Victorian detectives could take months to finalise their investigation into the mysterious deaths of Erin Patterson’s lunch guests.
As the intriguing saga drags into its second month, Daily Mail Australia can reveal Victoria Police’s Forensic Services Department has been asked to prioritise its analysis of biological materials linked to the investigation.
Pastor Ian Wilkinson was the only one of four guests to survive the poisonous beef wellington dished up on July 29 by the stay-at-home mum in Leongatha, Victoria.
Erin Patterson is a person of interest in the case that has gripped the nation
Detectives have asked for forensics to prioritise tests related to the case
The burial plots of Gail and Don Patterson at the Korumburra General Cemetery
Mr Wilkinson, his wife Heather and her sister Gail and husband Don Patterson were invited over for lunch as part of a ‘mediation’ gathering to discuss Ms Patterson’s relationship with her estranged husband Simon, who pulled out at the last minute.
Daily Mail Australia is not suggesting Erin Patterson is responsible for their deaths.
Victoria Police’s forensic department has long been under siege from demands by eager detectives.
The courts are awash with cases delayed by overworked forensic staff, with some cases pushed back by anywhere up to a year.
With nothing linked to the mushroom deaths even before a court, and the media storm surrounding the case, force command is understood to be eager to push the forensic tests through sooner rather than later.
While testing delays are cause for some concern, police sources have told Daily Mail Australia detectives will hardly have their ‘cue in the rack’.
It has been more than two weeks since Victoria Police provided a public update on its investigation.
Back then, Detective Inspector Dean Thomas gave the media mixed reports on how they were treating Ms Patterson.
Don and Gail Patterson died after consuming what is believed to be toxic mushrooms served up by Erin Patterson
Ian Wilkinson and Heather Wilkinson (both pictured) became severely ill after they ate wild mushrooms. Mrs Wilkinson died while her husband remains in hospital
Detective Inspector Dean Thomas provided a media update after police raided Erin Patterson’s home. Police have since refused to speak about the case
The home where Erin Patterson fed her guests a deadly beef wellington
The seasoned detective started his briefing by declaring the deaths of her relatives were ‘not suspicious’.
‘The deaths are unexplained and for that purpose we are involved and we are working as hard as we can to try and identify why these deaths have happened and the circumstances surrounding them,’ he said.
But under fire from reporters, Inspector Thomas provided a stumbling backflip.
‘The 48-year old is, well, she is (a suspect), um she was, and she is because, um, she cooked those meals for us, for those people that were present,’ he said.
Police raided Ms Patterson’s home on August 5, taking her phones and computers to be analysed.
She provided a ‘no comment’ interview and was released that night.
News of that raid broke the following day, which resulted in a media circus descending on the small country town where she lived with her two kids.
Inspector Thomas told reporters then that Ms Patterson had not presented at hospital with any symptoms of her own – a claim later refuted by her in a written statement she later provided to detectives after seeing a lawyer.
Leongatha (pictured) has been swamped with reporters since news of the case broke
Korumburra – just up the road from Leongatha – was where those that died lived
He said homicide squad detectives would work to get to the bottom of the case.
‘We’ve still got a lot of work to do. We need to understand what’s caused these symptoms, what’s caused ultimately the deaths of these three people,’ the detective said.
‘We need to understand what has occurred, what is the cause of the injuries … what has caused their deaths and the circumstances surrounding all of that. So it’s a very complex matter … it’s really interesting. You know four people turn up and three of them have passed away.’
Reporters have spent much of August camped outside Ms Patterson’s home, with her estranged husband Simon Patterson hiring a publicist to try and fend off requests from around the world.
In the background, detectives wil be analysing Ms Patterson’s phone records and movements from the past few weeks and maybe months.
Her claims provided in that written statement will be scrutinised.
While tech experts trawl the data, officers on the ground will go about talking to anyone who may be able to help guide them closer to the truth.
Detectives will be closely monitoring the recovery of Mr Wilkinson, who remains gravely ill at the Austin Hospital.
What he says will likely assist detectives one way or the other in how the case progresses.
The highly publicised illness of Ms Patterson’s former husband will be thoroughly examined, with officers working to rule in or out any links to her cooking.
Erin Patterson is approached by media outside her home on August 8
Mr Patterson was in an induced coma for 16 days through which he had three emergency operations mainly on his small intestine.
‘My family were asked to come and say goodbye to me twice, as I was not expected to live,’ he posted to social media shortly after splitting with his wife.
The investigation into his illness will prove difficult, especially if forensic materials from the time are no longer available.
Confronted by the media earlier this month, Ms Patterson broke down in tears and proclaimed she had done nothing wrong.
‘I’m so devastated about what’s happened and the loss to the community and to the families and to my own children. They’ve lost their grandmother,’ she told reporters on August 8.
Six days later her leaked statement to detectives hit the news.
‘I really want to repeat that I had absolutely no reason to hurt these people whom I loved,’ she reportedly told police.
Ms Patterson said she made the killer lunch with a mixture of button mushrooms from a major supermarket chain and dried mushrooms from an Asian grocery store in Melbourne.
Simon Patterson was supposed to join his parents for the lunch that killed them
In her statement, Ms Patterson said she portioned the meal onto plates and let her guests pick their own.
She said she took the last remaining plate and ate a serving, later handing the leftovers to hospital toxicologists for examination.
A dehydrator she had was later dumped at the local tip amid concern her estranged husband would blame her for his parents’ death and gain custody of their two children, she said.
Ms Patterson told police she had enjoyed a good relationship with her in-laws even after the split with their son.
‘I had been close with Simon’s parents for a long period of time. Our relationship had continued in a fairly amicable way after I finished the relationship with their son Simon,’ she said.
‘Our relationship was affected to some degree by seeing them less after my marriage breakdown with Simon however I have never felt differently towards his parents.’