A woman facing charges in a fatal mushroom poisoning incident in Australia has pleaded not guilty to murder.

Erin Patterson entered the plea at Latrobe Valley Magistrates Court and was remanded in custody. The case will now be moved to the Supreme Court of Victoria for trial, with the first hearing set for later this month.

Detectives from Victoria Police arrested the 49-year-old in November 2023. She was charged with three counts of murder and five of attempted murder.

In July 2023, four people were taken to hospital after they became ill following a meal at a private residence in Leongatha. Two Korumburra women, aged 66 and 70, died on August 4. A 70-year-old Korumburra man died on August 5. A 69-year-old Korumburra man was released from the hospital on Sept. 23.

Don and Gail Patterson and her sister Heather Wilkinson are thought to have died from symptoms consistent with death cap mushroom poisoning. Ian Wilkinson survived the incident. Erin Patterson is the daughter-in-law of the couple who died.

Three attempted murder charges cover separate incidents in Victoria between 2021 and 2022. It’s alleged a 48-year-old Korumburra man, her ex-husband Simon Patterson, became ill following meals over this period.

Eating just one death cap mushroom may kill an adult, according to the Victorian Department of Health. Poisonous mushrooms, including death caps, occur in Victoria during autumn as the weather becomes wetter and cooler.

Cooking, peeling, or drying these mushrooms does not remove the poison. No home test distinguishes safe and edible mushrooms from poisonous types.

Symptoms of poisoning can include violent stomach pains, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea and usually occur six to 24 hours after eating the mushrooms. Even if initial symptoms subside, severe liver damage may have happened. If they believe they’ve eaten a poisonous mushroom, people should urgently attend an emergency department and take any remaining mushrooms with them for identification.

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