Accused mushroom killer wants country court hearing

Emily Woods |

Erin Patterson faced Latrobe Valley Magistrates Court via video link from prison.
Erin Patterson faced Latrobe Valley Magistrates Court via video link from prison.

Accused triple mushroom killer Erin Patterson is happy to wait behind bars for more than a year if it means her murder case can be held near her regional Victorian home.

The 49-year-old woman faced Latrobe Valley Magistrates Court on Monday morning by video link from prison.

Her hair tied back in a bun, Patterson was wearing glasses and a blue prison jumper as she sat on the link.

(L to R) Heather Wilkinson, Don and Gail Patterson (file image)
Heather Wilkinson, Don and Gail Patterson died in hospital after eating a meal at Patterson’s home. (HANDOUT/INTRAWORK BUSINESS SERVICES)

She is accused of killing her former in-laws, Don and Gail Patterson, both 70, and Gail’s sister Heather Wilkinson, 66, by feeding them a meal laced with poisonous mushrooms.

All three died in hospital days after consuming a meal at Patterson’s Leongatha home, in South Gippsland, on July 29, 2023.

She is also accused of the attempted murder of her ex-husband Simon at the lunch and on three occasions dating back to 2021, and the attempted murder of Ms Wilkinson’s husband Ian, 68.

Mr Wilkinson spent almost two months being treated in the Austin Hospital, including in a coma.

Magistrate Tim Walsh asked if Patterson could hear him OK, “yes I can, thank you” she replied, before the brief hearing started.

There was a delay at first, after lawyers from the prosecution and defence failed to appear on the video link.

Simon Patterson at parents' memorial service (file image)
Patterson is also accused of attempting to murder her ex-husband Simon (pictured) on four occasions. (HANDOUT/JESSICA O’DONNELL)

More than 70 people watched on video link, with 15 journalists sitting in the court room at Morwell, about 150km east of Melbourne.

Mr Walsh said the regional magistrates court could not accommodate Patterson’s committal hearing until next year, as it was servicing six courts out of one location.

He asked Patterson’s barrister, Colin Mandy SC, if the case could be moved to Melbourne Magistrates Court or fast-tracked to the Supreme Court.

Mr Mandy said Patterson wanted the committal to be heard at Latrobe Valley Magistrates Court.

“If it happens next year, then Ms Patterson’s content to wait for that,” he told the court.

“Which puts her in custody 14 or 15 months … at the least,” Mr Walsh replied.

Police officer and dog at Erin Patterson's home (file image)
Patterson’s barrister said she wanted the committal hearing to be close to her Leongatha home. (James Ross/AAP PHOTOS)

The defence barrister said Patterson wanted the committal to be held close to her home.

“It’s not only a matter of principle, and there are powerful reasons for the committal having to take place in Ms Patterson’s local community,” Mr Mandy said.

The magistrate pointed out Morwell was not her home, but Mr Mandy said “that’s close to Ms Patterson’s home, in the context of regional Victoria”.

“I understand your client consents … but the delay seems to be getting a bit out there,” Mr Walsh said.

The defence have provided prosecutors with a list of anticipated witnesses to be called at the committal and Mr Mandy said he expected the hearing will go for three weeks.

The case was adjourned to May 7, when Mr Walsh will decide whether to move it to Melbourne.

Patterson was remanded in custody to face court by video link on that date.