As the pale drawn figure of Lauren Dickason stood in the dock accused of murdering her three young daughters, flowers and soft toys piled up at the address where the girls died.
Dickason, 40, a medical practitioner appeared before Judge Dominic Dravitzki in the Timaru District Court and was remanded without plea to a secure facility at Hillmorton Hospital in Christchurch.
Police continued to guard the family's house in Queen St as bunches of flowers and soft toys, dropped off by the people of Timaru wanting to make a gesture recognising the tragic deaths of the children (Liane, 6, and two-year-old twins Maya and Karla) piled up.
Escorted by two police officers, Dickason arrived in court dressed in a hooded sweatshirt, soft shoes and black trousers. She looked calm and kept her arms folded close to her chest, staring at the floor for much of her appearance.
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Dickason, her husband Graham, and their three girls arrived in New Zealand last month and had been in Timaru for only a week.
Friends say the couple had been planning their dream relocation to New Zealand for two years. But the dream was shattered after one short week.
Graham, an orthopaedic surgeon, who was employed by Timaru Hospital, came home about 10pm on Thursday to find his three children dead.
Officials say they are working on facilitating urgent overseas travel for family to join him in New Zealand.
Back home in South Africa, friends and family are struggling to comprehend the enormity of the tragedy.
A woman who worked with the couple at Pretoria East Hospital and also lived in the same security estate for seven years (the Mooikloof Heights Estate in Pretoria East) said everyone liked them.
"They were a perfect normal family, they had the prettiest and neatest house in the estate, there was nothing strange, even when they spoke to each other it was calm and kind."
She had worked with both of them in the operating theatre where Graham was the orthopaedic surgeon and Lauren always assisted him.
"He is what you would call a genuine nice guy... she was more of an introvert; quiet, but very humble, It wasn't strange that she didn't speak much, it was just her nature.
"I want to share the good side about her, because all you hear now are terrible things... and she does not deserve that at all.
Lauren Dickason is accused of killing her three children, Liane, 7, Maya, 3, and Karla, 3, in Timaru.
She said the children were a regular sight on the estate.
"Before they sold their house, you would always find the nanny walking in the estate with the twins, it was as if there was a routine, for example between five and six, the nanny would walk with the twins so that she could probably, I presume, have time to give some attention to the eldest."
Life in New Zealand would have been very different.
Here she had a nanny, a domestic worker and a gardener who all helped in and around the house.
"She isn't an evil person, she was pushed outside her limits...but I think it might have been the extreme circumstances. Her mum isn't there, her family isn't there...who will know, we weren't there, not one of us. ....perhaps they didn't anticipate what it would mean to leave everything behind and go."
The woman said it had been terrible to witness how people reacted to the tragedy.
"It is so sad to see people make horrible comments, some saying she must burn in hell and why didn't she just kill herself, I mean she is in hell on earth now and the rest of her life.
"As far as I know they had fertility treatment, she struggled to fall pregnant with all of them, so it was precious babies all of them.
Another neighbour, Chantel Pretorius, said their children had gone to kindergarten together.
"That news is terrible, we don't know what to make of it."
"Their emigration took very long, they wanted to emigrate before Covid, and then Covid held everything back. Her last message to me was how panicked she was when there was a power outage at their home during the recent looting in South Africa. So they were really ready to get over to New Zealand, its what they worked for and planned for, it was their dream for two years.
Mendy Sibanyoni worked for the Dickason family for three years as the children's caregiver, from 2018 to 2020. She said she was not coping with the news, and hadnt slept since she heard.
She said Karla, one of the twins, had a tough time, needing a number of surgeries for a cleft palate.
She was supposed to do the last one when she was five. We went through a lot with that child. But she was perfect now. She was perfectly normal, just like her sister, a strong lovely girl."
Mendy Sinanyoni, nanny of the three daughters of Graham and Lauren Dickason, holds photographs of the Dickason family in her Pretoria, South Africa home.
She had followed the court proceedings, and heard Lauren didn't talk; I am asking myself over and over: What did go wrong, Lauren.
"That family was most awesome family that I have ever come across, I am torn apart really, torn apart..."
She had joined the family when the twins were just days out of hospital.
It was such an awesome family, such a good family I never heard any quarrel in the house or fighting from them, also the kids, as time goes, they were awesome kids, Liane used to love the sisters, because she is the older one."
"I used to spend most of my time there, sometimes weekends when they were busy with something or when they wanted to go out I will be there with the kids.
"They were happy, I never saw the wrong side of them, I don't know what happened now.
Through tears, Sibanyona said she had expected that the next time she heard from the family would be when they came to visit from New Zealand.
"I was expecting when they came to visit from New Zealand.......calling me and say: Come see us Mendy.....never...never...never did I expect this.
"Most of my time with them, I would be in the house, that is why I would share my things with Lauren, if I ever had a problem I would talk to Lauren, and we will sit down and try to figure out how we will solve that, and usually she would invite my kids in her house and everything...
"The last contact I had with Lauren was when I told her Lauren my other contract is ending can you please put an ear out for me for anyone who is looking for a job. And after three days she called and said Mendy someone is going to call you..so I went for the interview, and when I called her and said, 'Lauren, I got the job,' she was so excited and happy for me."
Doctors, staff and management of Netcare Pretoria East Hospital expressed their shock at the tragedy.
Commenting on the tragic circumstances, Pieter Louw, general manager of the hospital said, We are deeply saddened by what has taken place. Our hearts go out to our former colleagues, their families and loved ones to whom we offer our unconditional support at this very difficult time for them.
Where to get help:
1737, Need to talk? Free call or text 1737 any time for support from a trained counsellor
Lifeline 0800 543 354 or (09) 5222 999 within Auckland
Youthline 0800 376 633, free text 234 or email firstname.lastname@example.org or online chat
Samaritans 0800 726 666
Suicide Crisis Helpline 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)
What's Up 0800 942 8787 (for 518 year olds). Phone counselling is available Monday to Friday, midday11pm and weekends, 3pm11pm. Online chat is available 7pm10pm daily.
Kidsline 0800 54 37 54 (0800 kidsline) for young people up to 18 years of age. Open 24/7.
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