Dickason trial: Web searches on pediatric overdoses

Henry

Internet searches on “lethal doses” of medicine for children were found on Lauren Dickason’s cell phone. She apparently tried to remove it a few weeks before the murder of her three little girls.

The jury on Monday in the High Court in Christchurch, where Lauren is on trial for the murders of her daughters Liané (6), Maya and Karla (both 2), saw what Lauren searched for on the internet shortly before she decided to suffocate the three children with cable ties and then their blankets.

Stuff.co.nz reports that the searches were conducted on Lauren’s phone in July and August 2021. She initially deleted the search history, but after further investigation the police were able to retrieve it.

The search history includes:

“Lethal Dose of Alprazolam for Children.” It was looked up on Lauren’s cell phone’s Internet search function on July 31. Alprazolam is used to treat anxiety and panic.

On August 14, she searched: “Ambien lethal dose”. Ambien is used to treat insomnia.

Barely a week later there was another search for “most effective overdose in children” and at the end of August “drugs to (cause) children to overdose” were searched for.

Joshua Locke, a digital forensic analyst for the police, was asked about the internet searches during cross-examination by Lauren’s lawyer Abbie Hollingworth.

Hollingworth asked Locke if the phone records indicate who used the phone during a certain activity, and what that person was thinking while he or she was doing it. Locke confirmed it does not.

Hollingworth also asked if Locke had been instructed to remove some searches from his final analysis report. This includes one search related to licorice poisoning (liquorice).

Locke confirmed that he did not include it in the report on Lauren’s phone after being instructed that it was not relevant. The investigating officer in the case relayed it to Locke.

According to Hollingworth, Lauren was watching a TV program at the time which involved poisoning with licorice sweets. Locke said he was unaware of this.

Hollingworth told the court that this is just one example of how an internet search might be seen as sinister, but given context does not indicate what Lauren was thinking at the time.

Locke accepted her statement.

Lauren ‘not in danger’

On Monday, the jury saw letters provided by doctors about Lauren’s mental health. The letters were part of the Dickason family’s emigration applications.

The first letter was written in February 2020 by a psychiatrist in South Africa and was addressed to the authorities in New Zealand. A copy of the letter was found in Lauren’s phone’s photo gallery.

The letter pointed out that Lauren has been a patient at the practice since 2015 and that she suffers from a serious “depressive disorder”.

“She can function well despite her illness and has never been admitted to a psychiatric hospital,” says the letter.

“Dr. Dickason has never been a danger to herself or any other person.”

The letter stated that Lauren can take care of herself financially and that her state of mind is stable with the use of the prescription drugs Cipramil and Trepiline.

“(She) will have to continue with her medication and can follow up with her treating doctor on an outpatient basis.”

According to Lauren’s mobile phone records, the New Zealand immigration authorities requested such a letter in September of the following year, after the Dickasons had already arrived in the country.

Lauren emailed the letter with the accompanying message:

“My reports. Also did not see doctor again and now off all medication. We gave this stuff to the doctor in South Africa. Maybe he forgot to scan them in? Kind regards, Lauren.”