New details have emerged as Australians remain gripped by the tragic poisoning deaths of three Victorians who fell ill after eating death cap mushrooms.
The Herald Sun newspaper has revealed that the ex-husband of the woman at the centre of an investigation into the fatal fungi was put into a coma last year by a mystery stomach ailment.
Simon Patterson was reportedly placed into an induced coma after he collapsed at home.
In a social media post sighted by the newspaper, Patterson wrote that he came close to death.
“I collapsed at home, then was in an induced coma for 16 days through which I had three emergency operations mainly on my small intestine, plus an additional planned operation,” he wrote.
“My family were asked to come and say goodbye to me twice, as I was not expected to live.”
Patterson said his “serious gut problems” were largely behind him, but he lived with ongoing weakness in one shoulder.
Victorian woman Erin Patterson, 48, served the deadly fungi to four people on July 29.
The diners included her husband’s parents. Patterson and her ex-husband Simon are separated but the separation is reportedly “amicable”.
Don and Gail Patterson and her sister Heather Wilkinson died after suffering symptoms consistent with poisoning by death cap mushroom.
Heather’s husband Ian, a local Baptist pastor, is fighting for his life at Melbourne’s Austin Hospital.
Police have spoken to Erin Patterson and confirmed she is being investigated, but have said she could be “very innocent” and told media they are yet to decide if the poisoning was deliberate. news.com.au reported.
Erin Patterson did not suffer any injuries and neither did her two children who also attended the gathering.
Police say those children have been removed from Patterson’s care as a “precaution”.
Patterson spoke to media on Monday, outside the home where she served the fatal meal.
“I’m devastated, I loved them,” Patterson said, appearing to be highly distressed.
“I can’t believe this has happened and I’m so sorry that they have lost their lives.
“I just can’t believe it.”
Asked by A Current Affair for comment on police treating her as a suspect in the deaths, Patterson responded: “I didn’t do anything. I loved them and I’m devastated that they’re gone.”
She then confused her dead father-in-law with pastor Ian Wilkinson, saying: “I hope with every fibre of my being that Don pulls through.”
“I’m so devastated by what’s happened, by the loss of Don, Don is still in hospital, by the loss of Ian and Heather and Gail.
“Gail was like the mum I didn’t have because my mum passed away four years ago, Gail had never been anything but good and kind to me,” she added.
Homicide Squad Detective Inspector Dean Thomas told Australian media police were yet to determine whether the poisoning was deliberate.
“We’re working to determine what has gone on, to see if there is any nefarious activity that has occurred or if it was accidental.”
“We have to keep an open mind,” he said.
Patterson leaves home, mystery dehydrator recovered
Media camped outside Erin Patterson’s Gippsland home were on hand yesterday when she packed a suitcase and left.
Asked how she was feeling, Patterson told a reporter: “I’m going s***house. Thanks for asking”.
She then packed her bag into a car and left the property.
In the days since the poisonings were first reported the case has generated intense interest in Australian media, with attention now falling on a dehydrator found in a rubbish tip near Patterson’s home.
Police are testing the device to see if it was used to prepare the meal.
Veteran crime writer John Silvester was asked about the discovery on 3AW radio and told listeners he found it “slightly curious”.
“Nothing depoisonifies a death cap mushroom,” he said.
“I would just say that the purpose of a dehydrator is to intensify the product and make it more flavoursome.”