WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — The father of three young girls who were killed last week in New Zealand said Thursday his precious angels had been ripped away from him in a loss he would carry for the rest of his life.
But orthopedic surgeon Graham Dickason also said he’d already forgiven his wife Lauren and urged others to do the same. He said she, too, was a victim in the tragedy.
Dickason wrote his thoughts in a letter that was read aloud by a reverend during a candlelight vigil that was attended by hundreds of people outside the family’s home in the South Island town of Timaru.
Lauren Dickason, 40, has been charged with murder in the deaths of her twin 2-year-old girls Maya and Karla, and their 6-year-old sister Liane, in a crime that has shocked New Zealand. She is being kept at a psychiatric facility ahead of her next scheduled court appearance on Oct. 5.
The Dickason family moved into housing for medical professionals near the Timaru Hospital in New Zealand less than a week before the killings. Before that, as new arrivals from South Africa, they were required to spend two weeks in a coronavirus quarantine hotel run by the military.
Graham Dickason returned home just before 10 p.m. last Thursday and found the bodies of his daughters, according to reports. Emergency services said that when they responded, they found Lauren Dickason, who was hospitalized in stable condition and later charged by police.
Neighbors called police when they heard a man screaming and crying.
A judge has suppressed the details of the alleged crime.
At the vigil, Graham Dickason said in his letter that parents of young children should remember to let them play wildly and to laugh.
The family had just moved to New Zealand from South Africa, where former neighbors and others who knew them laid wreaths and flowers later Thursday outside the estate where they used to live. Colorful wreaths lay next to a white cross at the housing estate’s entrance in the South African capital, Pretoria.
Christine Wright, who said she had been a patient of Graham Dickason’s, was one of those to bring flowers. She said she and her husband had seen news of the killings in South Africa, where it has gained media attention.
“We couldn’t believe it at first. I mean, it was just such a shock to us,” she said. We had to read it twice to actually realize that it was our doctor.”
Wright’s husband, Allan, said Dickason’s wife had assisted in some surgeries “and she seemed like a very nice person.”
Nothing on Lauren Dickason’s social media pages over recent months when she was living in Pretoria indicated anything was amiss.
She posted pictures of her family and of bakery treats, and wrote about the virus, urging people to get vaccinated. In May, she marked the couple’s wedding anniversary on Facebook.
“Happy 15th wedding anniversary Graham Dickason. What an adventure. We have truly created a beautiful family and had many good times together,” she wrote. “May the next years be more blessed, more happy and may the kids let us sleep.”
Her Facebook page says she went to high school in Pretoria and studied medicine in Cape Town.
Mandy Sibanyoni, who worked as a childminder for the Dickasons in South Africa, described them as an “awesome family” with “wonderful kids” and no obvious problems.
She said the only sign of stress she saw from Lauren Dickason was as a result of one of her daughters being born with a lip disfigurement, which needed surgical interventions. But both parents “loved their kids like nobody’s business,” she said.
“I’m torn apart, a part of mine is gone,” Sibanyoni said in an interview with The Associated Press last week. “And it’s like those kids, they are my kids too because I raised them.”
“I don’t know what to do about this because the only question that I’ve got now is, what happened? What went wrong? Because Lauren cared for her kids.”
Associated Press writer Mogomotsi Magome in Pretoria, South Africa contributed to this report.