North and South
1996, Pages 54 - 69
Second Thoughts on the Christchurch Civic Crèche case:
Has justice failed Peter Ellis?
By David McLoughlin
Former day care worker Peter Ellis is now three years into the 10-year
jail sentence handed down after he was found guilty of 16 counts of sexually
abusing young children at the Christchurch Civic Creche. As time passes, the
case against him looks less and less credible.
Ellis is supposed to have subjected large numbers of children to horrific
abuse over five years. According to the prosecution he sexually violated
children, defecated and urinated on them, stuck sticks and needles into their
anuses and penises and forced them to stand naked while women creche workers
danced around them.
All this and much more supposedly happened without a single child complaining
or showing distress, without a single parent or other adult noticing anything
wrong, without a shred of medical or forensic evidence to support the charges
of such vile abuse.
Since his trial, a growing body of evidence has come to light suggesting the
justice system failed Peter Ellis. That parental hysteria created many of the
allegations of abuse. That seriously flawed methods were used to extract
"evidence” from very young children. That the police lost all sense of
perspective while investigating the case. That mistaken rulings by the trial
judge, upheld by the Court of Appeal, cost Ellis a fair trial. That the
evidence overall was so suspect, a jury in possession of all the facts could
not have found Ellis guilty beyond reasonable doubt.
This is the full story of the Civic Creche case. It's at least as disturbing
as the highly selective one the jury heard.
David McLoughlin is a North & South senior writer. He has been
researching the Christchurch Civic Creche affair for 18 months. Last year he
helped produce a TVNZ Assignment documentary on the case.
On Saturday, June 5 1993, a jury in the High Court at Christchurch returned
16 guilty verdicts against Peter Hugh McGregor Ellis, then aged 35. The
verdicts related to alleged offences against seven small children and
followed the six-week trial of Ellis on some of the most sordid charges laid
in this country.
The jury of three men and nine women decided that Ellis, formerly a worker at
the central-city Civic Childcare Centre (the "Civic Creche"), had
urinated on two children, made one masturbate him, put his penis in the
mouths of three of them, engaged in indecent touching of three and put his
penis or an unknown associate's penis against the vagina or anus of three.
The offences allegedly happened at the creche, at an unknown address and at
Ellis's home while he was babysitting a creche child.
Ellis steadfastly protested his innocence but he didn't impress either the
jury or the trial judge, Justice Williamson. The jury heard evidence of
Ellis's flamboyant personality, his heavy drinking and his delight in
shocking his women co-workers by talking about practices like "golden
showers", a term that means urinating on one's partner for sexual
pleasure. While summing up the case for the jury, the judge called such
practices "kinky" and emphasised the prosecution's claim they were
similar to what Ellis was charged with doing to the children.
"Unlike almost all of those who have pubIicly feasted off this case, the
jury actually saw and heard each of the children," Williamson told Ellis
17 days later when sentencing him to 10 years' jail. "They also heard
your own evidence and that of the other former Christchurch Civic Creche
workers. The jury disbelieved you. They believed the children and I agree
with that assessment.'
Believe the children.
It's the key to this entire case, the reason Ellis might have been wrongly
convicted of the horrendous crimes with which he was charged.
The required standard of proof in New Zealand criminal cases is that of
“beyond reasonable doubt" . The onus is on the prosecution to prove
guilt to that exacting standard. Mere suspicion that someone is guilty is not
enough. The fact the police, the prosecutor, the judiciary or the jury might
have found Peter Ellis an unsavoury character should not ordinarily have been
enough to find him guilty without substantive evidence. As will unfold, there
was none in this case.
But in charges of sexual abuse the law was changed 11 ears ago to allow
juries to convict alleged child molesters on the uncorroborated
word of young children, even those barely out of nappies and barely able to
express themselves. Their "allegations" might be nothing more than
playing with bizarre looking "anatomically correct dolls" that have
penises, vaginas and anuses. What the children say or do is interpreted for
juries by psychiatrists and the Social Welfare staff who conduct videotaped
"evidential interviews" with children suspected of being abused.
