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Monday, December 11, 2023

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Lauren Dickason: Evidence concluded, jury to begin deliberation

Lauren Dickason, a doctor from Pretoria, has been charged for the murders of her twin daughters, Maya and Karla, 2, and their older sister Liane, 6, who were found dead in their Timaru home in New Zealand. Picture: Supplied

Lauren Dickason, a doctor from Pretoria, has been charged for the murders of her twin daughters, Maya and Karla, 2, and their older sister Liane, 6, who were found dead in their Timaru home in New Zealand. Picture: Supplied

Published Aug 10, 2023


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

The final day of evidence in the trial of murder-accused Lauren Dickason, the South African woman charged with murdering her three daughters, was concluded in High Court in Christchurch on Thursday, New Zealand media reported.

Now in its fourth week, the 12 jurors are expected to hear statements from the defence and prosecution before they enter a period of deliberation.

Since the start of July, the jurors heard a wide range of evidence, covering Lauren Dickason’s struggles with mental illness, her harrowing journey to motherhood, the loss of a baby, her struggle with post-partum depression, as well as the numerous thoughts she had of harming of daughters, six-year-old Lianè, and two-year-old twins Maya and Karla.

Jurors heard accounts of first responders on the night of September 16, 2021, when Lauren killed the girls, first by means of cable ties, but then by smothering them with blankets.

Cut open cable ties were seen upon entering the Dickason home, Constables Alexandra Schrader and William Turnbull told the court.

The girls were found dead, tucked into their beds.

Lauren entered a plea of not guilty, by means of insanity and infanticide.

Her lawyers claim Lauren was mentally unstable and not cognisant of her actions during the time of the offence.

Given the fact that the defence used the insanity argument, Lauren’s mental state was brought to the forefront of the trial, with five experts testifying about the conclusions they drew, based on the numerous interviews conducted with her.

Two expert witnesses gave evidence for the prosecution, while the other three, including world-renowned prenatal psychiatrist, Dr Susan Hatters-Friedman, testified for the defence.

All three witnesses for the defence concluded that Lauren was not of a sound mind at the time of the incident, or in the days leading up to it, which was shortly after the family moved over 100,000 kilometres across the globe.

In-depth discussions about her upbringing, marriage to her husband Graham Dickason and her fragile mental state were discussed with the clinical and forensic psychiatrists to determine if Lauren did suffer a major depressive episode when she made the fatal decision.

The last expert witness to testify, forensic psychologist Ghazi Metoui, told the court about Lauren’s account of what happened after she finished with the children.

Metoui said Lauren told him the last thing she remembered doing was lying down with Lianè afterwards.

“It is my opinion that she did not know that the alleged acts were morally wrong to the commonly accepted standard of right and wrong ... she has a defence of insanity,” Metoui was quoted saying in the NZ Herald.

Metoui interviewed Lauren’s family as well, who told him that she never returned to her baseline mental health after the death of her first baby, the court heard.

“I consider that the balance of Mrs Dickason’s mind at the time was disturbed by this specific disorder consequent upon childbirth... she meets the medical and legal threshold for infanticide,” Metoui told the court.

Prosecutor Andrew McRae questioned Metoui on a number of his statements in his report, including whether or not Lauren disclosed all the details during their time together.

Throughout McRae’s questioning, which sought to lead to indications that Lauren killed her children out of anger, Metoui maintained that she did not act out of anger.

“She was a really unwell woman,” Metoui said.

The crown has alleged that Lauren acted in a calculated manner and knew exactly what she was doing on the evening of September 16, 2021. The crown alleged it was premeditated murder.

But the defence maintained that Lauren was in the throes of post-partum depression and depression, conditions she suffered from for a long time and was exacerbated after the birth of the children and the family’s immigration to New Zealand.

The defence alleged that Lauren’s motive for killing the girls was an altruistic one, and that she believed she was taking them out of a bad place by killing them.

On Monday, the 12 jurors are expected to start deliberating.