The toxicology results of three lunch guests who died after ingesting toxic mushrooms will prove integral to solving a police investigation as fears grow the samples weren’t taken within a crucial 48-hour time frame.
Gail and Don Patterson, along with Gail’s sister Heather Wilkinson, died after eating a beef wellington lunch at Leongatha, in Victoria’s Gippsland region, on July 29.
Ms Wilkinson’s husband Ian also ate the meal and remains fighting for life in hospital.
The two couples had attended a lunch at Pattersons’ former daughter-in-law Erin Patterson, who claims she also ate the meal but escaped serious illness.
Leading toxicologist Dr Michael Robertson revealed the toxin found in death cap mushrooms are only detectable for about 48 hours after ingestion, with growing fears the samples weren’t taken in time.
‘The laboratory knows what it is looking for, death cap mushrooms, but that’s not something we see routinely in Australia and the method of analysis is far from routine,’ Dr Robertson told the Herald Sun on Thursday.
‘Those early samples are very important because they, particularly any urine samples, would help prove it was death cap mushrooms.
Gail and Don Patterson, along with Gail’s sister Heather Wilkinson, died after eating a beef wellington lunch at Leongatha, in Victoria’s Gippsland region, on July 29
The death cap mushrooms police believe were ingested by the lunch guests would likely have been absorbed by their livers and then entered their bloodstreams
Leading toxicologist Dr Michael Robertson (pictured) revealed the toxin found in death cap mushrooms are only detectable for about 48 hours after ingestion
The toxicologist said detectives may have to rely on samples taken during the first two days Ms Pattersons’ lunch guests were in hospital.
However, he said it was likely doctors had taken blood samples from the lunch guests to monitor their kidney and liver function.
‘But once they were transferred to Melbourne hospitals, have those samples been kept or thrown out?’ he continued.
‘They may well have been discarded because the seriousness was not realised by the hospital and they were no longer patients at that hospital.’
Dr Robertson said hospitals only kept samples for a few days unless further tests were required or they were contacted by police.
It’s understood detectives were only alerted several days after the lunch when Ms Patterson and Ms Wilkinson began to deteriorate in hospital.
The women died on August 4, while Don Patterson passed away the following day.
Dr Robertson said he was confident further samples would have been taken at Melbourne hospitals but that they would ‘significantly’ less useful to detectives.
It could be weeks before detectives receive the results of toxicology reports.
Ian Wilkinson and Heather Wilkinson (both pictured) became severely ill after they ate wild mushrooms. Mrs Wilkinson died earlier this month while her husband remains in hospital
It comes as Dr Robertson revealed the unbearable symptoms of poisonous mushrooms – and how patients cruelly start to feel better before their body begins to fully shut down.
He told Channel Nine’s Under Investigation, victims usually start to feel unwell several hours after ingesting death cap mushrooms.
‘We’ve heard about the violent vomiting and diarrhoea and that first phase can be quite debilitating in itself,’ he said.
He said the victim then starts to feel better and may believe the worst is over.
But even once the toxic matter leaves the body, it is still slowly shutting down.
‘It’s one of those toxins that gets into your system,’ he said.
‘It gets absorbed into the bloodstream, it then gets transported to the liver and absorbed. The body doesn’t break this toxin down.
‘We’ve got to get rid of it usually in the urine but also in the bile, and the bile duct drops bile back into the intestines.
‘It’s triggering basically the death of the liver cells.’
Dr Robertson said it was possible the lunch guests entered comas.
‘It would’ve been horrible if they remained conscious,’ he said.
‘They may have gone into a coma, if they remained conscious certainly that first day would’ve been absolutely horrific.’
Gail and Don Patterson died after eating the mushrooms
Ms Patterson has claimed the lethal lunch was made with a mixture of button mushrooms from a supermarket chain and dried mushrooms from an Asian grocery store in Melbourne.
She then portioned the meal onto plates and allowed her guests to pick their own.
Ms Patterson said she took the last remaining plate and ate a serving, later handing the leftovers to hospital toxicologists for examination.
She said her children also ate the beef wellington the following day, but with the mushrooms removed. Ms Patterson’s estranged husband Simon was also invited to the lunch but pulled out at the last minute.
Victoria Police’s Homicide Squad is investigating the deaths with Ms Patterson a person of interest in the investigation as she cooked the fatal lunch.
Daily Mail Australia is not suggesting Erin Patterson is responsible for the deaths.