Since 1989, these videotapes have been admitted in court as the
evidence-in-chief of child complainants.
The philosophy behind the law change was laudable. It was designed to convict
child molesters in cases lacking physical evidence or the absence of adult
witnesses to heinous acts which, by their very nature, occur in private.
As will also unfold in this story, however, the law change opened the prospect
of miscarriages of justice.
The child psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers who promoted the
change were driven by an American theory that a child claiming to have been
sexually abused must always be telling the truth, because such horrible acts
are outside the experience of anyone who hasn't suffered them. With that
theory goes the belief that a child who denies being abused, or who retracts
a previous allegation, has still been abused but is in a psychological state
called "denial". These experts even argue that parents who claim a
child hasn't been abused are also "in denial".
The "children never lie" theory was used to support allegations of
sexual abuse that broke out like plague at childcare centres in California
and elsewhere from the early 1980s. Scores of American men and women
childcare workers were jailed after highly publicised court cases eerily
similar to the Civic Creche affair. Identical cases followed in Britain. As
with Ellis, the American and British childcare workers found it almost
impossible to defend themselves in the face of experts who claimed abuse had
occurred whether the child alleged it or not and whether corroborating
evidence existed or not.
More recent research on the credibility of child witnesses, however, has cast
serious doubt on the convictions of many of those overseas childcare workers.
Many have been freed from jail and pardoned or acquitted on appeal. But that
research, at least until now, has been of no help to Peter Ellis, who to this
day languishes in Rolleston Prison, south of Christchurch, still protesting
Picture the Civic Creche case as a judicial iceberg. The 16 counts involving
seven children that Ellis was found guilty of were just a third of the 48
counts involving 21 children he originally faced. In turn, those original
charges formed but the tip of a far greater iceberg that seethed beneath the
surface of the case, enveloping scores of Christchurch families in a trauma
from which many will probably never fully recover.
At least some of the large team of detectives who investigated the creche
case believed the Civic was a den of iniquity supplying children on demand
for paedophiles and child pornography. They believed Ellis was merely the
worst of many offenders involved.
In addition to Ellis, the police arrested four women creche staff during the
investigation. Three, the supervisor Gaye Davidson and staff members Marie
Keys and Jan Buckingham, each faced four indecency charges. The fourth,
Debbie Gillespie, faced three charges: Like Ellis, they denied the charges
against them at an early stage. They were discharged just before his trial.
At least 127 children were interviewed. Some detectives believed that dozens,
perhaps up to 80, had been abused. They also believed far more adults than
Ellis and the four women were involved. Interviews with the children carried
on to the start of the depositions hearing (the district-court proceedings
which decides if a prima facie case exists) in November 1992.
A leading member of the police inquiry team told me that more women creche
staff and even Ellis's mother were facing arrest when a halt was called to
allow the case to go to depositions. The same officer left me in no doubt
that he and other detectives even now do not consider the case is closed.
The women were arrested late in the inquiry, six months after the first
charge was laid against Ellis and only a month before the depositions
started. Their arrest followed the police investigators asking themselves the
obvious: How could abuse on the scale alleged have occurred without anyone
noticing, unless Ellis's co-workers were either party to it or covering for
But even if the women were participants, how to explain why none of the
parents noticed anything amiss? The Civic Creche was a Mecca for New Age
liberal parents. Many were articulate middle-class professionals, some even
social workers and sexual-abuse therapists highly likely to have alerted
their youngsters to the danger of sexual abuse. For five years, none so much as
Many of the alleged offences supposedly occurred in the toilets of the busy
and popular creche. Others allegedly occurred at other addresses around
Christchurch, during the walks around town the children were taken on by
Ellis and other staff. Despite Ellis being accused of sodomising children,
forcing children to eat his faeces, urinating on them, suspending them in
cages, putting them in ovens or taking them on terrifying trips of abuse
through tunnels, ceilings and trapdoors, none showed any sign of those
ordeals. To the contrary, there was considerable evidence that the children
loved not just the Civic Creche but particularly the outrageous Ellis, the
darling of many staff, parents and children alike.
