'Everything was black and awful, game over': Lauren Dickason has legit insanity and infanticide defence, says expert

Lauren Dickason wanted to 'hurt' the twins from the age of six months

10 August 2023 - 07:42 By TimesLIVE
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Lauren Dickason shared this photograph on Facebook in November 2020, when the family were celebrating the twins' birthday.
Lauren Dickason shared this photograph on Facebook in November 2020, when the family were celebrating the twins' birthday.
Image: Lauren Dickason/Facebook

Forensic psychologist Ghazi Metoui has given evidence that supports the defence argument that Lauren Dickason is not guilty of murder.

After a lengthy battle with a major depressive disorder, her gruelling fertility journey including at least 17 rounds of IVF, the loss of a baby early in a pregnancy, and her struggles with motherhood, Dickason thought the “kindest thing was for them to check out”.

The former Pretoria orthopaedic doctor killed daughters Liané, 6, and twins Maya and Karla, 2, in September 2021, three weeks after emigrating to New Zealand. She is standing trial in a Christchurch court.

Media outlets including 1NewsNZ and the NZ Herald report five experts have given evidence on Dickason’s mental state — two supporting the prosecution case of murder and three who assessed her and believe she was insane at the time of the killing and support the defence argument of infanticide. Under New Zealand law, “infanticide” is a crime similar to culpable homicide and can be invoked by women who argue their minds were temporarily “disturbed”.

Metoui, the final witness in the trial, said while the killings were “brutal, callous, determined and deliberate”, she cannot be held criminally responsible.

“I consider that she was purposeful and deliberate throughout her offending and acted with full conscious awareness of her actions and with great determination to pursue her aims, the killing of her three young children. However, such was the severity of her depressive illness and associated distorted thinking at that time ... that ultimately, she thought she and her three children were better off dead.

“It is my opinion that she did not know that the alleged acts were morally wrong to the commonly accepted standard of right and wrong ... she has a defence of insanity.”

The defence of infanticide was also clear-cut, he said.

“Mrs Dickason has a history of post-partum depression after the birth of both Liane and [twins] Karla and Maya.

“My opinion is that her problems with depression in the 11-year period leading up to her alleged offending were very much embroiled in her fertility problems, losing her first child at 18 weeks gestation, antenatal anxiety and then postnatal depression that remained chronic — clinically referred to as the intermittent symptom pattern.

“She always had vulnerabilities in her earlier life since adolescence in her early 20s, and these in themselves are risk factors for developing post-partum depression.

“The fact is that declines in her mental health all occurred after 2010 from the time of trying to conceive to eventually having children.”

He found she met the medical and legal threshold for infanticide as her major depressive disorder at the time of the killings was “an extension and part of her chronic postnatal depression since 2015 after having Liane and re-emerging in 2019 after having Karla and Maya and episodically thereafter”.

During their consultations, Dickason told him she had first had thoughts of wanting to harm her younger children early in May 2019, when the twins were about six months old.

She told him “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.”

Dickason acknowledged having suicidal thoughts but without acting on them saying: “I always thought I could never leave the kids behind, always the one thing that stopped me.”

The second time she had thoughts of harming the girls was on August 1, 2021.

“She stated that in that moment, and very 'out of the blue', she had thoughts of hurting her children. She stated that unlike her thoughts the previous year that were non-specific and general, on this occasion, she formed specific thoughts and vivid images against all of her children.”

Metoui asked her how she had felt about those violent thoughts at the time.

“She stated 'I felt disgusted at myself. Why am I thinking like this? It's terrifying me. Making me feel even worse about myself. Even when I had these thoughts I loved them even more'.”

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

Her depressive state played a major role in the killings.

She felt hopeless and helpless, he said.

“Very close to the offending, her view of the world was that is was entirely malevolent, that her life was condemned and so was her children's and the kindest thing was for them to check out. She has consistently spoken about that.”

The jury is expected to begin its deliberations on Monday.


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