Mushroom poisoning deaths: Family lunch mystery grips
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Five people sat down for a family meal in a tiny Australian town two Saturdays ago.

It wouldn’t take long for three of them to die, a fourth to be fighting for life, and a fifth to be investigated for poisoning her guests with wild mushrooms.

The 48-year-old woman who cooked the lunch says she has no idea what happened, and she would never hurt her family.

An unusual case has captured national attention, puzzled police, and left a close-knit community in a state of shock.

A two-hour drive southeast of Melbourne, Gail and Don Patterson stopped for lunch with their grandchildren at their daughter-in-law Erin Patterson’s house in Leongatha.

They were joined by Gail’s sister Heather and her husband Ian Wilkinson.

They were all loved members of the Baptist church in Korumburra, where Ian served as pastor.

There was nothing ordinary about this lunch. After the meal, all four guests presented themselves to the local hospital with what they believed was severe gastroenteritis.

As soon as it became clear it was something far worse, they were taken to a hospital in Melbourne for the best medical care available.

Despite that, Heather, 66, Gail, 70, and Don, 70, died on Friday and Saturday, respectively. In need of a liver transplant, Ian, 68, remains in critical condition in the hospital.

The four people are believed to have eaten death cap mushrooms, which can be highly lethal if eaten.

Oddly enough, Erin and her two children are fine.

Both children – who have since been placed into state care as a precaution – ate different meals, according to police.

There is little clarity beyond that, however.

It is unclear whether Erin ate the same food as her guests, or if the mushrooms were even in her dish.

The Pattersons’ son pointed out that she had been separated from her husband, but described it as an “amicable” split.

However, “nefarious activity” has not yet been ruled out.

The homicide squad’s Dean Thomas told reporters on Monday that there is no explanation for the deaths at this time.