To explain this further incongruity, the police, supported by Christchurch
psychiatrist Karen Zelas and the Social Welfare staff who interviewed the
children, came up with the theory - similar to that used in many American
creche cases - that Ellis so terrorised all those children, by threatening,
for example, to kill their parents if they revealed the abuse, that the
children remained silent until the evidence was coaxed out of them during
videotaped interviews conducted by the Social Welfare staff.
Many of the parents and at least some of the police team also believed that
the Civic Creche affair had all the hallmarks of the "ritual abuse"
alleged in many of the American cases.
Like the Civic, many American cases involved allegations of children
being supplied for organised paedophilia and pornography rings as well as for
ritualistic abuse and Satanic rites similar to the allegation that Ellis and
his Co-accused forced children to stand naked inside a circle of dancing
Allegations of ritual abuse swayed
many juries in the United States in the 1980s but the Christchurch crown
prosecutor, Brent Stanaway, had no intention of putting such bizarre claims
before a conservative Christchurch jury. From his arrival on the case halfway
through the depositions, to the end of the trial, Stanaway fought to keep the
case narrowly confined to simpler accusations of abuse, based on the
video-taped testimony of the most credible-sounding children.
The Crown's determination to spare the jury the bizarre allegations didn’t
stop the defence from trying to raise them in defence. Defence counsel Rob
Harrison sought to show the jury the tapes in which children who were the
subject of more credible charges went on in subsequent tapes to describe such
incredible events as being suspended in cages from rafters and having lighted
paper stuck in their backsides.
Harrison wanted the jury to see tapes because he believed they would cast
reasonable doubt on the more credible testimony. He regarded this as the crux
of the defence case. But Justice Williamson ruled that such crucial tapes
were not relevant to the charges against Ellis and he placed such strict
limitations on playing them that Harrison believed the defence was mortally
Court of Appeal judge Sir Maurice Casey, subsequently upholding Williamson’s
ruling, said: “He was clearly right in seeking to prevent the trial becoming
enmeshed in all the collateral and peripheral matters covered in the tapes
not relied on by the Crown and about exposing the jury to the playing of many
hours of irrelevant material, thereby distracting them from consideration of
the real issues.”
This was a case it seemed the defence could not win whatever argument it put
up. Ellis was confronted with the view of Karen Zelas, a veteran expert
witness in numerous abuse cases, that virtually any behaviour exhibited by a
child was consistent with sexual abuse.
The Court of Appeal adopted this ethos when confronted with a retraction by
Child S, the Crown's prime witness. S was the oldest and most credible of all
the children. Her evidence was the first heard by the jury, which convicted
Ellis of all three charges involving her. A year later, during the appeal
process, she told her parents she'd lied about Ellis. Nothing had happened.
Picking up the theory that a retraction is merely “denial”, Sir Maurice Casey
wrote, "We are by no means satisfied she did lie at the interviews,
although she may now genuinely believe she did." He discharged Ellis on
those three charges alone, only reluctantly, on the grounds it would be unsafe to let those convictions stand,
given her retraction.
Justice Casey retired from the Bench 10 months after his verdict on Ellis's
appeal. In his retirement speech, he said the saddest aspect of his 21-year
judicial career had been watching a massive increase in cases of child sexual
Christchurch in late-1991 was a city in waiting for a major child-abuse
scandal. Peter Ellis, as many of his supporters have observed since, was
inevitably going to be part of it, an accident waiting to happen because of
his gay flamboyance.
