‘Homicide Squad detectives have arrested a woman this morning as part of their investigation into the deaths of three people following an incident in Leongatha earlier this year,’ a statement said.
‘Four people were taken to hospital on July 30 after they became ill following a meal at a private residence in Leongatha the previous day.
‘Two Korumburra women, aged 66 and 70, passed away in hospital on August 4. A third person, a 70-year-old Korumburra man, passed away in hospital on August 5.
‘A 69-year-old Korumburra man was released from hospital on September 23.
‘A 49-year-old Leongatha woman was arrested at her home address shortly after 8am on November 2.
‘A search warrant has been executed at the Gibson Street address, with assistance from the AFP’s technology detector dogs.
‘The woman will now be interviewed by police and the investigation remains ongoing.’