26 Jul 2023

Detective pressed on checks done to ensure Lauren Dickason was fit for interview

7:40 am on 26 July 2023
Lauren Anne Dickason in the High Court at Christchurch on 17 July 2023, on trial charged with murdering her three children.

Lauren Anne Dickason in the High Court at Christchurch on 17 July 2023. Photo: Pool / NZME/ George Heard

Warning: This story contains distressing content.

The police detective who interviewed Lauren Dickason after she killed her three children has told the court he wanted to "show empathy" for the alleged murderer.

Dickason faced questioning at the Timaru police station less than 24 hours after she killed her three young daughters.

A video recording of Dickason's 2021 police interview played for the jury in the murder trial at the Christchurch High Court on Tuesday.

The 42-year-old has pleaded not guilty to the murders of two-year-old twins Karla and Maya, and their six-year-old sister Liané, rather arguing insanity and infanticide.

Defence lawyer Kerryn Beaton KC later turned the screws on both detective Michael Kneebone and the interview's supervising detective during cross-examination.

"What steps did the police as an organisation take to make sure that she was actually in a fit state to be able to participate in an interview?"

Beaton later asked Kneebone what checks he did to determine whether she was able to be interviewed.

"You didn't make any enquiries or checks yourself as to what medication she might've taken, or how that may have or may not have been affecting her at the time you interviewed her."

Kneebone replied: "Me making an assessment on how much medication she took, or what kind of medication, probably wouldn't have amounted to much."

Beaton cut the detective off: "I'm asking whether you made any enquiries of other people who might've had that information."

She continued to press the detective on Dickason's condition on 17 September 2021.

During the interview, Kneebone asked Dickason what the next thing she remembers after "she took the medication".

Dickason replied: "Waking up here (Timaru police station)."

The detective responded: "Waking up in Timaru Hospital?"

"Did that give you any pause for thought that she wasn't entirely sure where she was?" Beaton asked.

Kneebone told the court he was satisfied she understood the situation facing her. He added he was not concerned that Dickason was referring to her dead children in the present tense during their conversation.

The defence highlighted that Kneebone used "positive affirmations" when speaking to Dickason. Phrases such as "you're doing really well", "I know this is hard", "it's the right thing to do isn't it" and "you're being very brave" were used regularly in the hour-plus interview.

Kneebone also told Dickason there was "no manual to being a parent".

"Is that your normal approach to a suspect interview?" Beaton asked.

Kneebone said it was important to show Dickason empathy.

"I could see that she was struggling so I wanted to help her as much as I could."

Beaton asked why he did not halt the interview if he could see she was struggling.

"I didn't think she was struggling enough to stop, if I was to be honest," Kneebone said.

Lauren Dickason being interviewed by police in Timaru Police Station on 17 September, 2021.

Lauren Dickason being interviewed by police in Timaru Police Station on 17 September, 2021. Photo: Supplied

During the police interview, Dickason told Kneebone about her major depressive disorder diagnosis and how she had come off medication.

The court also heard details of what Liané said to her mother before she died.

"Not the two younger ones, but the oldest one was very angry and she wants to know why I'm doing this to them, because I'm the best mum and she loves me."

Quietly sobbing and wrapped in a blue blanket, Dickason spoke of the regret she felt for leaving South Africa.

"I just think we've made a bad decision. And I don't know what the implications are or what's happened last night now."

Sitting behind her legal counsel, Dickason cried as the recording was played in court.

The Crown's case is now concluded. The defence begins their opening arguments on Wednesday morning.

Where to get help:

  • Need to Talk? Free call or text 1737 any time to speak to a trained counsellor, for any reason.
  • Lifeline: 0800 543 354 or text HELP to 4357
  • Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 / 0508 TAUTOKO (24/7). This is a service for people who may be thinking about suicide, or those who are concerned about family or friends.
  • Depression Helpline: 0800 111 757 (24/7) or text 4202
  • Samaritans: 0800 726 666 (24/7)
  • Youthline: 0800 376 633 (24/7) or free text 234 (8am-12am), or email talk@youthline.co.nz|
  • What's Up: free counselling for 5 to 19 years old, online chat 11am-10.30pm 7 days/week or free phone 0800 WHATSUP / 0800 9428 787 11am-11pm
  • Asian Family Services: 0800 862 342 Monday to Friday 9am to 8pm or text 832 Monday to Friday 9am - 5pm. Languages spoken: Mandarin, Cantonese, Korean, Vietnamese, Thai, Japanese, Hindi, Gujarati, Marathi and English.
  • Rural Support Trust Helpline: 0800 787 254
  • Healthline: 0800 611 116
  • Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155\
  • OUTLine: 0800 688 5463 (6pm-9pm)

If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs