WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — A New Zealand jury on Wednesday found a mother guilty of killing her three daughters after her defense of mental illness was rejected at a time when she could not have been held responsible.
Lauren Dickason, 42, previously admitted to killing her twin daughters, Maya and Carla, aged 2, and their sister, Leanne, 6, in their home in the town of Timaru nearly two years ago.
She pleaded not guilty to the murder, arguing that she had been suffering from severe depression that could be traced back to postpartum depression. Prosecutors admitted that Dickason suffered from depression, but said that was not enough to justify a medical defence. They said she killed her children out of anger and resentment.
They pointed to Dickason’s disturbing phone messages and Internet history in the weeks leading up to the murder, including comments about wanting to kill her own children and Google searches for “the most effective overdose in children”.
Dickason and her husband Graham Dickason, both qualified medical professionals, had moved from South Africa to New Zealand and settled in Timaru just days before the murders, seeking a more stable lifestyle away from the turmoil of their native land.
Lorraine Dickason first tried to kill her children with ligatures and then suffocated them with pillows. Then she put them in their beds under the covers and attempted suicide.
Graham Dickson, an orthopedic surgeon, returns from a business dinner to find his place dead children. 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 convictions on three counts of murder came after a four-week trial. Juries deliberated over three days and voted 11 to 1 to convict, a split permitted under New Zealand laws. Dickson faces a life sentence.
Radio New Zealand reported that Dickason was motionless in the dock as the verdict was read in Christchurch High Court, then wept softly as she left. RNZ reported that jurors could be heard crying.
Dickason’s parents released a statement saying the deaths were the result of their daughter’s debilitating mental illness.
parents Malcolm and Wendy Fox said in a statement, RNZ reported.
Detective Inspector Scott Anderson said the police wanted to express their deepest sympathies to the family members who will not be able to see Leanne, Maya and Carla grow up and live their lives.
“Words cannot begin to express the tragic circumstances of this investigation,” Anderson said in a statement.
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