Warning: This story contains graphic details and may be triggering to some readers
As the trial continues against a South African woman who murdered her three children in New Zealand on Thursday, the Christchurch High Court heard the grim details of events leading to how the three young girls died.
Originally from Pretoria, Lauren Dickason, 42, is accused of allegedly murdering six-year-old Liané and two-year-old twins Maya and Karla by strangling them with cable ties in September 2021.
Her husband, orthopaedic surgeon Graham Dickason discovered the bodies.
Forensic psychiatrist Dr Simon McLeavey took to the stand on Thursday, according to reports by stuff.co.nz
He was initially contacted by the court to determine the insanity in this case.
McLeavey interviewed Dickason six days after the alleged murders and on four other occasions in the weeks that followed.
She was the first forensic psychiatrist to interview Dickason.
The interviews lasted for eight hours.
During her testimony, McLeavey said Dickason denied any psychosis or presence of a delusional belief system, and no symptoms of psychotic symptomatology were found by her.
During their interviews, Dickason told McLeavey about her psychiatric history and admitted to having ‘morbid’ thoughts towards her twin girls after they were born in 2018.
She had described having thoughts of harming them but had no plan to do so.
McLeavey testified Dickason had also described feeling hopeless, helpless and worthless as a mother as she tried parenting during the Covid-19 lockdown in 2020.
In 2021, Dickason enrolled into a self-help programme and this led her to stop taking her anti-depressants.
However, McLeavey said Dickason’s depressive symptoms resurfaced later that year as multiple stress factors developed.
Dickason told McLeavey her stress included Covid-19, the terror of political unrest, rioting and looting in South Africa, financial troubles, immigration approval, and the children testing positive for Covid-19 before their move to New Zealand.
However, after moving to New Zealand, Dickason did not report further suicidal thoughts or thoughts of harming her children, McLeavey testified.
The night before the alleged murders, Dickason told the forensic psychiatrist she did not sleep for more than three hours.
The day of the alleged murders
McLeavey testified that Dickason had told her that on the day of the incident she felt upset but it was like “every other day” - where she also felt useless as a mother.
On that fateful day, Dickason picked Liané up from school who appeared sad while Karla threw a tantrum.
According to Dickason the children tested their father’s patience but he just retreated into another room.
She was of the opinion their family life was too much, even for her husband, Graham.
The family went to the local park that afternoon and the girls described a man taking photographs.
She did not report being fearful to McLeavey regarding this incident.
Dickason further told McLeavey that the children always wanted to be with their father and she felt they deserved a better mother.
Once Graham left to go out for supper that evening, she had thoughts of harming the children after they misbehaved.
Karla, she told McLeavey, was “ugly” towards her and was biting and scratching.
Dickason said it was impulsive that she decided to harm the children and then commit suicide.
She considered a number of ways to do this but it was too violent and messy, Dickason told McLeavey.
But, she remembered the cable ties in their garage but denied any premeditation of the murders.
While she was intent on committing suicide, Dickason said she needed to take the children with her as she felt they did not deserved to be raised by another woman or by Graham himself.
She gathered the children in the bedroom and told them they would be making necklaces with the cable ties she had in her possession.
McLeavey testified Dickason described killing the children as an out-of-body experience, she said it was like she was looking down from above.
After the death of the children, Dickason thought about how she would take her own life and at this time was shaking and sweating profusely.
Waking up in hospital after her failed suicide attempt, Dickason told McLeavey she was “devastated to be alive”.
The trial continues.
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.