A woman who accidentally picked the world’s deadliest mushrooms in her garden died after making them into SOUP, an inquest heard today.
Keen gardener Christina Hale, 57, found the poisonous killer fungi while foraging under a tree at her home and thought they were the edible species.
But she was unaware she had picked death cap mushrooms – Amanita phalloides – the most common fungus to cause death in humans.
Christina added the mushrooms to a can of Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom soup which she ate along with her husband Jocelyn, 49.
They both fell ill with vomiting and diarrhoea but a doctor who came to visit her the next day told her she had the noro virus.
The following day the couple were so unwell they were rushed to hospital where Christina was taken straight to intensive care.
Christina, of Bridgwater, Somerset, died the next day on November 19 last year after suffering major organ failure but her husband, who had eaten less of the soup, survived.
Speaking at an inquest yesterday her husband said he had eaten less of the soup because he also ate some casserole.
He said: “We had picked mushrooms before from the garden and put them into mushroom soup. She hadn’t done it on her own before.
“I had a bowl of soup that she had given me and then had stew. The wife didn’t like it because it had butter beans in it so she carried on and had more soup”.
West Somerset Coroner Michael Rose said: “What happened here was a complete tragedy.
“It could have happened to anyone if they do not take precaution of properly identifying their mushrooms.
“I’m not saying don’t eat mushrooms you find outside – the French do it where most rural pharmacies you see have a poster with what mushrooms are safe to eat and which are not safe to eat.
“I think the lesson to be learnt is one should never pick mushrooms, particularly under trees, unless you know exactly what you are picking.”
The inquest in Taunton, Somerset, was told a doctor who visited her at her home the day before she was admitted to A and E misdiagnosed her with the noro virus.
But doctors say that even if she had been taken to hospital within hours of consuming the mushrooms she had eaten so many it is unlikely she would have survived.
Experts say the mushrooms are very dangerous because they look like safe varieties but are actually one of the most lethal toxins in the world.
Death Caps are often mistaken for common field mushrooms and just half a cap is enough to kill.
On November 15 last year Mrs Hale picked them on her own, adding them to a soup which the pair both had for dinner.
Mrs Hale had more than her property developer husband because he also ate a stew which she chose not to eat.
The pair began to feel ill through the night, suffering diarrhoea and vomiting, but Mr Lynch felt well enough to go to work the next day.
Mrs Hale called a doctor who told her she had noro virus and told her to drink plenty of fluids.
But she continued to feel ill and during the night of November 18, she called an out of hours doctor who immediately phoned for ambulance.
She was taken to hospital where she suffered a number of heart attacks and her heart stopped at least four times, as the deadly toxins from the mushrooms struck her heart, kidneys and liver.
Doctors consulted mushroom experts at the National Poison Centre in Cardiff who confirmed the mushrooms were the deadly death cap by looking at photographs.
But Mrs Hale was too poorly to have any more treatment and she passed away surrounded by her family.
Dr Helene Lindsay, the intensive care consultant who cared to Mrs Hale in her final hours said: “I don’t think there was anything at all we could do to save Christina.
“I thought the most important thing was to go and get whoever wanted to be sitting with Christina and sit with her.”
She added that even if Mrs Hale had go to hospital earlier, she probably would not have survived the huge amount of toxins she ingested.
“It would rely on a liver transplant and rely on one becoming available. Even then it may not have saved her because she certainly showed toxicity to her heart as well,” she said.
The coroner recorded a verdict of misadventure, and concluded Mrs Hale died of multiple organ failure, due to the deadly mushrooms.
He warned other mushroom pickers of the dangers of eating the mushroom which kills just two or three people in the UK every year.
Mr Rose said: ‘”The death cap mushroom – or Amanita phalloides – is perhaps one of the most dangerous mushrooms to be found.
“It does resemble some other mushrooms like the Ceasar mushroom and the straw mushroom.
“The problem with this mushroom is that if you do taste it, it does not taste unpleasant.”
The death cap mushroom grows to between three and six inches high but just 1oz – 30 grams or half a cap – is enough to kill a human.
They are particularly deadly because they taste pleasant and smell faintly of roses and symptoms do not start to appear for 10 to 16 hours after consumption.
Symptoms include stomach pain, vomiting and diarrhoea but these can then ease, leading the victim to believe a recovery is underway.
But the toxins continue to attack the body and death typically occurs six to 16 days after consumption from liver or kidney failure.
Death caps are common across Europe and contain about 20 different poisons.
One, alpha-amanitin, is highly toxic. Just 5-10mg can kill an adult. The average death cap contains up to 90mg.
Christina Hale had been married to Jocelyn Lynch for thirteen years and between them they had four children.
He told the inquest: ”My wife had prepared the soup whilst I was at work. Normally it was added to a can of Campbells condensed soup, and mushrooms were added to that.”
He said the pair ate it after he returned from working in Weston-super-Mare, Somerset.
“I had a bowl of mushroom soup that she gave me,” he added.
He said that his sister had made a stew, which he ate, but his wife did not because it contained butterbeans which she did not like.
Jocelyn said: “I had one bowl full. I don’t know how much the wife had. She might have had some through the day.”
He said the pair felt unwell throughout the night but that he felt well enough to go to work the next day.
But he had to return during the day after the began to feel poorly again.
He said: “She was laid out on the couch in the lounge. We had a discussion and if we didn’t feel right in the morning, we were going to ring the doctor.”
Jocelyn went to sleep in the upstairs bedroom, while he wife spent the night on the couch.
The next day his wife spoke to the doctor who suspected she had noro virus and told her to drink fluids.
“She [the doctor] felt that the mushroom soup was more coincidental than the cause.”
The pair both went to bed and Mr Lynch was awoken by a doctor who Mrs Hale had called to the house during the night. She was rushed to hospital.
“The wife’s treatment was pretty intense.”
Describing his garden where the mushrooms were found, he added: “It is a reasonable size.
“We had picked mushrooms and various plants before. It had always been together and any we didn’t like the look of we discarded immediately.”