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Details of triple murderer Lauren Dickason's possible release revealed

Anna Leask,
Publish Date
Thu, 27 Jun 2024, 12:18pm

Details of triple murderer Lauren Dickason's possible release revealed

Anna Leask,
Publish Date
Thu, 27 Jun 2024, 12:18pm

Triple murderer Lauren Dickason could be released on parole as early as 2028 - but whether she will be allowed to remain in New Zealand after that is unknown.

Immigration New Zealand has confirmed Dickason’s situation is to be assessed, now that her sentencing has been completed.

A decision is yet to be made on if or when the killer will be deported.

Dickason was found guilty of murdering her daughters Liane, 6, and 2-year-old twins Maya and Karla at their Timaru home in September 2021.

Dickason admitted smothering the children but claimed she was so mentally unwell she could not be held criminally responsible for their deaths.

After an exhaustive five-week trial last year, a jury rejected her defence of insanity or infanticide and convicted the now-43-year-old of murder.

She was sentenced in the High Court at Christchurch yesterday.

Justice Cameron Mander handed down a finite sentence of 18 years. He did not impose a life sentence nor did he order her to serve a minimum term of imprisonment before she could seek parole.

He said that imposing a life sentence on the killer would be manifestly unjust - and that it was clear to him her mental illness was a causative factor in the deaths of the little girls.

An offender with a finite sentence and no minimum term becomes eligible for parole after serving one-third of their time.

Dickason’s official parole eligibility date has been recorded as November 6, 2028.

Graham and Lauren Dickason with their daughters, from left, Maya, Karla, and Liane.
Graham and Lauren Dickason with their daughters, from left, Maya, Karla, and Liane.

The date is not calculated from the date of her sentence - it also includes time she has spent on remand in custody.

Dickason’s parole date falls just 52 months and one week after sentencing - or four years and four months.

At her first parole hearing in 2028, the board will hear about Dickason’s progress in custody - including her treatment along the way any improvement to her health, her current prognosis and behaviour.

It will also hear about her plans for release - what she intends to do if granted parole in terms of her daily life and work; where she intends to live, with who and whom; and how she intends to remain offence-free.

Specialist reports will be provided to the board to consider.

They can only release the triple killer if they are satisfied she does not pose a risk to anyone’s safety.

If she cannot convince the board, she will remain either in hospital or prison until her statutory release date - the day her sentence ends, after which she can no longer legally be detained.

When Dickason is released she may be ordered to leave New Zealand immediately.

A deportation order could be granted, meaning she would be released on parole and then leave the country on the earliest possible flight back to South Africa.

Immigration New Zealand’s general manager of compliance Stephanie Greathead explained what would happen from the agency’s end regarding the convicted murderer.

“The case of Lauren Dickason has been deeply traumatic for everyone involved and we empathise with those who have been adversely affected,” she said.

“INZ has not undertaken any deportation activity against Ms Dickason as we were awaiting the outcome of her sentencing. Now that has taken place, we will assess the most appropriate course of action regarding her immigration status however, her current detainment under the Mental Health Act means that there are additional factors to consider.

“We will work with the relevant agencies to clarify the implications of her detainment on potential deportation, but at this time, we cannot provide a specific timeframe for resolution.”

Greathead said in the event of deportation, an individual may not re-enter the country while any prohibition period is active and until all deportation costs have been repaid.

“If they desire to re-enter New Zealand, they can request a visa through a special direction process,” she said.

“However, INZ is not obligated to review special direction requests or provide reasons if the special direction is not granted.”

A number of other convicted murderers will be immediately deported if and when they are granted parole, including Edgeware Rd double killer Lipine Sila.

In 2007, Sila murdered Hannah Rossiter and Jane Young and caused grievous bodily harm to eight other teens when he drove his car through a crowd outside a Christchurch party.

Sila was born in Samoa and had only been New Zealand for a short time before the murders. He has been ordered to leave New Zealand as soon as he is released - if ever.

