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Woman who killed her 3 daughters is sentenced to 18 years in jail

A mum who killed her three young daughters by smothering them in their sleep has been sentenced to 18 years in prison.

Lauren Dickason, 41, was found guilty last August of murdering her two-year-old twins daughters, Maya and Karla, and their six-year-old sister Lianè at their home in Timaru, New Zealand, on September 16, 2021.

Dickason at first tried to kill her children using zip ties and then suffocated them with pillows. She then placed them in their beds under the covers and tried to kill herself.

She admitted to killing the girls but pleaded not guilty to murder, arguing she was experiencing post-partum depression and was mentally disturbed at the time.

The judge ruled Dickason will spend 18 years – six for each daughter – detained in a mental health facility with no minimum term of imprisonment.

Justice Cameron Mander told the court that a life imprisonment with a minimum parole period of 17 years or more would be too unjust, the NZ Herald reports.

He sentenced her to three determinate sentences of 18 years to be served concurrently and did not set a minimum term of imprisonment.

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Judge Mander also ruled that Dickason would be detained at a mental health facility for compulsory treatment until she is mentally well to be transferred to prison.

Dickason will be eligible for parole after six years of her sentence has been served.

Through her counsel, the mother-of-three took responsibility for the deaths and apologised for the pain she had caused her husband Graham.

She said: “I loved Liané, Maya and Karla with all my heart. No apology will ever be enough, and words will seem hollow to many.

“I want people to know our girls brought me so much joy and were the centre of my world. I am horrified by my actions, and the pain, distress and trauma I have caused everyone who loved them. Like many others, I miss them every single day.”

Dickason, a former doctor, said she wanted people to know about the risks of post-partum depression and that she was dedicated to improving her mental health.

She added: “We urge other families to look for and act on unhealthy signs. We urge women experiencing the symptoms of post-partum depression to tell the ones they love.

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“This pain and heartbreak cannot happen to any other families.”

Judge Mander said Dickason had struggled with poor mental health for most of her life and was diagnosed with a major depressive disorder in her teens.
Her mental state worsened following the births of her daughters and she began seeing a psychiatrist for treatment for post-natal depression.

Dickason began experiencing intrusive thoughts of harming her children in the months leading up to the triple-murder, Judge Mander said.

Following her murder trial last August, the judge said he had been provided with three expert reports on Dickason’s current state of mental health.

The reports found she had “recognition of the impact of the offending on others” and that she had expressed “regret and remorse” for killing her three daughters.

Some experts said Dickason was still impacted by mental disorders.

Judge Mander said Mr Dickason, who is also a doctor, had conducted himself with grace and stoicism despite the “unfathomable loss”.

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He said: “Sentencing a parent for the murder of three children is unprecedented in New Zealand.

“The children were vulnerable because of their age, but they were entirely dependent upon you as the mother who they look to for care and protection.

“They would have viewed you as an unconditional source of safety and love… The ending represents a fundamental breach of trust.”

Dickason and her husband had moved to New Zealand from South Africa just days before the murders, seeking a more stable lifestyle for their family.

Her husband, an orthopedic surgeon, returned from a work dinner to find his children dead. He later told police that he knew his wife was struggling with her mental health and with motherhood but had no idea she was capable of killing.

The guilty verdict came after a four-week trial. The jury – comprised of eight women and four men – rejected Dickason’s legal defences under New Zealand’s insanity and infanticide laws and voted 11-1 that she be found guilty.

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