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A lunch host is accused of killing her ex-husband’s parents and aunt with poisonous mushrooms

A police officer and dog investigate at the property of Erin Patterson in Leongatha, Australia, Thursday, Nov. 2, 2023. Australian police have on Thursday arrested Patterson in an investigation of a suspected mushroom poisoning incident that left three people dead. (James Ross/AAP Image via AP)

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — The host of a weekend family lunch at her Australian country home was charged Thursday with murdering her ex-husband’s parents and aunt with poisonous mushrooms and attempting to murder a fourth guest, police said.

Police arrested Erin Patterson, 49, at her home in the Victoria state town of Leongatha, where her former husband’s parents, Gail and Don Patterson, both 70, Gail Patterson’s sister Heather Wilkinson, 66, and Wilkinson’s husband, Ian Wilkinson, 68, were invited for lunch on July 29.

All four guests were hospitalized the next day, and only Ian Wilkinson survived.

Patterson has publicly denied any wrongdoing.

“I’m devastated. I loved them. I can’t believe that this has happened. and I’m so sorry,” she tearfully told reporters two days after the third death.

Patterson was also charged with three counts of attempting to murder her ex-husband, Simon Patterson, 48, who became ill after eating three meals in 2021 and 2022, a police statement said. He did not attend the July lunch.

Police say the symptoms the four family members who did attend experienced symptoms consistent with poisoning from wild Amanita phalloides, known as death cap mushrooms.

The Australian Broadcasting Corp. reported that Patterson wrote in a statement that she cooked a beef Wellington steak dish for the lunch using and used mushrooms bought from a major supermarket chain and dried mushrooms from an Asian grocery store.

She wrote that she also ate the meal and later had stomach pains and diarrhea.

Ian Wilkinson, a Baptist pastor, was released from a hospital in late September and police say he continues to recover.

Murder in Victoria carries a potential maximum sentence of 25 years in prison. Patterson was expected to remain in police custody until she appears in a local court on Friday, when she can potentially apply to be released on bail.

Bail requests for defendants charged with murder are usually referred to a higher court.