Lauren Dickason sentenced to 18 years for murder of her three daughters

By 1news.co.nz and is republished with permission

Lauren Dickason has been sentenced to 18 years imprisonment for murdering her three young daughters in their Timaru home nearly three years ago.

She’ll be detained in amental health hospital until the relevant medical authorities deem she can cope with a prison environment. Justice Cameron Mander did not set a minimum non-parole period.

The 43-year-old doctor, her husband Graham Dickason and their children – six-year-old Liané and two-year-old twins Karla and Maya – had just arrived in New Zealand from South Africa in September 2021 to start a new life.

They were released from managed isolation only five days before the killings.

It’s been 10 months since a jury reached a majority guilty verdict, after hearing four weeks of harrowing evidence and 15 hours of deliberations.

Dickason had relied on the defences of insanity and infanticide.

The public gallery at the High Court in Christchurch today was full as Justice Mander handed down the sentence.

Lauren Dickason’s parents were present, as were other close relatives and members of the public.

Justice Mander said “there is a direct causal connection between your mental illness and your offending which significantly reduces your moral culpability”.

“This tragic event would not have occurred if not for the major depressive disorder that you suffered.”

Lauren at times nodded throughout the judge’s sentencing comments.

“This offending involved a mother who was afflicted with a disease of the mind that was causative of her actions,” Justice Mander said.

After her final sentence was handed down, Dickason remained calm and smiled at her parents, before exiting the court.

‘Focus on getting better’

Many statements from family read in court spoke of forgiveness for Lauren, with one close relative saying: “We seek no retribution or penalty against her.”

“She has already paid the highest price to a mother for her mental illness and will continue to pay the price for however long she lives.”

One of Graham’s sisters said “it would be nice to hear Lauren apologise for her actions”.

But she added, “I do not feel hatred towards Lauren”, rather describing her “deep disappointment and sadness”.

Another sister said, “Lauren perhaps it is time now to draw a line in the sand”.

“There isn’t much more to be said, what’s done is done.

“I would urge you to focus on getting better, serve your time and make your plans for your life after that.

“It is time to cut us loose and let Graham go, there is nothing that binds us anymore. I forgive you. I wish you no harm and I hope that you are well cared for wherever you land.

“But for now it is goodbye.”

The 42-year-old has pleaded not guilty to murdering her girls Liane, Maya and Karla in September 2021, using the defences of infanticide and insanity.
The 42-year-old has pleaded not guilty to murdering her girls Liane, Maya and Karla in September 2021, using the defences of infanticide and insanity.

Lauren’s father Malcolm Fawkes also spoke on behalf of both himself and Lauren’s mother Wendy Fawkes.

Fawkes pleaded with Justice Mander in his statement: “Your honour please have mercy on Lauren.”

He said “she has been punished enough already”.

Lauren’s husband Graham expressed a similar sentiment.

‘I hold no unforgiveness or anger towards Lauren’

He detailed how his family’s move to Timaru was meant to be “a new chapter” for them all, and one they had carefully considered.

He went on to say “on the evening of 16th of September 2021, our lives changed forever”.

“Losing all three lovely girls has had an immense impact on my life, Lauren’s life and the lives of our family members and friends.”

“My life as I knew it immediately ground to a halt,” he said.

He found the bodies of his girls – Liané was six and Karla and Maya two – in their beds at their temporary rental property.

He was due to start work at Timaru Hospital as an orthopaedic surgeon and had been attending a work function when the murders took place.

His statement referred to all he’s lost, including his life with his wife to whom he’s been married for 17 years, and the experience of seeing his children growing up.

“I will miss out on all their activities, their developing personalities, future interests in sports, cultural activities, hobbies and of course sharing this with them.

“I will not see them turning into beautiful young women and subsequently finding their own husbands and starting their own families and of course all prospects of having grandchildren on my own is also lost forever.”

But, he said, with the help and prayers of family and friends he’s managed to accept his current situation.

He’s faced his own mental health struggles as a result of the tragedy, explaining how he’s been diagnosed with acute stress disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Graham Dickason said he made the decision early on to forgive Lauren for what happened.

“Her punishment is already severe and her life will never be the same.

“I hold no unforgiveness or anger towards Lauren.”

Justice Mander at Lauren Dickason's sentencing.
Justice Mander at Lauren Dickason’s sentencing. (Source: Pool)

He said his hope for her is to have the best treatment and care to recover before returning home to South Africa one day.

“I am grateful that Lauren is being treated and taken care of in the New Zealand mental health system. I am concerned that she will not have the same care in the South African public health sector.”

His statement concluded with a tribute to his girls, “the real victims” of this tragedy”.

“We will think of them every day, miss them always and love them forever until we see them again.”

“I want to thank God Almighty for helping us through this. Without his love, no one going through a tragedy like this could ever have hope again.”

In Justice Mander’s address before handing down the sentence, he referred to Graham Dickason’s attitude.

“I need to acknowledge the grace and stoicism with which Mr Dickason has conducted himself throughout this nightmare.”

Mander also spoke of the pain he and the rest of the family must be in.

Inpatient treatment

Mander described to Lauren Dickason that her mental state is “fragile, with a poor prognosis if your treatment is not optimised”.

He explained medical experts have reached a consensus she requires a level of care that’s not available in prison.

“You are descried as primarily at a high in-care risk of suicide for which you require extensive treatment and rehabilitation.”

In light of that advice he said “I find that you remain mentally disordered and that your impairment requires compulsory treatment”.

The murder-convicted mother has been in Hillmorton Hospital ahead of sentencing and will now be moved to different clinical unit.

Mander said it will offer a “structured therapeutic environment”.

He said without that, her likelihood of suicide will increase in the coming months and years.

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“It will be for the relevant medical authorities to determine when you will be fit to be transferred to prison.”

Reporting by Lisa Davies and Laura James

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