WELLINGTON, New Zealand – A 40-year-old woman was charged Friday with the murder of three young girls in a crime that shook New Zealand.
Police did not immediately identify the woman, but the Stuff news agency said she was the girls’ mother, Lauren Dickason, a doctor who had moved from South Africa to New Zealand with her daughters and husband Graham Dickason, an orthopedic surgeon.
Emergency services said they found a woman, who was hospitalized in stable condition, when she responded to an incident at home in the South Island city of Timaru.
Police said the woman killed twins, 2-year-olds Maya and Carla, and their 6-year-old sister, Liane. Police said they had earlier given the wrong age for the girls.
The family had moved into a residence for medical professionals near Timaru Hospital less than a week ago. Earlier, as new arrivals in the country, they would have been required to spend two weeks in a coronavirus quarantine hotel run by the army.
Stuff reported that Graham Dickason returned home just before 10 p.m. Thursday and found the bodies of his daughters.
Stuff said neighbors Karen and Brad Cowper called the police when they heard a man screaming and crying. Neighbors said they asked the man if he was okay, but he didn’t answer except to say: “Is this really happening?”
Police said they were not looking for any other suspects.
Superintendent of Police John Price said, “Look, whenever our police personnel face a tragedy like this, you can’t help but take it personally. A lot of us are parents, We have children of our own, and the human side of us comes out.”
There was nothing on Lauren Dickson’s social media pages in recent months when she was living in Pretoria, South Africa, indicating that anything was wrong. She posted photos of her family and bakery treats, and wrote about the virus, urging people to get vaccinated. In May, she marked the couple’s wedding anniversary on Facebook.
He wrote, “Happy 15th wedding anniversary Graham Dickason. What a thrill. We’ve made a really beautiful family and have had so many wonderful moments together.” “May the next year be more blessed, happier and the kids let us sleep.”
Her Facebook page says that she went to high school in Pretoria and studied medicine in Cape Town.
Mandy Sibanioni, who worked as a child caregiver for the Dicksons in South Africa, described them as a “wonderful family” with “amazing children” and no apparent problems.
He said the only sign of “stress” he received from Lauren Dickason was the result of one of his daughters being born with a lip deformity, which required surgical intervention. But both parents “loved their kids like nobody’s business,” she said.
“I’m broken, a part of me is gone,” Sibanioni said in an interview with the Associated Press in Pretoria. “And it’s like those kids, they’re also my kids because I raised them.”
“I don’t know what to do about it because the only question I have now is what happened? What went wrong? Because Lauren looked after her kids.”
New Zealand Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson said the killings were “absolutely tragic” and that his heart goes out to all those involved in the family.
Inspector Dave Gaskin, commander of the Aoraki area, said the deaths were “incredibly upsetting” for Timaru’s residents, especially after a car accident last month killed five teenagers in the city.