Lauren Dickason: Close relative says family knew about Lauren’s fragile mental state

A close family meber of Lauren Dickason gave evidence in court during the second week of trial, and said that relatives knew about her mental state but did not want to confront over fear of how she may react. Image: Supplied.

A close family meber of Lauren Dickason gave evidence in court during the second week of trial, and said that relatives knew about her mental state but did not want to confront over fear of how she may react. Image: Supplied.

Published Jul 26, 2023


Warning: This story contains graphic details and may be triggering to some readers.

Murder-accused Lauren Dickason’s family knew about her fragile mental state before the family left for New Zealand, but kept quite about it out of fear of how she may have reacted, the High Court in Christchurch heard on Wednesday.

A close family member of Lauren, from Pretoria, who asked to remain anonymous, gave evidence via video link during proceedings.

During this testimony, the court heard for the first time that Lauren's family was aware of her mental health issues, according to copies of court proceedings by Stuff.NZ.

The woman said that she had a good relationship with both Lauren and her husband Graham.

Last week, the court heard that Lauren and Graham also lost a baby, Sarah, at 22 weeks. The child was reportedly born with a heartbeat but died shortly after, which negatively impacted Lauren.

The relative said she felt the loss of baby Sarah affected Lauren much more than they knew.

During the pregnancy of her eldest, Liane`, the woman said Lauren was very anxious.

"She was very doubtful about whether she would be successful in having a baby she always dreamed of," the family member said.

After Liane's birth, she confirmed that Lauren struggled mentally.

When the twins were born, there were a few complications, for instance Karla had a cleft lip.

The family member said this was often exaggerated as both family's had medical professionals in them. She said these medical opinions made Lauren's stress levels increase.

She described Lauren as a perfectionist and someone who is highly organized.

She made mention to the Covid-19 pandemic and how that also interfered with Lauren's mental state.

"At that time...Lauren was really struggling. Her perfectionism was tested in trying to homeschool Liane', while also taking care of the twins at the same time."

Before the Dickason's left for New Zealand, the extended family through a going away party.

The woman recalled how much Lauren was struggling at the party and said the family was aware of it but did not want to ask her about it, afraid it may overwhelm her.

They all agreed to remain silent on her mental state.

After emigrating to New Zealand, the number of messages and level of contact Lauren had with the family decreased.

However, on the first day of school in New Zealand, Lauren sent a picture back home and didn’t look anything like the Lauren they knew, the relative said.

"She was grey, she looked as though she couldn't focus on the camera. The tracksuit top that would usually fit was drowning her," the lady said.

Just days after this image was sent to the family, the three girls, six-year old Liane`, and two-year old twins Maya and Karla, were allegedly murdered by Lauren the night of September 16, 2021.

Her defence is using an insanity and infanticide argument, New Zealand media reported, while the prosecution wants to prove she acted clinically and was aware.

During the family member's cross examination, prosecutor Andrew McRae asked if the Lauren she knew was very particular in the way she planned things.

The family member agreed.

McRae asked if "she was quite hard on herself, wasn't she, when she fell below those standards”, for example, if Liane' went to school in uniform if it was casual day?

The witness responded: “Correct.”

McRae asked if something fell out of order, would Lauren's response be an anxious one?

The witness responded with another, “correct”.

When asking about why Lauren's family kept silent on her mental state, McRae asked if there was a commonly held fear by the family on Lauren's reaction to the questions.

She agreed.

The relative said she believed there was also fear based around not wanting to make things worse for Lauren if she wasn't mentally well.

The second week of trial will continue on Thursday.


Are you or someone you know affected by mental health? If so here are some important numbers:

The SA Depression and Anxiety Group's 24-hour mental health helpline: 080-045-6789.

The SA Federation for Mental Health: 011-781-1852.