A secure sentence - Dickason detained in as a special patient

For the foreseeable future, Dickason will be detained as a special patient in a secure unit at Hillmorton Hospital in Christchurch - the regional forensic mental health service.

There, she will continue to receive the medication and specialist treatment she requires for her major depressive disorder.

Neither the medication or specialist treatment would be available to Dickason in prison.

Justice Mander said if Dickason’s health improved to a point where she could be appropriately managed in prison - she should be transferred from the unit.

But for now, she had “complex” treatment needs and was still at high risk of self-harm and was under constant monitoring.

Justice Cameron Mander. Photo / Pool
Justice Cameron Mander. Photo / Pool

At Hillmorton her family also had more access to Dickason, which her clinicians said was “critical” to her recovery.

Whether Dickason is in hospital or prison - the parole process operates the same. She will still have to appear before the board for them to consider whether she can be safely released.

At trial, the jury accepted the Crown case that Dickason was mentally unwell but not to a point where she did not know what she was doing was wrong.

The Crown said Dickason was “angry” at the children and murdered them after she “snapped”.

Justice Mander accepted the jury’s verdict but had his own take on why Dickason killed the children.

“I am satisfied ... the tragic event would not have happened, but for the major depressive episode from which she was suffering,” he said.

He then spoke directly to Dickason.

“You genuinely believe they would be better off dead because you saw no future,” he said.

“That night, you were suffering from a major depressive disorder marked by a general sense of hopelessness.

“You were in despair at the situation. You found yourself ... isolated, without family and as you perceived it you were effectively alone ... you saw the only way out as being suicide in which the children had to join you in death.

“Somehow you perceived the children’s deaths as a means of alleviating a source of stress and despair or some combination of both.

“Your thinking at this time was causative of your action. I accept ... there is a direct causal connection between your mental illness and your offending, which significantly reduces your moral culpability as a result.

“Although your legal responsibility for the offending remains, many of the sentencing objectives including the needs of denunciation and deterrence are significantly moderated.”

Lauren Dickason during her police interview. Photo / Pool

Lauren Dickason during her police interview. Photo / Pool

‘I am horrified by my actions’: Lauren Dickason’s public statement in full

Justice Mander revealed in court that Dickason had written him a letter expressing sorrow and remorse over killing the children - and acknowledging the heartache she had caused her husband and wider family.

A statement saying much the same was released on Dickason’s behalf after the hearing by her lawyer Kerryn Beaton KC.

The statement read, in full:

I loved Liané, Maya and Karla with all my heart. I failed them, I failed Graham, and I failed our families. I take responsibility for taking our three beautiful girls from this world.

I would like to take this opportunity to convey the deepest and most sincere remorse for the extreme pain and hurt caused to my children and my family by my actions.

No apology will ever be enough, and words will seem hollow to many.

I want people to know our girls brought me so much joy and were the centre of my world.

I am horrified by my actions, and the pain, distress and trauma I have caused everyone who loved them. Like many others, I miss them every single day.

I continue to undergo treatment for severe mental illness, and I owe it to everyone and myself to get mentally healthier.

I will do whatever it takes, although I know that will never change the past.

My family and I want people to know about the risks, warning signs and extreme impacts of post-partum depression.

We urge other families to look for and act on unhealthy signs. We urge women experiencing the symptoms of post-partum depression to tell the ones they love.

This pain and heartbreak cannot happen to any other families.

We would like to thank the many people from around the world who have shown support to us. Your care and grace have provided us with warmth in our darkest despair.

Dickason said she and her family hoped for privacy going forward so they “can heal in their own space and time”.

Anna Leask is a Christchurch-based reporter who covers national crime and justice. She joined the Herald in 2008 and has worked as a journalist for 18 years with a particular focus on family violence, child abuse, sexual violence, homicides, mental health and youth crime. She writes, hosts and produces the award-winning podcast A Moment In Crime, released monthly on nzherald.co.nz.


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