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Pastor Returns to Pulpit After Surviving Alleged Poisoning That Claimed the Lives of 3, Including His Wife

Ian Wilkinson
Screengrab via The Age

An Australian pastor is back in the pulpit following an alleged attempt on his life from a family member. Pastor Ian Wilkinson of Korumburra Baptist Church in Victoria was the sole survivor of a poisonous beef Wellington lunch that claimed the lives of three people, including Heather Wilkinson, his wife of over four decades. 

The allegedly intentional poisoning was perpetrated by Erin Patterson on July 29, 2023, and the main target appears to have been her estranged husband, Simon Patterson. The deceased include Simon’s parents, Don and Gail Patterson, and Gail’s sister, Heather Wilkinson. 

Simon opted not to attend the meal, which was ostensibly scheduled as a reconciliation effort between family members for the sake of Erin and Simon’s two children, according to Independent. Instead, Simon took the children to a movie. 

Erin Patterson prepared the beef Wellington dish with death cap mushrooms, which are highly poisonous. One day after consuming the meal, all four victims fell ill and were taken to the hospital. Heather Wilkinson and Gail Patterson died on Aug. 4, 2023. Don Patterson died one day later on Aug. 5, 2023.

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Although Ian Wilkinson survived, he needed to spend months in the hospital recovering.  

Detectives initially believed it was possible that the poisoning was accidental, and Erin Patterson fiercely maintained her innocence, telling reporters that she was “so devastated” that her children had lost their grandparents. 

However, after detectives determined that no other health alerts had been reported by Victoria’s Health Department and no mushroom sellers reported customers have any issues, along with the fact that a neighbor came forward to disclose that Erin Patterson was an experienced forager who routinely picked mushrooms in the area, authorities decided to move forward with charges. 

On Sunday, Feb. 11, Ian Wilkinson returned to his church, making his first public comments since falling ill. His return also marked the celebration of his 25th year as pastor of Korumburra Baptist Church.

“At the start of the week, it was six months since Heather and Gail and Don went to be with the Lord,” Wilkinson told the congregation, according to Daily Mail

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“And yesterday was our 45th wedding anniversary, so it’s been a pretty big week. But I am grateful for all that God has given me, God has done through me,” Wilkinson added.