This week, Lauren Dickason had to listen to how every aspect of her years-long battle against depression, her infertility, family life and mobile phone records – thousands of kilometers from her home country – were analyzed in a court.
It was revealed in the first week of Lauren’s trial in New Zealand that she and her husband, Graham, had three blonde daughters – Liané (6), Maya and Karla (2) – conceived with donor cells.
Before these girls were born, the couple also conceived a baby girl whom they would call Sarah after seven rounds of in vitro fertilization, but the girl was born prematurely and died. Lauren cried for two months straight after the baby’s death.
Lauren also cried at times in court this week.
State says ‘this is murder’
Graham testified from South Africa that his wife had been suffering from depression and anxiety attacks for years and had hinted on occasion that she wanted to do something to their three little girls to “put an end to everything”.
However, he never thought she was capable of such a thing.
According to the state, on the evening of September 16, 2021 – shortly after the family immigrated to New Zealand and settled in Timaru – Lauren suffocated her three daughters with cable ties and then with their blankets, after which she tried to take her own life.
“The motive here was simple. She snapped,” state prosecutor Andrew McRae argued in the High Court in Christchurch this week. “Her anger took over and she killed them. An act she now regrets.
“There is no medical defense here, this is murder.”
McRae said messages indicated Lauren was resentful and felt anger toward her children when they disobeyed. She apparently killed the little girls after they jumped on a couch earlier.
Adv. However, Kerryn Beaton, for the defence, argued that a severely depressed Lauren no longer wanted to live at that stage and felt that she must take her children with her into eternity.
“Dickason was a loving mother and wife. She loved her children and yet she killed them.”
The defense admitted that Lauren told Graham in 2019 and 2021 that she sometimes thought about harming the children. “She was afraid of those thoughts and feelings … and sought help. Despite that, she was loving, even on the day they died.
“They were not abused until that night,” Beaton argued.
Lauren was actually ‘a nurturing mother’
In an interview with the New Zealand police shortly after the murders in September 2021, Graham said that Lauren was not a nurturing mother. This interview was shown to the jury this week.
However, Graham adjusted this version in his court testimony.
“It was a very confusing moment in my life and I think I was probably referring to the most recent times after emigration, not to Lauren at all,” he explained.
“Lauren was definitely a nurturing mother. There was no doubt that Lauren loved the little girls.”
According to Graham, Lauren looked after the little girls very well and was particularly good at organizing.
“She never mistreated them. She was actually very concerned about their safety in many situations – little things like making sure they had sunscreen on and having the safest car seats they could find.”
However, he admitted that the little girls sought him out, rather than their mother.
Inconsolable Graham: ‘I think they’re dead’
Graham testified via audio-visual link from South Africa this week. The court heard that he screamed uncontrollably when, on the fateful night after a work lunch, he first came across a wobbly Lauren in the kitchen and then his children’s bodies in their beds.
The children had cable ties around their necks and were covered with blankets.
Graham did not know the New Zealand emergency numbers at that stage and was forced to call one of his new colleagues, Mark Cvitanich, from Liané’s room.
“He asked ‘what’s wrong?’ and I think I just told him that something is wrong with the kids, that Lauren did something to them and I think they’re dead. I don’t think I put the phone down. I think I left it there on the floor,” Graham testified.
According to his testimony, Cvitanich called the police before he and his wife, Cathy, went to the Dickasons’ home. Here they came across a crying Graham.
Cathy testified on Thursday that Graham told them that Lauren killed the children “to hurt him”. Graham also told the couple that it was his fault as he had brought his family to New Zealand.
The defense made it clear that it was in no way arguing that Graham was to blame for the children’s deaths.
Lauren has pleaded not guilty to the murder charges against her and claims that she was mentally ill at the time of the murders and therefore unaccountable.
The trial continues next week. A jury of four men and eight women will finally decide her fate.
Source: The information about the trial is used in terms of an agreement with Stuff Limited.