Community encouraged to remember sisters in their own way on first anniversary

The Dickason children, Liané, 7, and twins Maya and Karla, 3, arrived in Timaru just days before they died. (File photo)

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The Dickason children, Liané, 7, and twins Maya and Karla, 3, arrived in Timaru just days before they died. (File photo)

On the first anniversary of the deaths of three young sisters the Timaru community is not planning a public memorial, but people are encouraged to remember the girls in their own way.

Twins Maya and Karla Dickason, 3, and their sister Liané, 7, were found dead in their Timaru home on the evening of September 16, 2021, having not long moved to the town with their parents Graham and Lauren Dickason.

Both medical professionals, Graham had taken a role at Timaru Hospital as an orthopaedic surgeon after leaving their home in Pretoria, South Africa.

The day after the girls’ deaths, their mother was charged with three counts of murder.

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In October 2021, her lawyer entered a plea of not guilty.

Dickason has not appeared in court since her first appearance in Timaru.

Her trial is set down for July 2023, and all detail of the offending is suppressed.

Community members gathered at the candlelight vigil held outside the Queen St property where the Dickason family briefly lived. (File photo)

Valentina Bellomo/Stuff

Community members gathered at the candlelight vigil held outside the Queen St property where the Dickason family briefly lived. (File photo)

In the wake of the deaths, which caused shockwaves across New Zealand and South Africa, a candlelit vigil was held outside their home, along with floral tributes and a public memorial at Caroline Bay.

Rev Alan Cummins, having met Dickason after the tragedy in his role as Timaru Hospital chaplain, led the vigil and read messages including one from the girls’ father.

A year on, Cummins said it was the first time he had been confronted with a tragedy on that scale.

There had been a need in the community to gather, hold space for one another and show support for the family, he said.

“It’s a bit like [what] we’re experiencing now with the Queen’s death, people were looking for an outlet, or a way to show solidarity and respect and grief for what had happened.’’

He said such terrible tragedies have a huge impact on a small community and referenced the Seadown crash which killed five Timaru teenagers just weeks beforehand.

“It rocks a small community, doesn’t it? Someone knows someone who knows someone. We were responding, giving people an outlet to express their grief, and they came out in great numbers.”

Graham Dickason returned to South Africa in late 2021. Cummins said he was not aware of his departure beforehand, but had been in touch with him several times before he left.

“Every time I saw him I said ‘goodbye’ in case that was it, and then he did up and go.”

People gathered to mourn the girls at Caroline Bay, floating flowers, including wreaths sent by family members in South Africa. (File photo)

Valentina Bellomo/Stuff

People gathered to mourn the girls at Caroline Bay, floating flowers, including wreaths sent by family members in South Africa. (File photo)

He said he considered holding some type of commemoration for the anniversary, but decided not to for “a lot of factors”.

Cummins said people may want to remember the children themselves, taking some time in the botanic gardens, the hospital chapel, a church or at the Bay with their own memories and reflections.

Asked if it had plans to acknowledge or memorialise the girls’ deaths, a Te Whatu Ora – Health New Zealand South Canterbury spokesperson declined to comment.

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