In the few years immediately preceeding the first allegations of abuse at the
Civic, Christchurch was home to several abuse scares - the so called Ward 24
case regarding highly suspect interviews of children at Christchurch Hospital;
The mistaken mass-diagnosis of children at the Glenelg Children’s Health
Camp; and the Spence family affair which concerned highly questionable claims
that a father abused his children. Some of the professionals involved in the
Civic case, including psychiatrist Karen Zelas, had a role in some of those
too. And it was well known round town that various Christchurch police
officers were hunting for a near-mythical pornography-paedophile ring alleged
to involve judges, Freemasons and prominent businessmen, though it was never
For two months from early September 1991, there was more or less continuous
publicity of sexual abuse and ritual abuse of children in the local press or
in national media many Cantabrians would have seen. Much of it was prompted
by a family-violence conference held in the city in early September 1991,
attended by 250 people, including some from Australia and the United States.
One conference event in particular attracted considerable attention: a
workshop on satanic ritual abuse run by Wellington abuse counsellor
Anne-Marie Stapp. She was prominent in an organisation called the Ritual
Action Group, another member of which was a Wellington policeman, Laurie
Stapp told the Christchurch daily The Press, in an article published on
September 4, that New Zealand was fast approaching the level of ritual-abuse
awareness found in the US. She said ritual abuse took many forms but nearly
always involved the cult of Satanisrn, with the victims being used in worship
rituals where they were abused in a humiliating and sadistic way. Stapp's
colleague Jocelyn Frances claimed cult members in New Zealand came from
groups developed from fundamentalist Christian churches, the Freemasons and a
sex ring that operated among businessmen. Stapp claimed to have interviewed
three ritual-abuse survivors and said 20 more had sought help.
A variety of print and broadcast media stories on sexual and ritual abuse of
children followed, including a big Sunday News report on November 3, quoting
policeman Laurie Gabities, who alleged Satanism was rampant in New Zealand
and linked to child pornography.
Seventeen days later, the first complaint about Peter Ellis was made to
creche supervisor Gaye Davidson.
New Zealand’s first American-style daycare abuse scandal probably couldn't
have happened anywhere but Christchurch, and even there it couldn’t have
happened anywhere but the Civic Creche. No other city or town in the country
had experienced the garden city's run of well-publicised sexual-abuse scares
and the Civic Creche was one of a kind, the trendiest creche in Christchurch,
if not in New Zealand.
The Civic, owned by the Christchurch City Council, was located in the Cranmer
Centre, the former girls' high school complex adjacent to Cranmer Square in the
central city. The creche wasn't the centre's only occupant. Marriage guidance
services, rape counsellors and the like occupied offices all over the
rambling complex. Then, as now, the notice boards along its many corridors
carried messages and posters promoting a variety of feminist and liberal
Most of the Civic's 80 or so full-time and part-time children came by car
from all over the metropolitan area. Their predominantly middle-class parents
shared in common the full range of liberal values from anti-racism to gender
equality. Many had taken part in the Springbok tour protests of 1981. Many
were teachers, journalists, social workers and the like.
"There were no plumbers or truck drivers there," says former creche
worker Stephanie Hauiti, who came to the Civic after teaching at a kohanga
reo. "I was accepted because I was taha Maori, but I'm from the wrong
side of town and I was nothing like the parents. My kohanga parents didn't
agonise over the correct gender for a nursery rhyme character, which was
important to the Civic parents."
In November 1991, the very month the first allegation of abuse was made, the
Education Review Office issued a report warmly praising the Civic.
By most accounts, Ellis was extremely popular with children and parents
alike. His over-the-top, mincing campness, his habit of wearing make-up and
his cutting sense of humour were pluses for many parents. It's said the
chance to be exposed to a gay man was one reason some parents sent their
preschoolers to the Civic. "He was the kind of male role model many
parents wanted their children to look up to " says another former staff
On the other hand, some children disliked Ellis for his boisterous play which
sometimes turned into inappropriately rough play, earning him a number of
formal and informal warnings over the years. Supervisor Gaye Davidson had
also had to reprimand him for drinking alcohol in his lunch hour. A smoker,
he was in the habit of hiding in a toilet cubicle for a cigarette.
