Timaru tragedy: Three sisters killed, South African family’s New Zealand adventure turns to tragedy

The family was picture perfect.

Three little girls with white blonde hair and big bright eyes, their parents beaming and adoring in scores of photographs.

They had been planning to come to Timaru for some time.

They left Pretoria, one of South Africa’s capital cities, to carve out a new chapter in their lives and by all accounts it looked like they were excited to arrive, ready to settle into Kiwi life in the South Canterbury town.

Graham and Lauren Dickason, together with their 7-year-old daughter Liane and twin 3-year-old girls Karla and Maya, made the move to New Zealand and into their home across the road from Timaru Hospital.

Graham is an orthopedic surgeon and Lauren a doctor in the same field.

They were put into a home leased by the hospital for visiting health professionals when they finished their stint in managed isolation and arrived in Timaru.

Days later, the ultimate tragedy unfolded.

About 10pm on Thursday emergency services were called to the house on Queen St.

There they found the three girls dead and a woman, believed to be their mother, with critical injuries.

The woman was rushed across to the hospital and remains there in a stable condition.

The house was cordoned off and put under guard – the little girls’ bodies still inside – until detectives and crime scene specialists arrived this morning.

Soon after 10am they converged. Some donned boiler suits and painstakingly combed the outside of the property for evidence before erecting a tent outside the front door of the house in question.

At 1pm police fronted the media.

Detective Inspector Scott Anderson confirmed the ages of the dead children, and that they were siblings.

“Those involved arrived in Timaru from South Africa in the last week,” he said.

“The investigation into this tragedy is still in its very early stages, but we can confirm that nobody else is being sought in relation to the deaths of the three children.

“Police are still working to notify to all next of kin, and for that reason – and to protect the privacy of those impacted by this tragedy – at this stage we will not be releasing further details regarding the victims.”

Anderson could not say how long the scene examination would take, or if anyone would face charges in relation to their deaths.

The children’s bodies were removed from the scene this afternoon.

An interim suppression order was made preventing the family’s names being published until police had time to inform next of kin overseas.

That order has now lapsed, meaning the Dickasons’ names can be made public.

The Herald understands the family has a small network of friends in New Zealand but no wider family.

It is still unclear what happened in the Queen St house last night – and why.

A neighbour told the Herald she heard a bang and then the sounds of sobbing and moaning at about 9.40pm.

“We went outside and realised it was coming from the neighbouring property,”Jade Whaley said.

She said while outside they saw a fellow neighbour speaking to a person at the back unit.

It is understood that neighbour then called police.

“Everything got cordoned off. We weren’t sure what had happened but we knew something significant had happened,” Whaley said.

Later on, they saw a woman being supported while she walked into an ambulance.

Graham and Lauren Dickason celebrated their 15th wedding anniversary earlier this year.

Lauren posted about the milestone on Facebook.

“What an adventure. We have truly created a beautiful family and had many good times together,” she said.

“May the next years be more blessed, more happy and may the kids let us sleep.

“Thank you for everything you do for us and your unwavering dedication to loving and providing for us.

“You are my everything.”

On August 30 Graham posted a photograph of his three daughters at an airport holding stuffed toy kiwis and looking happy.

A week before the family arrived in Timaru his wife also posted on a community Facebook page seeking advice on schools and preschools in the Timaru area.

By the afternoon, flowers had been left at the top of the driveway.

People spoken to by the Herald said it was a sad and shocking event.

The town is still reeling from the death of five local teenagers in a crash on August 6.

Javarney Wayne Drummond, 15, Niko William Hill, 15, Jack “Jacko” Wallace, 16, Joseff “Joey” McCarthy, 16, and Andrew Goodger, 15, were all killed when the Nissan Bluebird they were travelling in smashed into a concrete power pole.

The impact was so severe it sliced the car in half.

Only the driver, 19-year-old Tyreese Fleming, who was on a restricted licence, survived the smash.

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