Heartbreaking scenes as wife farewelled

A memorial is being held on Wednesday
A memorial for Heather Wilkinson was held on Wednesday. Picture: Supplied

The sole survivor of the deadly mushroom meal made his first public appearance after being released from hospital to attend the memorial for his wife.

About 300 family and friends gathered to honour Heather Wilkinson at Korumburra Recreation Centre on Wednesday morning.

Ms Wilkinson, her sister Gail Patterson and brother-in-law Don Patterson died after they consumed a meal at a family gathering in Leongatha on July 29.

The meal, which was prepared by Erin Patterson, the daughter-in-law of the Pattersons, is believed to have contained death cap mushrooms.

Ms Wilkinson’s husband, local pastor Ian Wilkinson, 68, arrived an hour early at the service, using a walking frame for assistance.

He wore a black face mask, black suit and navy tie.

His attendance comes just two weeks after he was released from hospital after he spent several weeks in an induced coma fighting for life.

He became ill after also consuming the meal.

Mrs Wilkinson’s nephew, Simon Patterson, attended the funeral, however his estranged wife Erin Patterson, is believed to have stayed at home.

Ian Wilkinson, 68, was seen arriving with a walking frame at his wife Heather Wilkinson's funeral service on Wednesday. Picture: Nine
Ian Wilkinson, 68, was seen arriving with a walking frame at a memorial service held for his wife, Heather Wilkinson, on Wednesday. Picture: Nine

There were emotional scenes as mourners gathered to farewell the 66-year-old, who was remembered for her unwavering kindness and “cheeky smile”.

Mr Wilkinson, who had not been seen in public since he was initially hospitalised more than two months ago, appeared in good health at the memorial.

Navigating the overcast weather and strong winds, the 68-year-old warmly embraced and spoke at length to loved ones who offered their condolences for the loss of his “beloved wife” of 44 years.

There was no mention of Erin Patterson throughout the hour and a half long service, nor was there any reference to the tragic incident preceding Mrs Wilkinson’s death.

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Erin Patterson is the former partner of Simon Patterson, who was seen attending the funeral. Picture: NCA NewsWire / David Geraghty

Seen for the first time since his release from the Austin Hospital two weeks ago, Mr Wilkinson’s attendance seemingly confirmed his family’s comments that he had made “significant progress in his recovery”.

“(His release was a) milestone moment of immense relief,” his family recently told 9 News.

Heather and Ian Wilkinson were active in the church community in Korumburra in Victoria’s southeast, where Mr Wilkinson served as a Baptist church pastor.

Heather Wilkinson was remembered by her grandchildren for her “contagious and cheeky smile”. Picture: Supplied
Heather Wilkinson was remembered by her grandchildren for her “contagious and cheeky smile”. Picture: Supplied

Mrs Wilkinson’s memorial follows that of her sister and brother-in-law, Gail and Don Patterson, both 70, which was held on August 31.

During the service, Mrs Wilkinson’s son David broke down while delivering an emotional eulogy.

Fighting back tears, he spoke of her sharp sense of humour and her “bright and energetic character”.

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Gail and Don Patterson, Erin Patterson’s former in-laws, both died after the lunch. Picture: Supplied

Mr and Mrs Wilkinson met while working at a research lab for Peter’s Ice Cream, sharing an office.

David said while his father immediately fell for his mother, it wasn’t until Mr Wilkinson accidentally tumbled into a waste paper bin after leaning too far back in his chair that their love blossomed.

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The couple’s son David said they had always been ‘inseparable’. Picture: Facebook

“They were inseparable partners in life and faith,” David said.

“She loved being a mum.”

Mrs Wilkinson leaves behind her husband and four children, David, Luke, Ruth and Elizabeth, as well as six grandchildren.

Attendees were asked not to bring flowers but to instead make a donation to either of two “worthy causes” — the Austin Hospital, where she was treated, and the Galmi Hospital in the west African nation of Niger.

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Hundreds of mourners attended the service on Wednesday. Picture: NCA NewsWire / David Geraghty

In the days following Mr Wilkinson’s release from hospital, forensic criminologist Dr Xanthe Mallet said police would be “very keen” to speak to the pastor as he was the sole guest from the July lunch to have survived.

“He’s the only one who attended that lunch to survive besides Erin, and he is going to be giving a full account to police as to what happened at that lunch,” she told Sunrise.

“Who ate what, the demeanours and conversations.”

Erin Patterson previously spoke to the media outside of her home about the “tragedy”, though legal notice signage has since been affixed to her property’s front gate and fence.

Erin Patterson has denied any wrongdoing. Picture: Brooke Grebert-Craig.
Erin Patterson has denied any wrongdoing. Picture: Brooke Grebert-Craig.

“I’m so devastated by what’s happened,” she said.

“Gail is the mum that I didn’t have … and Gail’s never been anything but good and kind to me.

“(They were) some of the best people I’ve ever met.”

Erin Patterson has publicly and strenuously denied any wrongdoing.

Her vehicle was seen parked in the driveway of her Leongatha home during Wednesday’s service.

No charges have been laid in relation to the incident though investigations are ongoing.