Warning: This story contains graphic details and may be triggering to some readers.
A couple of weeks before Graham and Lauren Dickason left South Africa to start a new life in New Zealand, tensions in their marriage and in their family grew exponentially.
Coupled by the weight of her depression, anxiety and leaving behind friends and family, Lauren and Graham had an argument where some unsavoury words were said.
In a New Zealand High Court on Wednesday, Lauren’s attorney Anne Toohey cross examined Graham Dickason, who appeared via video from Pretoria.
Lauren Dickason, a doctor from Pretoria has been charged 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 by their father, Graham Dickason, an orthopaedic surgeon from Pretoria.
Court proceedings also revealed that Lauren had told Graham she wanted to harm the kids before they left South Africa, but he did not take her thoughts seriously.
This, according to a transcript of the trial proceedings by New Zealand media outlet, stuff.co.nz.
He told the court that Lauren spoke to him about giving the children sleeping pills and cutting their femoral arteries. He said he was surprised and concerned, but not angry at Lauren.
But Toohey said when she spoke to Lauren about the incident, Graham replied by saying: "Do you know how crazy you sound? We're emigrating to New Zealand in 13 days."
Toohey then asked him if he remembered telling Lauren to “pull on your big girl panties and pull yourself together”.
Graham said he recalled a conversation with Lauren before they left Pretoria where he said this.
He also mentioned that Lauren’s mother, Wendy, was concerned about her mental health before they left but his only thought was to get her to New Zealand and away from things that stressed her out.
Toohey: “And you said, ‘Everything is going to be okay, but if one more bump in the road happens, I’m going to stop it all’”.
Graham: “It is possible that I said that."
Toohey: “So Lauren’s not asking you to not emigrate, but there were concerns for her mental health?”
Graham: “Everyone who interacted with Lauren was concerned for her at that stage."
Toohey then questioned Graham about the sleeping pills and femoral arteries incident.
Toohey: “Do you think you might have been angry about what Lauren was telling you?”
Graham: “I was surprised by what she said. I would say I was concerned … I wouldn’t describe myself as angry, as my primary response, but yes, caught by surprise, and concerned."
Toohey: “In your mind, although she’s voicing these messages, she’s not saying she’s going to act on it … she was scared of these thoughts?”
Toohey: “And you didn’t think she was capable of doing something like this to the girls?”
Graham: “No, I didn’t."
She asked Graham about his response to Lauren when she told him she wanted to harm the children, but he responded by saying “do you know how crazy you sound, we’re emigrating to New Zealand in 13 days”.
Toohey: “Is it possible you might’ve said words like that?”
Graham: “I cannot confirm those were my exact words. I can’t remember saying those words, to be honest.”
Toohey: “Do you remember slamming your hands down on the bed?”
Graham: “I don’t remember slamming my hands down on the bed. I don’t remember being aggressive. I remember sitting with her on the bed, and she was just out of the bath and she was crying, and I tried to speak with her about what she said."
Toohey: “Is it possible that you did (swear and slam your hands on the bed)?”
Graham: “I suppose it’s possible, but I don’t have any recollection of doing it."
Toohey: “Do you remember saying ‘it’s time to pull on your big girl panties and pull yourself together’?”
Graham: “I remember a conversation of that kind with Lauren, but I recall it to be a different time, at my mother’s house just prior to our departure (to New Zealand)."
Toohey: “Would you accept Lauren’s memory with dates around this might be better than yours?”
Graham: “That’s hard to say … I can only remember what I can remember.”
The court also heard how Lauren Dickason confided in a friend and said she cried before her husband went to work and before she went to bed.
“I think he thinks I am crazy,” she wrote.
Graham Dickason’s cross examination will continue in court.
Transcript pulled from stuff.co.nz
Are you or someone you know may be affected by mental health? If so here are some important numbers:
- The SA Depression and Anxiety Group's 24-hour mental health helpline: 0800 456 789
- The SA Federation for Mental Health: 011 781 1852