The woman accused of murdering three people with an allegedly toxic mushroom-laced meal has made a frazzled appearance in court, with a judge lashing a police request for more time to investigate her alleged crimes.
Shortly after 10am on Friday, Erin Patterson, 49, appeared briefly in the Latrobe Valley Magistrates’ Court following her arrest and a raid of her home on Thursday.
She is charged with three counts of murder and five counts of attempted murder.
The murder charges, and two attempted murder charges, relate to a meal served at her Leongatha home on July 29, which police allege contained fatal death-cap mushrooms and resulted in the deaths of her ex-husband’s parents and his aunt.
Ms Patterson’s lawyer Bill Doogue told gathered media “it’s early days” when asked to comment on the case. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Josie Hayden
Erin Patterson faced court on Friday morning, charged with three counts of murder and five counts of attempted murder.
According to court documents, Police allege Ms Patterson attempted to murder her ex-husband, Simon Patterson, 48, four times over a three year period.
She’s accused of first trying in November 2021, followed by two attempts in May and September last year, while the fourth is understood to be because he was invited, but ultimately didn’t attend, the fatal July 29 lunch.
It’s understood Mr Patterson spent 17 days in an induced coma in after coming down with a mystery illness in late May, 2022.
Ms Patterson was held overnight about 50m away from the court, in the Morwell Police Station, before entering just after 10am.
Wearing a grey sweater and flanked by security guards, Ms Patterson glanced quickly at the large media pack before shifting her focus to the Magistrate’s bench.
Her face was flushed red and her hair unkempt.
Ms Patterson kept her eyes fixed on the wall and offered no emotion, bar a momentary tremble of her jaw as she sat down in court.
Police allege Erin Patterson attempted to murder her ex husband Simon Patterson, on four separate occasions.
“Good morning Ms Patterson,” Magistrate Tim Walsh said as he entered the courtroom.
“Good morning” she responded in a quiet voice.
Prosecutors requested a 20-week delay before her next appearance, citing the time needed to “analyse some computer equipment seized yesterday”.
This was questioned by Magistrate Tim Walsh, who asked why they needed a delay when the informant, Detective Acting-Sergeant Stephen Eppingstall, was “confident enough to charge this woman yesterday”.
“It’s a triple murder!,” he exclaimed before agreeing to allow the delay.
Ms Patterson’s lawyer, Ben Doogue, told the court his law firm had been engaged “for a while” and hinted the case could “well go on for a very long time”.
As Mr Walsh explained he did not have the power to grant her bail, Ms Patterson could be seen nodding repeatedly.
She was remanded into custody and will return to court in May.
Ms Patterson is expected to be transferred to a remand centre later today.
A police detector dog searches Erin Patterson’s property. Picture: NCA NewsWire/ Ian Currie
Entering court, Lawyer Bill Doogue said “Let’s get this show on the road”. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Josie Hayden
Her lawyer, Bill Doogue, had entered the court just before 10am on Friday, saying: “We’re ready to go with Patterson. Let’s get this show on the road”.
Outside of court, less than half an hour later, Mr Doogue responded “it’s early days” when asked if he wanted to make a statement on behalf of his client.
Erin Patterson cooked a beef wellington dish, which police allege contained deadly death cap mushrooms, on July 29, and served it to four people at a lunch at her home.
Ms Patterson’s parents-in-law, Don and Gail Patterson, and Gail’s sister Heather Wilkinson, all died from symptoms consistent with death cap mushroom poisoning that emerged after the lunch, police will allege.
Erin Patterson will appear in court to face murder charges over a fatal mushroom meal. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Valeriu Campan
Don and Gail Patterson died after allegedly ingesting poisonous mushrooms. Picture: Supplied
Ian Wilkinson was released from hospital after seven weeks. Picture: Seven News
Heather Wilkinson died in hospital. Picture: Supplied.
Ms Wilkinson’s husband, Ian, survived after spending two months in hospital but is still recovering from severe injuries.
Police will allege three of the five attempted murder charges against Ms Patterson stem from “three separate incidents” in Victoria between 2021 and 2022. They are believed to relate to her ex-husband, Simon Patterson.
“It’s alleged a 48-year-old Korumburra man became ill following meals on these dates,” a police spokesman said on Thursday.
Ms Patterson was arrested after AFP technology dogs were called in to help search her house in Leongatha.
AFP officers and a police technology detector dog on Thursday searched the Wonthaggi house of Erin Patterson. Picture: NCA NewsWire/ Ian Currie
They were seen removing bags of electronic devices. Picture: NCA newsWire / Ian Currie
Homicide squad detectives at Ms Patterson’s house. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Ian Currie
Police were seen seizing bags of evidence, including Wi-Fi equipment, USB sticks and harddrives.
Ms Patterson has steadfastly denied responsibility for the deaths.
“I lost my parents-in-law, my children lost their grandparents,’’ she previously told The Australian.
“And I’ve been painted as an evil witch. And the media is making it impossible for me to live in this town. I can’t have friends over.”
Detective Inspector Dean Thomas of the Homicide Squad said on Thursday a tragedy such as this can reverberate for years to come in smaller communities such as Leongatha and Korumburra.
“Today’s charges are just the next step in what has been an incredibly complex, methodical and thorough investigation by Homicide Squad detectives,” he said.
“I cannot think of another investigation that has generated this level of media and public interest, not only here in Victoria but also nationally and internationally.
“I think it is particularly important that we keep in mind that at the heart of this, three people have lost their lives.
“These are three people who by all accounts were much beloved in their communities and are greatly missed by their loved ones.”