WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — A New Zealand jury on Wednesday found a mother guilty of killing her three young daughters after she recanted her plea, saying she was too mentally ill to take responsibility at the time.
Lauren Dickson, 42, admitted killing her 2-year-old twin daughters Maya and Karla and their 6-year-old sister Leanne at their home in Timaru almost two years ago.
She pleaded not guilty to murder, arguing that she suffered severe depression that could be diagnosed as post-partum depression. Prosecutors acknowledged that Dickson suffered from depression, but said it was not enough to warrant medical attention. They said that she killed her children out of anger and resentment.
They pointed to Dickson’s troubling phone messages and online history in the weeks leading up to the murders, including comments about wanting to kill his children and Google searches for “highly effective overdose in children.”
Dickson and her husband Graham Dickson, qualified medical professionals, moved to New Zealand from South Africa and settled in Timaru days before the murders, seeking a more stable lifestyle away from the turmoil in their home country.
Lauren Dickason first tried to kill her children using zip ties, then suffocated them with pillows. He then put them under the covers in their bed and attempted suicide.
Graham Dickson, an orthopedic surgeon, returned from dinner to find him Children died. He later told police he knew his wife struggled with her mental health and motherhood but didn’t know she was capable of killing.
The guilty verdicts on three counts of murder came after a four-week trial. Jurors deliberated for three days and voted 11-1 for the conviction, which is permissible under New Zealand laws. Dickson faces up to life in prison.
Radio New Zealand reported that Tickson remained motionless in the dock as the verdict was read in the Christchurch High Court, then wept quietly as he left. Jurors could also be heard crying, RNZ reported.
Dickson’s parents released a statement saying the death was a result of their daughter’s debilitating mental illness.
“We want to encourage families and individuals around the world to be aware of the symptoms of postpartum depression early, for yourself and the close family and friends around you,” said parents Malcolm and Wendy Fox. report, RNZ reported.
Detective Inspector Scott Anderson said they would like to express their deepest sympathies to the family members of Liane, Maya and Karla who were unable to grow up and live their lives.
“Words cannot express the tragic circumstances of this investigation,” Anderson said in a statement.