Ellis is the eldest of four children whose parents separated when he was
nine. He picked tobacco in Motueka after leaving school, then went overseas
for two years, on his return holding a number of jobs, some of them
responsible positions which he apparently found stressful and set him
drinking heavily. He had been unemployed for some time when he arrived at the
Civic in September 1986 on a two week community service order for benefit
fraud, his only prior conviction. He liked the creche and staff, children and
parents liked him, so he stayed, completing a childcare certificate on the
job between 1987 and 1989.
"Peter was an anarchist," says Mary Cox whose three children
attended the Civic over a 10-year period. “He was the one who stirred things
During the depositions and trial, there was extensive unchallenged evidence
that Ellis was boisterous in his play with the children. Some enjoyed this,
others apparently did not. He frequently took groups of children for walks
around the city, often to the nearby Botanic Gardens, once by his own
admission to a house he'd lived at in Hereford Street on the other side of
the city centre, where he'd shown children his prize collection of rabbits
and other animals.
There was also unchallenged evidence that Ellis liked to shock his fellow
workers, especially the less mature, younger ones, with talk of sexual
practices. As well as the "golden showers" already mentioned, Ellis
himself told the High Court he'd spoken of a practice he'd read about in a
book whereby two males would insert each end of a straw in the other's
However damagingly all this was painted in the High Court, nobody at the
Civic Creche thought for a moment that Ellis or any other staff member was a
danger to the children. Nor do those parents and staff members who to this
day believe in his innocence accept that he or his colleagues had the
opportunity to abuse children.
"I used to drop in at any hour of the day," says dentist Bernie
Wynn-Williams, whose surgery is less than five minutes' walk from the Civic.
His three children attended the creche over eight years. "I didn't just
go in and out to see how my child was getting on. If I had time between
appointments, I'd stay for half an hour. They never knew when I was coming
and you could get into the creche through any of several entrances.
"I was put off when I first saw Peter Wynn-Williams continues. "I
thought he was a bit strange and that I'd better watch him. I was never
totally at ease with him, because of the things he said to shock people. But
nobody there had the opportunity to do anything to the children. A lot of the
abuse supposedly happened in the toilets, but I never once saw the toilet
"My impression of Peter was that he was blissfully unaware of the danger
his tongue would one day get him into."
On the morning of November 20 1991, a creche mother phoned supervisor Gaye
Davidson and alleged her preschool son had accused Peter Ellis of sexual
abuse, specifically stating the child had said to her while in a bath:
"I don't like Peter's black penis." The mother told Davidson the
boy had made a similar comment to his grandmother.
The identity of the complainant children in this sad case may not, quite
rightly, be revealed. Their parents' identities are also suppressed by law,
to protect the children. For the purposes of this article, therefore, the
children identified will be usually identified by the initial of their first
name. Their parents will be similarly
identified by their first initial. For example, Child A or Mother B.
However, several children and several parents had the same first names. Three
mothers central to this story had identical first names beginning with the
letter S. They will thus be identified here as mothers S1, S2 and S3.
The parent who phoned Gaye Davidson that fateful November day was Mother S1,
and her son, for the purposes of this story, is Child F. Mother S1's
profession was as a counsellor specialising in sexual abuse. She told
Davidson that F would not return while Ellis was there. Davidson was
legitimately concerned. After she discussed it further with the boy's mother
and a city council official, Ellis was put on temporary leave pending an
Five days after her complaint to David son, S1 contacted Christchurch
detective Colin Eade, who asked to be kept informed. The same day, her son F
underwent the first of the many scores of video taped interviews of children
in this case. F was adamant he hadn't been abused and maintained that stance
determinedly in subsequent interviews until (and including) his final one in
September 1992. No charges were ever laid in respect of him.
Meanwhile, rumours of Mother S1's allegations and Ellis's suspension spread
through the creche community. Journalists were sniffing about. Aware of this,
the creche management committee met on November 28 1991. Present were Eade
and Sue Sidey, the Social Welfare psychologist who conducted most of the 127
child interviews. It was decided to call a meeting of all current parents to
explain what was happening. Mother S2 was delegated to organise it.
