Three of the four guests died within days of the lunch

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On July 29th Erin Patterson (48), a mother of two from the small Australian town of Leongatha, cooked a special lunch for her in-laws and two friends – but the Beef Wellington soon proved deadly for three of those guests. Her in-laws Gail and Don, both 70, and Gail’s sister Heather Wilkinson (66) died shortly after while Rev Ian Wilkinson (68) became seriously ill but has since recovered.

All three died from a suspected case of mushroom poisoning – with the death cap mushroom the culprit. Erin, who has been in the media spotlight and under police investigation since the deaths, maintains her innocence, though she does say she put two different types of mushrooms in the Beef Wellington, one sourced locally and one from an Asian supermarket in Melbourne – she can’t remember which one.

Her estranged husband, Simon, was invited to the meal but he declined and there is some confusion as to whether their young children attended the lunch. In this episode of In the News, John Ferguson, a journalist with The Australian, who broke the story that has gripped the country for the past month outlines the case; while retired homicide investigator Charlie Bezzina, who has worked on some of Australia’s most high-profile cases goes through the unanswered questions in this shocking mass poisoning.

This episode was originally published in August 2023. In November, Patterson was charged with three counts of murder and five of attempted murder.


Produced by Suzanne Brennan. Presented by Bernice Harrison

Bernice Harrison

Bernice Harrison

Bernice Harrison is an Irish Times journalist and cohost of In the News podcast