The Christchurch Civic Creche Case

News Reports Index

1993 Jan-May

The Press
May 15, 1993.

Jury in sexual abuse case visits site of Civic Creche

The jury in the High Court trial of the former Christchurch Civic Creche worker facing sexual abuse charges visited the site of the creche in Christchurch's Cranmer Centre yesterday.

The visit followed evidence from a detective who said a ceiling cavity in the centre's buildings had been discovered with the assistance of a boy complainant in the trial.

In evidence heard previously by the court the boy suggested incidents of sexual abuse had occurred in a building at the creche that was reached by means of a ladder.

Detective Neville Jenkins said he had taken the boy to the building in October last year to see if he could indicate areas where offending had taken place.

The boy was taken to an upper storey of the Cranmer Centre where he displayed particular interest in a catwalk that followed the outside of the building.

Detective Jenkins said he and another detective had returned to the roof the following day and noticed dents in the iron, which indicated a substantial amount of traffic.

The path of the dents appeared to lead to two manhole covers, which were easily removed. One led to the cavity that gave access to an upstairs kitchen in the creche building. A key to the kitchen area was found in the creche office.

In cross-examination by Mr Robert Harrison for the accused, Mr Jenkins said he could not say whether the line of dents in the roof followed a natural path for cleaning out the guttering.

He was aware a Marriage Guidance reception area that overlooked the roof they climbed had been operating since 1988. He agreed that anyone entering the cavity had to be extremely careful where they put their feet to avoid going through the ceiling. A forensic examination of the area had revealed no further evidence against the accused.

Medical evidence yesterday was that a lack of physical signs of sexual abuse in child complainants did not mean abuse had not occurred. Two medical practitioners explained injuries to children's anal or genital areas often healed rapidly and left no sign injury had occurred.

Dr Amama Thornley said she had found no abnormality after an examination of one of the complainants but that neither confirmed nor excluded abuse having taken place.

Dr Margaret Metherell, who examined four of the complainants, said one of the girls she had examined exhibited what she believed to be a genital abnormality. She felt there was a high probability the abnormality had been caused by some object penetrating the vagina.

Another child had a slight anal abnormality that some authorities associated with sexual abuse. The other two children had shown no abnormalities.

In cross-examination by Mr Harrison, Dr Metherell agreed doctors examining suspected abuse victims were hampered by the lack of research on children's genital areas. She could not exclude causes other than sexual abuse for the complainantís vaginal abnormality.