The parents' meeting took place on the evening of December 2. That morning, an article in The Press had
revealed Ellis's suspension. Malcolm Cox, Mary's husband, describes the
meeting that night thus: "We were sitting there when the door opened and
[Mother S1] came in and burst into tears. [Mother C] raced over and comforted
her, sat her down. A clutch of them
hovered around her. You knew who the victim was supposed to be. The city
manager, John Gray said there was concern, but Colin Eade said he hadn’t seen
anything that convinced him there was abuse.
Malcolm Cox says the meeting wasn't given much detail: "Someone asked,
`Are we talking about tickling or penetration?' Sue Sidey from Social Welfare was asked
about symptoms and said we should look for bedwetting, nightmares and
tantrums. Her statement was greeted with a collective drawing in of breath.
What children don't have some of those symptoms?"
Sidey told the parents they should not directly question the children about
abuse. Parents who suspected a child had been abused could bring the child to
her to be interviewed.
From that point, Cox says, creche parents divided into the two camps they
remain in till today - those who believe abuse occurred, those who believe
nothing happened: "Next day, a kid turned up at the creche and asked
where the witches were. His dad had come home from the meeting and said there
was a witch hunt going on. "
Following the meeting, some parents formed a support group for Mother S1. Two
of them, mothers S2 and C, promptly sent their sons to Sidey for interviews.
C's son said Peter tickled him and stole his food, but despite direct
questions, neither child told Sidey they'd been abused. On December 20, Colin
Eade wrote to the creche management committee saying he'd found no evidence
of abuse but added he didn't believe Ellis was an appropriate person to be
involved in childcare. He apparently reached his conclusions without having
interviewed Ellis, who remained suspended.
Mother S1 didn't accept Eade's conviction that her son hadn't been abused.
Parents who supported her continued to send their children to Sue Sidey for
videotaped interviews. As 1991 became 1992, S1 approached an increasing
number of creche parents to warn them Ellis might have abused their children.
She became a virtual telephone-exchange of information, real and imagined,
about the Civic and what supposedly went on there. Questioned during the
depositions hearing, S1 agreed that Sidey had warned parents not to share
information, because it could taint the evidence, but S1 said she believed
such "secrecy" allowed abuse to continue.
S1 withdrew F from the Civic and put him in another Christchurch day care.
Soon afterwards she alleged a male worker there had also abused him. An
investigation of this charge too found it groundless, but this didn't stop
the police from taking seriously her many subsequent claims, increasingly
absurd though they became.
On January 30 1992, mother S2, the organiser of the December parents' meeting
in took her daughter, R, who’d not even attended the Civic, to Social Welfare
to be interviewed. R was diagnosed as having been abused by Ellis; the
allegation was indecent touching. It supposedly happened in the few moments
she was on the creche premises while her mother picked up her son.
The police immediately cranked up the investigation. Several other children
whose parents had been in close contact with S1 were interviewed in February
and March and what they told Sidey was also diagnosed as evidence of abuse.
The police and Social Welfare quickly decided they were dealing with an
extremely serious case of multiple child abuse. They decided to call a
meeting of current and past creche parents to alert them to the fear many
more children than those already interviewed might have been abused.
Invitations were mailed, asking parents to attend a meeting on March 31 at
Knox Hall on Bealey Avenue, several blocks north of the Cranmer Centre.
The Knox Hall meeting took place in an atmosphere of alarm and hysteria among
creche parents. The day before, Detective Colin Eade had arrested Peter Ellis
on a charge of indecently assaulting R. Ellis's first appearance in court,
the day of the meeting, fed a media frenzy that had begun a week before when
word that the meeting had been called spread through the city.
An article in The Press on March 23 was headlined Parents In Terror Of Abuse
Discovery and said up to 200 children might be involved in an investigation
at the Civic. Holmes the same night claimed police had received 20 complaints
of abuse and believed at least 50 children were involved. Karen Zelas
appeared on Holmes to tell parents not to question their children but send
them for specialist interviews. She also talked about behavioural symptoms
that suggested sexual abuse.
