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By Cornelia Le Roux

Digital Deputy News Editor

Dickason trial: How idea became belief that ‘brutal, callous’ murders are ‘happy ending’

The final expert to give evidence in the Lauren Dickason trial told the court of what flipped the switch in the SA mother's mind.

The headline-grabbing murder trial of South African doctor Lauren Dickason continued for its 18th day at the High Court in Christchurch, New Zealand, before a jury of eight women and four men.

On Wednesday, forensic psychologist Dr Ghazi Metoui was called to give evidence in support of the defence.

Lauren Dickason: SA mother admits to killing daughters

The 42-year-old Dickason has admitted to strangling her three little girls − Liane, six, and two-year-old twins Maya and Karla − with interconnected cable ties before smothering them to death one by one at their Timaru home, in Canterbury, on 16 September 2021.

She then tucked them in with their soft toys before attempting to to take her life with a knife and pills.

Her orthopaedic surgeon husband, Graham, discovered his daughters’ bodies when he arrived home from a work dinner.

The Pretoria family immigrated to New Zealand and had just completed their hotel quarantine, in Auckland, a week before to the horrific killings.

ALSO READ: Lauren Dickason searched ‘drugs to overdose kids’ on Google before ‘killing’ her children

Dickason defence based on insanity and infanticide

As the tragic and shocking events of 16 September has been playing out in court, Dickason has pleaded not guilty to the triple homicide charges and has mounted a defence of insanity or infanticide.

However, the Crown alleges Dickason is guilty of murder, saying she was aware of her actions before, during and after the crime. 

Metoui , who is the last expert witness to give evidence in the trial, believes she has a defence of insanity and infanticide.

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The Dickason girls. Photo: Facebook

According to the New Zealand Herald, he said he had interviewed Dickason for around 20 hours and had provided an extensive 69-page report to the court.

Metoui told the court Dickason’s mind shifted from thinking about harming her children to actioning those thoughts due to a change in belief.

When the murder-accused mother arrived in New Zealand, she believed that life was no longer worth living for either her or her children.

‘Violent ideation’ towards children

“Ms Dickason reported that it was early May 2019, when the twins were approximately six months old and struggling in her mood and coping, that she had her first violent ideation towards the children,” New Zealand news outlet 1News quoted Metoui as saying.

“The targets on that occasion were her twin children and not Liané. She stated that her thoughts were not at all formed in terms of the specific violent act against the children, but she acknowledged ‘a feeling that I wanted to hurt the twins’.

“She stated ‘I had thoughts of it would be nice to not have the twins for a couple of days. I had thoughts of hurting them. I wanted them gone for a couple of days. I wanted a break from the train station going the whole day’,” Metoui said.

ALSO READ: Lauren Dickason trial: Cable ties vs ‘too violent and messy’ shows ‘premeditation’

lauren dickason murder trial daughters
Lauren Dickason with her twin daughters Maya and Karla. Photo: Facebook

Dickason also told him about the third time she had thoughts of harming the girls, right before they left South Africa.

She told Metoui about a moment while in isolation at her mother-in-law’s home, where she thought of using cable ties on the children. She reportedly said this “planted a seed” in her mind.

“I had thoughts of doing what ended up happening… this devil on my shoulder came. This could be a way. I felt like a seed was planted that day.”

ALSO READ: Lauren Dickason murder trial: Expert says accused did not kill children ‘out of love’

Suicidal thoughts: Kids were one thing stopping Dickason

“Ms Dickason acknowledged having suicidal thoughts but without a plan or prospect or acting on them saying ‘I always thought I could never leave the kids behind, always the one thing that stopped me’.”

According to Newshub, Metoui told the jury he believed Dickason was suffering from a severe major depressive disorder that was an extension and part of a chronic postpartum depression. 

Metoui said she was consumed by morbid thoughts of suicide and eventually infanticide in the lead-up to the death of her children.

‘Very brutal, callous, violent’

He said the triple murders were committed in a “very brutal, callous, violent, determined and sustained manner”.

While the psychiatrist said Dickason was purposeful and deliberate throughout her offending, he said the severity of her depression and her perception of the world and herself as a mother meant she did not know her actions were morally wrong.

Newshub reported that Dickason told Metoui that the children were acting up by jumping on the furniture on the evening she murdered them.

When she walked down the hallway and saw their lunchboxes, it reminded her she still had to make their sandwiches but had no energy left.

“It was at that point that I decided that I was going to something,” she said.

ALSO READ: Lauren Dickason trial: Consequences of cable tie marks meant ‘no turning back’

Dickason: ‘I really wanted to die and take them with me’

“I decided I’m going to end everything. I really wanted to die and take them with me. I didn’t want to leave them without a mum, I loved them too much.”

Lauren sobbed in court as Metoui recalled how she killed her children. She then attempted suicide.

“It was meant to be a happy ending for everyone but it’s not a happy ending.”

ALSO READ: Lauren Dickason wants to ‘return to SA and die’ to be reunited with kids

Infanticide defence in New Zealand

The jury have now heard from five mental health experts who assessed Dickason after the children’s death – three called by the defence and two by the Crown.

Should the jury rule infanticide as the reason for the deaths, Dickason could be sentenced to just three years in jail. If they believe the prosecution’s version, she could be incarcerated for life.

The trial continues before Justice Cameron Mander.

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