The Christchurch Civic Creche Case

News Reports Index

1993 Jan-May

The Press
March 6 1993

Reputation in ruins after crèche case
by Martin Van Beynen

Former Christchurch Civic Childcare Centre worker Deborah Gillespie yesterday left the High Court in theory a free woman.

Privately she talks about a career and reputation ruined by the charges that she abused children in her care. She says she faces an uncertain and possibly threatening future.

Ms Gillespie was discharged on the one charge remaining against her after the Crown yesterday presented its final charges against her and the four other accused workers. Mr Justice Williamson dismissed the charge after hearing that the child who made an allegation of indecent assault would not be available to give evidence.

The Crown also reduced the number of charges the other accused face in their trial, which will start next month.

Ms Gillespie says her discharge .has left her with mixed emotions - pleased about the decision but conscious of the continuing ordeal for her former co-workers and of the long fight ahead to clear her name.

"I feel incredibly angry the charges got this far," she said. "I need to be seen not to have done any of these things."

Ms Gillespie, aged 30. started at the crèche in February 1988 after teaching at Aranui Primary School for five years. After becoming a senior childcare worker in 1991 she was put in charge of the "Womble" (very young children) end of the crèche.

She was highly regarded for her musical and drama abilities.

She accepts her much-loved career in childcare is dead, and that future work with children could now be misinterpreted.

"You're always going to be watched, and I could not make myself that vulnerable," she said.

"My life has been ripped out from underneath me, and no-one in their right mind would employ me and put their business or school at risk."

Ms Gillespie said she had been living life one day at a time since being arrested last October, and had not spent too much time thinking about her prospects.

Leaving town had been suggested to her, but she says if she is to effectively fight what has happened to her she will need to stay in Christchurch. Her friends and family are here and she has no desire to leave them.

"When I get my energy back I'm going to get angry. Then I will say somebody has got to pay for this."

Ms Gillespie's day-to-day life has been turned on its head by the charges. She could not find a flatmate and has had to rent out her house to pay the mortgage.

She felt vulnerable living on her own and now lives with a family. She does not go out much by herself because "there are people out there who hate my guts and want me dead".

She remembers two particularly dark moments. One was when she sat in a cell for three hours by herself after her arrest wondering what was happening to her co-workers.

"The other was when I was standing in the courtroom on the day of the arrest in an old tracksuit from which they had taken the cord. I felt like I was standing at the barbed-wire fence of a concentration camp, wide-eyed and terrified."

The exposure of her personal life had been like "taking off your clothes and walking through Cathedral Square", she said. The charges had forced her to advertise her lesbianism because one of the police witnesses was a former partner.

The support of co-workers, friends, and family had helped her cope. She says she derived strength during the depositions hearings from her innocence.

"I thought I have got nothing to hide. I'm innocent. All I can do is tell the truth."