Why did the police wait until the very eve of the Knox Hall meeting to arrest
Ellis? They'd had R's videotaped testimony for two months. Without doubt, the
timing of the arrest inflamed an already heated atmosphere. It seemed
designed to cause Ellis maximum prejudice. And why choose the allegations by
R, when they'd had stronger claims from other children for at least a month?
Eade was asked these questions in court almost 18 months later. He conceded
he'd interviewed Ellis when he did because the Knox Hall meeting was the next
day. He'd hoped to question him about other children but ran out of time.
Asked why Ellis hadn't been interviewed earlier, given the police had the
videotaped testimony, Eade replied: "The decision was made above my level
for the interview to be done at that time."
It's interesting to note that R's unsupported allegation didn't proceed. The
charge involving her was dropped without explanation even before the
Knox Hall was crammed with angry, frightened and bewildered parents on the
night of March 31. All the seats were taken and parents stood in the aisles
and along the walls to hear the police, Sue Sidey, Karen Zelas and others
talk about the investigation and alert them to possible signs of abuse. Parents
were told that all children who'd attended the Civic during Ellis’s five
years there should be interviewed.
They were given a pamphlet headed "What To Do When A Child Tells Of
Abuse" (the word "when" was crossed out and replaced with a
handwritten "if '). It outlined five basic rules: believe what children
say; say you're glad they told you; say you're sorry it happened; tell them
it's not their fault; let them know you'll help.
Parents were given phone numbers to call to arrange videotaped interviews,
offered counselling for themselves, their children, even relatives, and given
Accident Compensation forms to claim the $10,000 which at the time was
automatically paid to anyone claiming to have been sexually abused.
"I'm not saying the thought of ACC payments motivated anyone," says
Malcolm Cox, "but I'm sure it had at least an incidental effect. We were
even visited at home by a council social worker with an ACC claims form who
said we had to get in quick to claim the money because lump sums were being
abolished. I said we had no fears our children had been abused, and she told
us we should still claim now and change our minds later if we wanted
Acc paid more than $500,000 to around 40 parents of Civic children. Many
payments were the standard $10,000, but in cases where Ellis faced multiple
charges relating to a single child, some parents claimed for each alleged
incident of abuse. One child's parents claimed five payments another four.
ACC didn't require a conviction before paying out. It paid up without so much
as charges being laid in respect of some allegations. The police even wrote
letters to ACC supporting compensation claims.
The Civic inquiry quickly became one of the biggest police investigations
Christchurch had experienced. A team
of detectives was appointed, led by Detective Sergeant Bob Hardie, under the
overall responsibility of Chief Inspector Brian Pearce. Sue Sidey was unable
to cope with interviewing scores of children by herself, so several other
Social Welfare staff were assigned to help her.
The production-line interview process soon led to further charges against
Ellis, who was on bail, living on the dole. Four new charges were laid on
April 14 1992, five on June 6, one on June 25, six on June 30 and a massive
14 on September 25, a week before Gaye Davidson, Jan Buckingham and Marie
Keys were arrested. Before laying each set of charges, a detective
interviewed Ellis, played him the relevant videotapes and sought his comment.
He denied each allegation.
The creche, meanwhile, remained open. For months after Knox Hall, Ellis was
the only suspect. But gradually parents began withdrawing their children.
Apart from the investigation team, few people knew the exact nature of what
Ellis had allegedly done. The new charges read out each time Ellis appeared
in court were vague counts of indecent assault. This didn't stop the spread
of rumours, but even the rumours were nowhere near as extreme as what finally
surfaced when the depositions hearing began in November.
