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Compiled by Narissa Subramoney

Deputy digital news editor

Dickason triple murder trial: Text messages reveal how SA couple’s marriage was tested

Covid-19 lockdown, July 2021 riots, lengthy immigration processes and quarantine in Auckland put massive strain on the family, courts hears.

The murder trial of the three Dickason children killed by their mother in New Zealand in September 2021 has drawn to a close for the week, but not before the court delved into deeply personal and eye-opening text messages.

Lauren Dickason is on trial in the High Court in Christchurch for strangling her three small daughters with cable ties shortly after the family of five immigrated to New Zealand from Pretoria in 2021.

Lauren is facing three counts of murder, to which she pleaded not guilty because of insanity and infanticide.

ALSO READ: SA’s mum of three, Lauren Dickason, to use insanity & infanticide defence in murder trial

Text messages show the couple’s love was tested

New Zealand publication Stuff reported on Friday the court was privy to deeply personal messages between the Dickason couple and messages Lauren had sent to her close friends.

Messages reveal how lockdown impacted Lauren

Lauren’s messages to close friends revealed how the global Covid-19 lockdown impacted the mother of three.

Lauren and Graham had struggled with infertility, and the couple turned to numerous IVF treatments to help her fall pregnant.

On Mother’s Day in 2020, during the pandemic’s epicentre, Lauren’s message to a friend stated that despite working so hard to be a part of the day, she “didn’t feel like a mum”.

“This year, I don’t feel like a mom. I feel like a dragon who is currently nagging all day long and trying to help my child with grade zero homeschooling.”

She was also evidently growing impatient with the immigration process, saying she wished the family was in New Zealand because then Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern had “basically eradicated Covid.”

“I love my kids dearly, but hell all day every day is not what any of us had in mind … I say things to Liané which just come out so nasty.

“I am also sad. Today was Mother’s Day. The day I worked so hard to be part of.”

ALSO READ: Dickason murder trial: Court hears from witnesses who first arrived on scene

July riots fuel fears of living in South Africa

In July 2021, two months before the Dickason’s move to New Zealand, civil unrest broken out in KwaZulu-Natal and parts of Gauteng.

The Pretoria-based family was not immune to the effects of the violent uprising and widespread looting that occurred that week.

Lauren, who had been off anti-depressants for a few months, had sent several messages to friends and Graham about her fears during the riots.

“Think we need to sleep with the firearm next to the bed tonight,” in a text she’d sent Graham.

“Liané is too scared to sleep on her own bed tonight and I just told her that we cannot go to the shops to buy toys because there are bad guys who steal things,” she told a friend.

There was also a power cut in the middle of the unrest.

“Oh, my shattered nerves. When the power just went off, I burst into tears and told Graham they are coming for us. Now he thinks I’m crazy, but that’s how my head works after this week. And my kids are at my mom’s.”

“When it went out, I burst into tears and told Graham they were going to storm us and take us out. My nerves are f…ing finished. And now my husband thinks I’m crazy … We are now sleeping with the 9mm next to the bed.”

Lauren described herself as “stressed” and “irrational” to another friend.

ALSO READ: Dickason triple murder trial: Husband grilled for not intervening sooner

Messages between the couple reveal their marital struggles

Deeply personal messages between husband and wife were also read out in court.

In March 2021, while still in South Africa, Lauren wrote to Graham: “I feel we need to get help. We can carry on as we are, but it is not at all pleasant, and it is going to do damage. We are better than what is currently happening. We worked hard for the kids, so we must give ourselves skills to deal with this together. To do it apart is not an option.”

“I miss you,” she said in a follow-up text. 

Graham replied: “I agree.”

Second thoughts about immigration

The Dickasons arrived in New Zealand in late August, where they spent two weeks in quarantine in Auckland.

During this period, in early September 2021, Graham messaged Lauren: “I love you. And I know there is a version of yourself inside of you that is just waiting to come out. A butterfly unfortunately has to spend some time in a cocoon. And after getting out the wings need to grow a bit as well. But then…”

In some messages to her friends, Lauren revealed that immigration had affected her marriage.

“I think we have had more fights in the past six weeks than in the last 15 years of marriage,” she told a friend.

Before leaving for New Zealand, the family had to be in insolation in South Africa. It was then Lauren started expressing doubts about the move.

She also described the quarantine in Auckland as the “hardest thing they have ever had to do,” and it felt like an “earthquake had gone through their marriage”.

“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.

The case will continue on Monday.

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