Victorian police have arrested Erin Patterson
The Australian woman linked to a mushroom lunch in regional Victoria, which is believed to have led to the deaths of three people, has been arrested. Erin Patterson, aged 49, was arrested at her residence in Leongatha, located in the Gippsland region, around 8 am and subsequently transported to a nearby police station. As of now, no charges have been filed against her.
This arrest marks the most recent development in a compelling saga that has captivated the nation's attention and brought the small rural town of Leongatha, situated 110 kilometers (70 miles) southwest of Melbourne, into the limelight.
"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," Victoria police said in a statement.
"A search warrant has been executed at the Gibson Street address, with assistance from the AFP's [Australian federal police's] technology detector dogs.The woman will now be interviewed by police and the investigation remains ongoing."
Patterson served the mushrooms as part of a beef Wellington dish on the afternoon of July 29 to her estranged parents-in-law, Don and Gail Patterson, local Baptist pastor Ian Wilkinson, and his wife Heather.
Later that night, the two couples were taken to the hospital with food poisoning symptoms as their health rapidly deteriorated. Within a week, three of them were dead. Police believe their symptoms were consistent with those caused by eating highly toxic death cap mushrooms. Of the four, only 69-year-old pastor Wilkinson survived after spending nearly two months gravely ill in the hospital. He was released on September 23.
He appeared for the first time in public in early October at a memorial for his wife, with a local newspaper describing him as "frail-looking" and "using a walking frame".
Police had named community newsletter editor Patterson as a suspect soon after the fateful meal.
Patterson always insisted she was innocent, reportedly saying in August that she had unwittingly bought the mushrooms from an Asian grocery store and that the poisonings were accidental.
"I am now devastated to think that these mushrooms may have contributed to the illness suffered by my loved ones," she said in a statement provided to Australian media at the time.
"I really want to repeat that I had absolutely no reason to hurt these people whom I loved."
(With inputs from AFP)