Warning: This story contains graphic details and may be triggering to some readers.
After a week in a High Court in Christchurch, New Zealand, the Lauren Dickason murder trial has exposed some of the gruesome details and events leading up to the murder of three girls, Liane, 6, and two-year-old twins, Maya and karla, on the night of September 16, 2021.
Here is a look at the case so far, according to copies of the court proceedings by Stuff.NZ.
According to evidence given before the court, at around 9.40pm, cries of a man were heard at the Dickason family home on Queen Street in Timaru.
Officers Alexandra Schrader and William Turnbull were first on the scene and upon inspection, found cut cable ties on the floor of the Dickason home.
Lauren was found in a bedroom and was in a “catatonic” state, according to the testimony given by Alexandra Andrews, one of the responding paramedics.
The twins, Maya and Karla, were found tucked in their beds, while Liane was on the floor. The children showed no signs of life, according to paramedics.
It is understood that Lauren first tried to strangle them with cable ties, but that did not work, so she then smothered the children with a blanket.
Officers Turnbull and Schrader told the court that Lauren said, in her delirious state, that she had taken a drug called Tramadol, which is an opiate-based sleeping pill.
Lead investigator Detective Scott Genet also found an open pack of cable ties on a shelf in a room of the house. This was photographed and shown to the jury as evidence.
Shortly after making the discovery when he arrived home from work, Graham Dickason called his work colleague, Mark Cvitanich, and alerted him about what had happened.
Mark's wife, Cathy, gave evidence before the court on Thursday.
Cvitanic said upon arrival at the Dickason home, they saw Graham crying hysterically.
“He said she was mad, and that he couldn’t believe she would do that.
“He was crying and saying ‘my babies’. He was really crying. He was distraught.
“He said ‘it’s my fault’, I think he meant by bringing them here,” Cvitanich said.
Other acquaintances of the Dickason family in New Zealand, like Teresa Templeton, Isabella Kruger and Laetitia Smit, also gave their accounts of the interactions they had with the family.
Four days before the murder, the Dickasons had dinner at the Templeton home.
The attitude of the couple was described as normal during the dinner, according to Templeton.
Earlier in the week, when Graham had appeared via a video link to give evidence, Lauren’s attorney Anne Toohey cross examined him.
Toohey touched on a number of subjects, particularly the couple’s relationship and their history.
It was during this time that the court heard about the incident when Lauren told Graham she wanted to give the children sleeping pills and cut their femoral arteries.
This happened 13 days before they moved to New Zealand. Graham said he didn’t think Lauren was capable of doing that.
Graham also told Toohey that Lauren’s mum, Wendy, had doubts about them emigrating, but his only thought was to get her to New Zealand.
Some of the couple’s arguments prior to their departure from Pretoria were brought up in court.
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)."
The court also heard of Lauren’s harrowing journey to motherhood and how she had to undergo 17 rounds of in vitro fertilisation (IVF) and eventually resorting to donor eggs before giving birth to their eldest daughter, Liane.
In 2013, Lauren prematurely gave birth to a baby girl at 18 weeks, who tragically died shortly after birth.
On Friday, Detective Edward Mitchell read out a large number of text messages that were found on Lauren’s phone.
Some of these messages described Lauren’s mental state, how the move to New Zealand affected her and how difficult it was to be in isolation for two weeks.
“I am in such a deep dark hole I cannot think or move. I feel paralysed by fear and uncertainty,” she wrote to one friend.
“I am in the deepest darkest hole and wonder whether we have made a mistake. I am trying to see the light but it is not coming,” she said in another message.
It is understood that Toohey is using insanity as part of their defence strategy, but the prosecution, led by Andrew McRae, believes Lauren acted in malice and knew exactly what she was doing.
The case is expected to resume on Monday.
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