A forensic psychologist expert with years of experience has lifted the lid on a number of potential ‘red flags’ everywhere in the case which saw three people die from suspected mushroom poisoning.
On July 29, Erin Patterson cooked a beef wellington lunch at her home in Victoria for her former in-laws Don and Gail Patterson, along with Gail’s sister Heather Wilkinson and her husband Ian Wilkinson.
However, the lunch turned deadly when Don, Gail and Heather all died after eating the meal, which allegedly contained death cap mushrooms.
Patterson’s former husband Simon was supposed to be at the lunch but had to pull out at the last minute.
Now, a forensic psychologist expert believes there are a number of things that don’t add up.
While police have only said Erin Patterson is a person of interest, and haven’t suggested she tried intentionally poisoning her in-laws, experienced psychologist Tim Watson-Munro says there are a number of bizarre elements that need to be investigated.
Speaking to the Australian, Watson-Munro, who has worked on catching some of Australia’s biggest criminal offenders, stated: “I’m not a big believer in coincidences.”
Red flag number one
The first red flag he highlights was that Patterson’s former husband nearly died twice in 2022 from gastric-related complications.
Simon spent 21 days in intensive care after collapsing from a mystery stomach illness at his home, where his friends and family were told to come and say goodbye in case he died.
The Herald Sun reported a family friend said Simon felt “a bit off” and his illnesses “often coincided [with] when he spent time with her [Erin]”.
In a police statement regarding July’s deaths, Patterson also questioned herself as to whether she poisoned Simon’s parents and aunty.
“Obviously, he was either wilfully poisoned or it was just bad luck,” Watson-Munro told the Australian.
Red flag number two
Watson-Munro isn’t convinced by Patterson’s statement in which she claimed she purchased the mushrooms at an unnamed Asian supermarket.
In his view, he believes her claim sounds “ludicrous” because death cap mushrooms are not commercial products.
He said: “People just don’t retail them. It’s not that loose.”
Red flag number three
Patterson revealed in a follow-up statement to police that her children were not present at the lunch, despite initial reports they were.
She claimed they were at the movies, but ate leftovers of the meal the following day.
Watson-Munro believes it is “weird” the children were out of the house during what was meant to be a family lunch.
Watson-Munro says police would be looking for points of weakness and the slow, steady approach would be tactical. He said: “It is a fascinating case. Everyone is talking about it.”
Another controversial part of the case is the details surrounding the dumping of a food dehydrator.
A police statement by Patterson was reportedly leaked to the media, revealing she became unwell after eating the meal.
She admitted she then dumped a dehydrator she used to prepare the meal at a nearby tip soon afterwards because she was in a panic.
However, she admitted lying to police about how long ago she disposed of the food dehydrator.
She told them she dumped it there a “long time ago”, before revealing she did it after her guests fell ill.
She now claims she was at the hospital with her children “discussing the food hydrator” when her estranged husband, Simon Patterson, asked: “Is that what you used to poison them?”
She denies any wrongdoing.
Earlier this month, a person close to the family said Patterson was an “experienced fungi forager”.
According to the Daily Mail Australia, Patterson was known to often and expertly pick wild mushrooms around Victoria’s Gippsland region.
A friend of Patterson’s family revealed Erin was “very good at foraging” and identifying different mushroom varieties.
“The Patterson family (including Erin and estranged husband Simon) would pick mushrooms each year when they were in season,” the friend said.
A paramedic who tended to one of the dying victims was so concerned by their final conversation that they passed details on to detectives.
The Herald Sun quotes sources close to the investigation as saying the ambulance officer felt it necessary to make police aware of what was said, though the details are yet to be released.
Patterson recently spoke out to deny leaking her earlier statement to police and hit out at media coverage of the case.
“I lost my parents-in-law, my children lost their grandparents. And I’ve been painted as an evil witch,” Patterson told the Australian.
“And the media is making it impossible for me to live in this town. I can’t have friends over.
“The media is at the house where my children are at. The media are at my sister’s house, so I can’t go there. This is unfair.”
She said she did not leak her police statement. “I didn’t put any statement out,” she told the Australian.
“I have no idea how it got out. I made a statement to the police.”
Patterson has not been charged but has been interviewed by police.
The investigation is continuing.