Mushroom poisoning survivor farewells wife at community service

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The survivor of the Leongatha mushroom poisoning lunch, Ian Wilkinson, has arrived with hundreds of other mourners at a service to farewell his wife and community stalwart, Heather.

It is the first public appearance by the Korumburra Baptist pastor since he was released from the Austin Hospital on September 22 after spending weeks fighting for life in an induced coma.

Korumburra pastor Ian Wilkinson with his wife Heather, who died from mushroom poisoning.

A frail-looking Wilkinson was helped into the Korumburra recreation centre, wearing a mask and using a walking frame.

Heather Wilkinson, her sister and brother-in-law Gail and Don Patterson, died after coming down with gastro-like symptoms following the beef Wellington meal at the home of their daughter-in-law, Erin Patterson, on July 29.

Simon Patterson, Erin’s estranged husband and Gail and Don’s son, arrived at the memorial shortly after Wilkinson, walking up to the entrance alone and stopping to greet a woman.

A former secondary school teacher, Heather was a well-respected member of the Korumburra community, who volunteered her time teaching English to newly arrived migrants.

Don Patterson, Gail Patterson, Heather Wilkinson and Ian Wilkinson were poisoned by the mushroom meal.

Neighbours have previously described the 66-year-old as a warm and kind woman, who would bake fresh cookies for her neighbours and lend a helping hand to those falling on hard times.

The Wilkinson family has asked mourners to donate to the Austin Hospital and Galmi Hospital in Niger, West Africa, through a fundraising website in lieu of bringing flowers.

“Beloved wife, daughter, sister, mum, favourite mother-in-law, grandma, and friend to many. Hers was a life well lived, and we love her,” the website reads.

About 300 people attended a separate memorial to honour Gail and Don Patterson at the same venue in August. The couple was buried in a private ceremony attended by close family members.

At the memorial, friends and family described the couple’s giving nature and unwavering commitment to their faith, which saw them travel the world as missionaries.

Wilkinson’s recovery has been hailed a miracle by locals in the small South Gippsland town, who said the community had been praying “seriously on their knees” since the well-regarded pastor fell ill. Several churches in town have held special prayers for the families since the poisonings were first reported.

“It’s a shout for joy, hallelujah, it’s what it is,” Korumburra Baptist Church congregation member Trevor Shaw told Nine News.

In a statement to the media released following his discharge from the hospital, the Wilkinson family said the milestone marked “a moment of immense relief and gratitude”.

“The medical team’s expertise and compassion have been a source of comfort and hope throughout this journey,” it read.

Police have not provided any updates on the case since an initial press conference in August, where they named Erin Patterson as the main suspect in the investigation.

Erin Patterson has denied any wrongdoing and previously told the media: “I didn’t do anything; I loved them. I just can’t fathom what has happened.”

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