Simon Patterson arrives at the memorial service for Heather Wilkinson
Simon Patterson was among more than 300 mourners at the service for Heather Wilkinson. Image by James Ross/AAP PHOTOS
  • crime, law and justice

Mourners gather to remember mushroom poisoning victim

Tara Cosoleto October 4, 2023

A woman who died from suspected mushroom poisoning has been remembered as a caring mother and grandmother whose beautiful smile brightened the room. 

Heather Wilkinson, 66, was one of four people who ate beef Wellington at Erin Patterson’s Leongatha home in Victoria’s southeast on July 29.

She died after the lunch, as did her sister Gail Patterson and brother-in-law Don Patterson, both 70.

The couple was honoured at a public memorial service last month, where their son Simon described them as devout.

Simon Patterson was among the more than 300 mourners at the service for Mrs Wilkinson at Korumburra Indoor Recreation Centre on Wednesday.

Her husband Ian, 68, also attended after spending close to two months in Austin Hospital critically unwell following the Leongatha lunch. 

The Baptist pastor returned home last month, in what his family described as a “moment of immense relief”.

Mr Wilkinson didn’t speak at the service but his son David did, describing his mother as a patient and kind person who loved to laugh.

“She was uncompromising but full of grace,” he said.

“She spoke to everyone the same, it didn’t matter who you were. You got the same attention, the same thoughtfulness.”

David Wilkinson shared how his parents met while working at Peters Ice Cream and quickly fell in love. 

“He wanted to propose straight away, she was so gorgeous,” Mr Wilkinson said.

He also spoke of his mother’s close bond to her sister Gail and brother-in-law Don, who helped bring her closer to her faith.

“Mum never looked back from these important years,” Mr Wilkinson said.

“She found her saviour and spent the rest of her days motivated by and in service of him.”

Mrs Wilkinson had four children and six grandchildren, who also described her as kind, generous and loving.

“She had a beautiful smile and a contagious cheeky laugh,” one of the granddaughters said in a message recorded for the service.

“It’s truly hard to come across someone as sweet and wonderful as her.”

Dozens of mourners stopped to embrace and offer condolences to Ian Wilkinson as they left the service. 

The 68-year-old, who was using a walking frame, did not speak during the memorial or to media afterwards. 

Police believe the symptoms the four diners experienced were consistent with being poisoned by death cap mushrooms.

Erin Patterson is considered a suspect as she cooked the lunch that is believed to have led to the deaths.

She was interviewed by police and released without charge but has since faced intense media scrutiny.

In a statement to police, Ms Patterson said she made a beef Wellington using button mushrooms from a major supermarket and dried mushrooms bought at an Asian grocery store.

The 46-year-old said she ate a serving and later suffered bad stomach pains and diarrhoea, contrary to the suggestion of detectives that she did not fall ill.

Victoria Police have not commented on Ms Patterson’s statement other than to say it was not one taken by officers, nor have they provided updates on their investigation.