The Christchurch Civic Creche Case

News Reports Index

1993 Jan-May

The Press
February 3 1993

Claims against women bizarre

Claims that women workers had abused children under their care at the Christchurch Civic Childcare Centre were totally bizarre, the assistant supervisor of the creche told the District Court yesterday.

When a summary of the charges against her was put to her by her counsel, Mr Gerald Nation, Marie Keys said she found the whole scenario abhorrent and had never been involved in any abuse of any child.

If children had been kicked, burnt, and poked with needles as the prosecution had contended, they would be devastated and would not be able to cope, she said.

Children at the creche had never shown injuries consistent with such experiences and no parents had complained of relevant physical symptoms.

A child who had been kept confined behind a trapdoor or in a hole in the ground would exhibit signs of trauma.

Children had never returned from outings anything but happy, she said.

Keys said the toilets where Peter Ellis is alleged to have committed indecencies were a very open place and the creche had a continual stream of visitors.

The idea of Ellis and another creche worker, Deborah Janet Gillespie, having intercourse in front of children in the toilet area was bizarre because anybody walking in could have seen them, she said.

Keys was giving evidence for the defence during a preliminary hearing to decide whether five former creche workers accused of sexually abusing some children in their care will be sent for trial.

Ellis, aged 34, faces 45 indecency charges. Gaye Jocelyn Davidson, aged 39, Janice Virginia Buckingham, aged 44, and Keys, aged 43, each face four charges. Gillespie, aged 30, faces three charges.

Keys told the court bad language and physical punishment were not allowed at the creche. Children did play circular games in the main playroom and outside but had never played a game where 20 adults dressed in white danced around in circles. In cross-examination, Mr Robert Harrison for Ellis, referred Keys to a number of complainants and asked her what effect the alleged abuse would have had.

One complainant was a happy, smiley child who could not have maintained her happy nature had she undergone the abuse alleged. Keys said.

In regard to another complainant she said the staff and children at the creche had a close enough relationship for the child to have told someone about the alleged incident.

She said she would have noticed if the children were fearful as a result of threats allegedly made against them.

Under cross-examination by Mr Brent Stanaway, for the Crown, she agreed children of pre-school age could distinguish between cuddles and affection, and smacks and violence.

Some behaviour could, however, be misconstrued or exaggerated by children, she said.

Mr Stanaway pointed out that many of the children had not even told their own parents.

Keys agreed and said creche staffs relationship with the children could have been just as close as the parents'.

She conceded she had no training to detect signs of child abuse other than her own reading. She would not agree that children could become conditioned to abuse over a period of time and exhibit no outward signs of trauma or stress.

She agreed that parents of children at the creche said their children began exhibiting those indicators when they left the creche or after it had closed down.

Mr Stanaway referred Keys to symptoms such as fear of toileting, bedwetting, fear of the dark, and fear of penises.

Keys said many children starting school did not like going to the toilet, were not particularly hygienic, and were scared of the dark. "I would not relate them specifically to abuse," she said.

Gillespie began her evidence at the conclusion of Keys's evidence.

She repeated many of the points already made in other evidence that much preparation was required before children could be taken out on walks from the creche; that staff-children ratios had to be maintained at all times; that the defendants were never away from the creche together; that children had never complained of being touched in a way they did not like; that children would play games in circles and that no child had ever appeared traumatised at the creche.

Gillespie said she did not find Ellis attractive sexually and had never- been naked at the creche either by herself or with Ellis. A police allegation that she and Ellis had indecently touched each other was far-fetched and untrue.

She had found it necessary to speak to Davidson, the supervisor, about several aspects of Ellis's conduct, she said. He had taken games too far and been unsympathetic when a child had hurt himself.

He had also used inappropriate names.