Family, friends in South Africa 'in shock' over deaths

The couple with their three children on the twins' birthday in November last year. Photo: Facebook
The couple with their three children on the twins' birthday in November last year. Photo: Facebook
Family and friends of the Dickason family are at a loss to comprehend what went wrong in the lead-up to the death of the couple's three children in Timaru this week.

Twin 2-year-old girls Maya and Karla and their 6-year-old sister Liane were yesterday named as the dead children.

The mother of the three little girls appeared in court this morning charged with their murders.

Lauren Anne Dickason, 40, was arrested and charged last night and appeared in the Timaru District Court this morning.

She is charged with murdering Liane Dickason, 6, and her twin sisters Maya and Karla, who were 2.

No plea was entered.

Judge Dominic Dravitzki remanded Dickason in custody to a secure forensic mental health unit until her next appearance in the High Court at Timaru on October 5.

He ordered a mental health report to establish Dickason's state at the time of the offending under the Crimes Act.

Police at the scene of where three young girls were found dead in Timaru. Photo: NZ Herald
Police at the scene of where three young girls were found dead in Timaru. Photo: NZ Herald
South Canterbury District Health Board chief executive Jason Power this morning expressed his sorrow after the incident, "which involved a South Canterbury DHB team member".

"This tragedy has affected many of our staff, at this time our focus is to provide our full support to our staff member and to our staff."

The children's grandparents, in South Africa, say the whole extended family is "in a state of shock" since hearing the news, according to Stuff.

"The extended families are in a state of shock as we try to understand what happened. We ask for your prayers and support during this very difficult time. We would also request privacy as we battle to come to terms with what has happened," they said.

The children's grandfather also told Afrikaans website netwerk24.com they were "not in a position" to discuss the case.

In a written statement he said: "[We] were devastated when we heard of the terrible tragedy. The wider family is in shock as we attempt to understand what happened."

He also asked for prayers and support "in this extremely difficult time".

Those who know the couple describe the mother as "very humble" and "the nicest person".

"I cannot comprehend what happened - she is a medical doctor and she wasn't arrogant or anything like that. She was very humble," former colleague and neighbour, Natasja le Roux, told the Sunday Times in South Africa.

"She was really just a nice person, she and her husband."

The former neighbour said the couple had struggled to conceive their children and were dedicated and loving parents.

"They waited years for those children because she had troubles with fertility and stuff, so it really is a big shock," le Roux said.

A woman has been charged after 2-year-old twins Karla and Maya Dickason and their 6-year-old...
A woman has been charged after 2-year-old twins Karla and Maya Dickason and their 6-year-old sister Liane were found dead in Timaru. Photo: Supplied via NZ Herald
Mendy Sibanyoni, who worked as the couple's nanny between 2018 and last year, told netwerk24.com she broke down in tears when she heard the news.

"Those children, that family, are like my own. I was in their house...I went on holiday with them. [The parents] never argued. They were two darlings. What could have gone wrong?"

The couple had planned to visit South Africa next year and the girls' mother had promised to regularly send her pictures of the twins, to whom Sibanyoni had a close connection.

"[She] is such a gentle person, very humble. They were such a happy family..."

A family friend told netwerk24.com the couple had been married for 15 years and were "very excited" to emigrate to New Zealand".

"[The father] is such a gentle guy, smart and very popular. Now he is all alone over there.

"Hell, they hardly got there. They haven't had any time to make new friends. They probably don't even know where the local shops are."

Another former neighbour, who did not want to be named, said the couple were very "grateful" for their children.

"They absolutely adored those children. They were so grateful for having them because they struggled to get pregnant and when they finally got the children, they loved them," the neighbour said.

"Something just doesn't seem right to us. We don't know what happened. There is not a lot of information, but they are kind people.

"Something just doesn't add up. I don't know if it's the stress from New Zealand, moving there, being quarantined for so long and everything - just not coping with that going on. So I think whatever happened is not normal, it wasn't normal circumstances," the neighbour said.

The family moved from Pretoria to New Zealand at the end of August. They had been in Timaru for about a week, after immigrating and completing their stint in MIQ.

Power, the district health board chief executive, said in his statement this morning that it was natural to "feel distressed by what's happened".

"I encourage anyone who needs to talk to call or text 1737 – any time of the day or night - there are trained counsellors available 24/7. You can also talk to your own general practice team.

"Thank you to everyone who has offered support and kind messages, including our colleagues from other DHBs.

"We now ask that media and the wider community respect this family's privacy, and give them the space they need at this time."

As it was a police matter, it wasn't appropriate for district health board to comment further at this stage, Power said.

A scene examination will continue at the Queen St address today.

Our journalists are your neighbours

We are the South's eyes and ears in crucial council meetings, at court hearings, on the sidelines of sporting events and on the frontline of breaking news.

As our region faces uncharted waters in the wake of a global pandemic, Otago Daily Times continues to bring you local stories that matter.

We employ local journalists and photographers to tell your stories, as other outlets cut local coverage in favour of stories told out of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

You can help us continue to bring you local news you can trust by becoming a supporter.

Become a Supporter