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Sentencing date set for Timaru murder mum Lauren Dickason

Anna Leask, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Fri, 1 Sep 2023, 10:46am

Sentencing date set for Timaru murder mum Lauren Dickason

Anna Leask, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Fri, 1 Sep 2023, 10:46am

Convicted triple child murderer Lauren Anne Dickason will be sentenced in December. 

Last month - following a five-week trial - the 42-year-old was found guilty of murdering her three little girls. 

Today the court set a date for her to be sentenced - which could result in a significant term of imprisonment. 

Dickason was not required to appear in court in person today. 

She admitted smothering Liané, 6, and 2-year-old twins Maya and Karla but claimed she was insane at the time or so mentally disturbed she had a defence of infanticide. 

However, after hearing exhaustive evidence from Dickason, those closest to her and a number of experts a jury found the South African doctor guilty of murdering all three children. 

Lauren Dickason as the jury delivered a majority verdict finding her guilty of murdering her three children. Photo / George Heard

Lauren Dickason as the jury delivered a majority verdict finding her guilty of murdering her three children. Photo / George Heard 

When Dickason was convicted, Justice Cameron Mander ordered a number of pre-sentence reports relating to Dickason’s mental health, treatment and where she should be detained. 

The fact she has a severe depressive disorder was accepted by all parties in court. 

The issue the jury had to decide was whether the evidence proved she had legal defences of insanity or infanticide. 

Justice Mander called her case again today to set a sentencing date. 

The sentencing date will go ahead on December 19. 

The trial began on July 17 and over four weeks a jury of eight women and four men heard extensive evidence about Dickason’s life before and after she and her family emigrated to New Zealand from South Africa a month before the children died. 

Dickason’s actions on the day of the alleged murders were canvassed at length along with her lifelong battle with a major depressive disorder, her gruelling fertility journey including at least 17 rounds of IVF and the loss of a baby early in a pregnancy, and her struggles with motherhood. 

The court was also shown videos of Dickason and her husband Graham being interviewed by police after the little girls were killed. 

Graham Dickason then gave evidence via audio-visual link from his home in Pretoria after he chose not to return to New Zealand to attend the trial. 

When the jury returned its verdicts, Dickason was emotional. 

Members of the jury broke down and sobbed as they left the packed courtroom. 

“This has been a difficult and a gruelling trial,” Justice Mander had told them. 

“You’ve had to deal with distressing evidence, this trial has likely taken a toll on you personally. You have made a considerable sacrifice. 

“Your contribution will remain unknown and largely unsung, you can take considerable pride in the way you have carried out your duties.” 

Dickason will be jailed for life for the murder of each of Liané, Karla and Maya. 

Lauren Dickason during her police interview. Photo / Pool

Lauren Dickason during her police interview. Photo / Pool 

At sentencing, Justice Mander will be tasked with setting a minimum term of imprisonment. 

Under New Zealand law a life sentence requires an offender to stay behind bars for life - unless a Parole Board deems them safe to live in the community again.. 

Even when that happens, the offender is still subject to life-long conditions and rules and can be recalled to prison for any breach of those. 

Justice Mander will also decide where Dickason will be detained. 

Since her arrest, she has been held at Hillmorton Hospital in a secure psychiatric unit. 

At her trial it was revealed she is still under 24/7 monitoring, heavily medicated and receiving ongoing intensive treatment for her mental health. 

Justice Mander may order her to remain at Hillmorton until such time as she is well enough - if ever - to be transferred to a women’s prison. 

Killer’s parents: ‘This was not our daughter’ 

Dickason’s husband Graham, who found his children dead when he returned home from a work function, has yet to speak publicly about the verdict. 

The killer mum’s parents, Malcolm and Wendy Fawkes, who attended every day of her trial and were present when she was convicted, released a statement to media. 

“Post-partum depression is a terrible thing, as has been shown by what happened to our family on September 16, 2021,” they said. 

“This was not our daughter, but a debilitating mental illness which resulted in an awful tragedy, the details of which you are by now well aware.” 

They said Liané, Karla and Maya were “taken from this life to another as a result of this crippling disease”. 

“We would like to thank the people of New Zealand, South Africa and from around the world who have been so understanding of the effects of post-partum depression and mental illness, and who have given us incredible support. 

“The New Zealand government agencies who have interacted with our family have reached out to us in a most generous and compassionate way. We thank the good people of New Zealand for that.” 

They said there are “no winners in this tragedy”. 

“We would like to encourage families and individuals around the world to be aware of the symptoms of post-partum depression as early as possible, both for yourselves as well as close family and friends around you. 

Lauren Dickason moments before the jury delivered a majority verdict of murder. Photo / George Heard

Lauren Dickason moments before the jury delivered a majority verdict of murder. Photo / George Heard 

“If treated early and managed correctly, people can experience a full recovery. The person experiencing depression and those closest to them may not be able to recognise the signs or how serious post-partum depression can become.” 

Detective Inspector Scott Anderson said in a statement: “Words cannot begin to express the tragic circumstances of this investigation.” 

Police extended their deepest sympathies to the families “who will never get to see Liané, Maya, and Karla grow up and live their lives”. 

“I would like to acknowledge the Dickason and Fawkes families who have assisted us throughout our investigation,” Anderson said. 

“I also want to take this opportunity to acknowledge the hard work and dedication of our investigation team.” 

Anderson said the investigation had been challenging and complex. 

“Right from attending the scene on the night, to the completion of the trial, and through it all our staff have worked diligently with professionalism and empathy to bring this matter to its conclusion. 

“Our heartfelt thanks also to the Timaru community and partner agencies who have continued to provide support to the families during this case.” 

The King v Lauren Anne Dickason - the Crown and defence cases 

The Crown’s case was Dickason murdered the children in a “calculated” way because she was frustrated, angry and resentful of them. 

It acknowledged Dickason suffered from sometimes-serious depression, but maintained she knew what she was doing when she killed the girls. 

Crown Prosecutor Andrew McRae alleged Dickason was an angry and frustrated woman who was “resentful of how the children stood in the way of her relationship with her husband” and killed them “methodically and purposefully, perhaps even clinically”. 

The defence argued Dickason was a severely mentally disturbed woman in the depths of postpartum depression and did not know the act of killing the children was morally wrong at the time of their deaths. 

Further, it says she was “in such a dark place” she had decided to kill herself and felt “it was the right thing to do” to “take the girls with her”. 


Where to get help:
• Lifeline: Call 0800 543 354 or text 4357 (HELP) (available 24/7)
• Suicide Crisis Helpline: Call 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)
• Youth services: (06) 3555 906
• Youthline: Call 0800 376 633 or text 234
• What's Up: Call 0800 942 8787 (11am to 11pm) or webchat (11am to 10.30pm)
• Depression helpline: Call 0800 111 757 or text 4202 (available 24/7)
• Helpline: Need to talk? Call or text 1737
If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111

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