The Christchurch Civic Creche Case

News Reports Index

1993 Jan-May

The Press
May 26 2003

Ellis 'looked surprised' in toilet

The man accused of sexually abusing children at the Christchurch Civic Creche looked surprised and defensive when seen in a creche toilet with a child, a witness told the High Court yesterday.

Ms Helen Pinfold, with whom the accused, Peter Hugh McGregor Ellis, aged 35, lived for two years, said the incident had happened when she visited the creche in 1990 or 1991.

She had wanted to use the adult toilet at the creche but found it occupied. Two children's toilets to her left were unoccupied.

When the door opened "Peter was there and so was a little girl". The girl had a frilly dress on and was from the "big end" of the creche.

She had asked him what the girl "was doing in there" and he had replied all the toilets were full. "I thought it was strange. Maybe the toilets were full, but what was he doing in there?"

Ms Penfold was a prosecution witness in the trial in which Ellis denies 25 charges of sexually abusing children at the Civic Creche and outside locations between 1986 and 1992.

She said she had first met Ellis in 1988 when they had both worked at the creche and he had come to live with her at her house in April or May 1987. He had brought all his animals from his previous address in Hereford Street including cats, dogs, budgies, ferrets, rabbits, and chickens.

Children from the creche would sometimes visit but not during the day and mainly in the weekends.

Ellis was particularly fond of two girl complainants in the trial and prefaced their names with "my".

In cross-examination by Mr Robert Harrison for the accused, Ms Penfold said she had waited about 30 seconds outside the toilet door before it was opened.

In other evidence Ms Jan Buckingham, a former worker at the creche, said Ellis had, after he was charged, told her games he played with children in the toilets at the creche could look bad. She later learned he was referring to a game where children were shut in the staff toilet while they shouted "Let me out".

At another occasion they had had a discussion in which he told her about taking photographs with a polaroid camera of his sexual exploits. (A complainant has alleged Ellis took photographs of an incident involving indecencies on the children.)
At one time he had also described a sexual practice which involved straws and wooden spoons being inserted in a penis. He had related the practice in a way that suggested he was interested in it.

In cross-examination Ms Buckingham said people were welcome at the creche at all times. Neither of the two complainants referred to her by Mr Harrison had ever appeared distressed after a walk from the creche.
The door between the "big end" play area and the toilets was closed only in very cold weather, she said.

Another former creche worker, Ms Joleen Cherry, named four children from the list of complainants to whom Ellis appeared close. Three of the four would go on regular walks with Ellis, she said.

She said Ellis had on occasion spoken to her about a Chinese man who liked to insert wooden implements into his penis. She was not sure whether Ellis knew the man.

Referred to an earlier witness who said he had seen Ellis with a group of 15 to 20 children in St Asaph Street she said the taking of a group of that size would practically have emptied the creche.

A detective gave evidence of finding four cavities big enough to accommodate an adult in Ellis's former address in Hereford Street. They were found above the fireplace, beneath the stairs, behind a built-in sideboard, and in a bedroom wardrobe. (One of the complainants had alleged he was forced to go through a trapdoor at an address away from the creche.)

Mr Barry Tronson, the owner of the house in Hereford Street, said Ellis came to live in the house as a boarder in late 1985. He could only recall one occasion when children were brought to the house and he had retreated upstairs. He discouraged bringing children to the house.

Other visits could have occurred when he was overseas in 1986 and other absences in the following years. He had kept in contact with Ellis after he had left the house in 1987 and Ellis would have known about his plans.

During his absences from the house other boarders had been in residence.

A horse had never been kept at the house and he had never seen Ellis drive a car, he said. (Complainants have made statements about Ellis's horse and his driving a car.)

The case is proceeding.