The Christchurch Civic Creche Case

News Reports Index

1993 Jan-May

The Press
February 4 1993.

Creche worker shocked

The reaction of a creche worker when she first heard allegations that fellow-worker Peter Ellis had committed indecencies against children at the Christchurch Civic Childcare Centre was total disbelief, the District Court was told yesterday.

Janice Virginia Buckingham, who also faces charges, said she had left a later meeting with the police in March 1992 with the belief Ellis was guilty and told him so.

“Detective Eade told us this man had been committing offences under our very noses and I came away thinking this was real.”

She had tried to comply with a police request for her to get Ellis to confide in her so she could relay the information back but in the end she "could not do it."

Ellis had telephoned her at home but she had found contact with him exceedingly upsetting because by June-July 1992 she was starting to doubt whether he had done anything.

She had visited him twice with another worker after the meeting with the police. One visit was to tell him the investigation was ongoing and the second was to tell him the staff individually and collectively no longer believed his answers.

Buckingham was giving evidence for the defence during a preliminary hearing to decide if 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, Buckingham, aged 45, and Marie Keys, aged 43, each face four charges. Deborah Janet Gillespie, aged 30, faces three charges.

Buckingham said she had considered she and Ellis were quite good friends. He talked to her and although he did not discuss his sexual activities with her often, they were discussed on about half-a-dozen occasions since 1986.

He seemed to deliberately embellish the stones to provoke a reaction from her. The disclosures did not upset her because she believed what he did with consenting adults in his own time was his business.

She had held no fears of his private life spilling over into his work and was happy to have him look after her own children, which he did on several occasions.

He was a creative, spontaneous childcare worker and children seemed to respond to his humour.

She was astonished when she heard a complainant had made an allegation against her because she hardly saw the boy and he would not know her.

She had not driven a car since she was 15 and could not have driven a girl to the beach as alleged. Neither had she lived in a house in Armagh Street as alleged.

In cross examination by Mr Brent Stanaway for the Crown, Buckingham said her former husband had stayed with Ellis for six months while they had marital problems but she saw less of Ellis as a result of that.

On one of the visits to Ellis's home after he was suspended he had said a game he played where he locked children in staff toilets could be made to look bad.

Before Buckingham began her evidence yesterday Mr Stanaway cross-examined Gillespie. She said deficiencies in recording walks away from the creche did not mean workers did not know where the children were. She had sometimes forgotten to fill in the book because she had been busy organising the children.

Ellis would pretend to lock children in the adult toilets while 20 or 30 children milled around washing their hands before lunch.

She had seen nothing sinister or unusual in it, she said. It had not occurred to her to tell the police about the incidents.

When children told her Peter was being silly they were laughing and she had no concerns they were trying to tell her about something serious.

She had spoken to Davidson about Ellis regularly wearing very tight shorts which she regarded as obscene and inappropriate.