Australia mushroom deaths: Memorial for couple draws hundreds

Don and Gail Patterson
Image caption,Don and Gail Patterson were two of the three victims who died days after the mushroom lunch

A memorial service in Australia for the couple who died after eating a mushroom beef Wellington cooked by their former daughter-in-law has drawn hundreds.

Gail and Don Patterson were two of three guests who died after the lunch last month at Erin Patterson’s home –¬†an affair that has gripped the nation.

Police believe the Pattersons as well as Don’s sister, Heather Wilkinson, consumed lethal death cap mushrooms.

Ms Patterson has said she is innocent and used the mushrooms by accident.

Her four guests all fell drastically ill hours after the lunch. Ms Wilkinson’s husband Ian, a local pastor, was the fourth guest.

While his wife also died, Mr Wilkinson remains in hospital but is recovering, Australian media report.

Erin Patterson was named as a suspect by police after she and her two children appeared unharmed after the lunch. But she has not been arrested, nor does she face charges.

On Thursday, she was not among the mourners at the memorial, which was held in the country town of Korumburra, a few hours’ drive south-east of Melbourne.

Her former husband Simon Patterson delivered the main eulogy – his first publicly recorded remarks on the tragedy. While he had also been invited to the family lunch on 29 July, he was unable to make it at the last minute.

Mr Patterson did not mention his ex-wife in the emotional address, but described his parents as devout Christians – former missionaries who were guided by their faith and service for others.

Simon Patterson speaks at a memorial service for his parents
Image caption,Simon Patterson was emotional as he paid tribute to his late parents Dan and Gail

“The fact they died in consecutive days reflects the togetherness that they always worked so hard (to achieve),” he said.

“We were one of the few families who also sat together at the tea table for the evening meal.”

Mr Patterson also revealed that his father, 70, had received an emergency liver transplant while in hospital and that his “good fitness” had enabled him to survive that operation.

“Although sadly the rest of his body was all too sick to go anywhere past that point,” he said.

Mr Patterson fought back tears as he added: ‘It was no fluke that mum’s final text message in our family group chat, as she lay in Dandenong Hospital, was ‘Lots of love to you all’.”

Since the family tragedy, Australia has been transfixed by the case – with the details closely scrutinised. Nationwide interest in the case saw a television crew at the Thursday service, broadcasting vision for other channels.

Ms Patterson has repeatedly reiterated her innocence and said she herself was admitted to hospital after the meal due to stomach pains.

Two weeks ago, she released a statement defending her actions that she had given to police.

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