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Woman appears in court over alleged murder of three churchgoers

by Premier Journalist

A woman charged with the murder of her former parents-in-law in a case which made headlines around the world, has again appeared in court.

Erin Patterson, 49, appeared by video link at the court hearing in Victoria, Southern Eastern Australia, on Monday.

The accused was charged following the deaths of Don and Gail Patterson, her ex-husband's parents, and Gail's sister Heather Wilkinson, after a lunch at which Erin Patterson served beef wellington containing mushrooms. Her guests were all hospitalised with symptoms of mushroom poisoning the next day. 

Baptist pastor Ian Wilkinson, Heather's husband, was the only surviving guest, after a long hospital stint.

Erin Patterson has also been charged with five counts of attempted murder, one of which relates to Mr Wilkinson and four of which relate to her former husband, Simon, who was not present at the July meal but who had become ill following three other occasions when he ate with his former wife.

Mr Wilkinson, who along with his wife and The Pattersons, was described as a "pillar of faith" by the believing community, preached his first sermon at Korumburra Baptist Church six months after the incident and the week that he turned 70. It was also the week of his 45th wedding anniversary. He spoke of God's goodness and his faith remaining strong.

Erin Patterson has spoken only briefly in her two court appearances since being arrested. She has not entered any pleas, and has not requested bail. She did speak out following the Pattersons' deaths, however, about her grief and denied wanting to hurt her former husband's family. 

The most recent court hearing happened at Latrobe Magistrates Court. The defendant appeared via video link from a prison in Melbourne.

Australia is home to several poisonous mushrooms, including the death cap mushroom, which is what Police suspect was involved.

The maximum maximum sentence in Victoria for murder is life imprisonment, and for attempted murder, it is 25 years in prison.

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