"The story we heard was that Ellis had abused a kid while
baby-sitting," says Malcolm Cox. "When we finally discovered what
he was really supposed to have done, it was so bizarre it was laughable. It
would never have got that far if more people had known earlier on what was being
The allegations and charges became more serious, or, depending on your
viewpoint, more off the wall, as the interviewing went on. They started with
claims Ellis had indecently touched children. Some of these indeed allegedly
happened during baby-sitting. They moved on to acts of sodomy, oral sex,
penetration with fingers and sticks and then vicious vaginal rape. Next,
Ellis was said to have urinated on children and made them drink his urine or
eat his faeces. Towards the end of the interview process, he'd supposedly
taken children through tunnels, across rooftops and inside ceilings on
safaris of abuse, as if the many other occupants of the Cranmer Centre
wouldn't have noticed.
The later allegations featured Asian men dressed as cowboys, Masonic lodges,
cemeteries, the Park Royal Hotel and private houses far from the creche. Also
featured were women creche staff, not just the four who were charged. With
them came a panoply of other adults, never found, with names like Spike,
Boulderhead and Yuckhead. Ellis's mother also featured. Children were
allegedly suspended in cages from rafters in a big hall in the Cranmer
Centre. And, of course, there was the notorious "circle incident",
where Ellis and his co-workers supposedly took a group of children to 404
Hereford Street on the other side of town and made them stand naked and kick
each other while the adults danced around them.
Not part of the videotaped evidence, but alleged by one parent, was the
sacrifice of a boy called Andrew. His body hasn't been found, nor has he been
Anyone familiar with the American daycare cases would immediately recognise
the Civic scenario as a carbon copy of numerous scandals in California and
elsewhere. Most of those started too with a single charge of indecent
touching. Most of them too then progressed via a similar interviewing process
to allegations of sexual violation, urinating and defecating, child sacrifice
and weird rituals involving women day-care staff and outsiders. Additionally,
most of the American cases also involved middle-class parents and relatively
less-affluent creche staff, male and female.
Many of the 127 Christchurch children who underwent videotaped interviews
were seen only once, with Sidey accepting they hadn't been abused. But many
others were interviewed time and again, often because of parental pressure,
with some being subjected to as many as six interviews lasting between one
and two hours. Some of these children denied in early interviews they'd been
abused, then made allegations in subsequent interviews. Many allegations
become more bizarre with each interview.
At the centre of this whirlpool of allegation and suspicion was, throughout,
S1. Each time her son, F, was interviewed by Sue Sidey's team he steadfastly
denied Ellis had done wrong. But, according to his mother, when speaking to
her he produced a steady diet of lurid allegations. She, in turn, fed those
tales to the police, many of whom spent a lot of time trying to confirm them.
At least some of the detectives accepted what she said was true.
S1 discussed allegations with parent J, mother of L. Charges followed
regarding L. Then J told the police she was concerned another child, SB, had
been abused, which caused SB to be interviewed. S1, S2, J and C had frequent
discussions. C spoke to parent G, leading to G's son A being interviewed. He
led police across the Cranmer Centre's rooftops, though no evidence,
fingerprint or otherwise, was found to support claims Ellis had taken
children over the roof and through the ceilings. S1 spoke to AJ who passed on
concerns to AD, mother of children B and C who went on to become
complainants. And on it went.
This without doubt was major networking between parents who, convinced large
numbers of children had been abused, passed on every rumour, allegation and
suspicion to each other. At every new snippet, parents would ask their
children if it happened. They planted the idea in young minds. Many of the
charges against Ellis and the four women demonstrably stemmed from this.
It must be emphasised that not all parents were involved in this networking.
The parents of the Crown's prime witness child S, had no contact with S1's
group. Their daughter's allegations against Ellis , involving indecent
touching at the creche and while baby-sitting, were made without any apparent
contamination from other parents. That's why she was so compelling a witness.
She was also the one who recanted during the appeal.
Most creche parents were well educated, rational and thoughtful individuals.
I met many of them from both sides of the argument while working on last
year's Assignment programme on the Civic creche. Most of those who believed
Ellis guilty were as credible as most of those who believed him innocent. How
many parents, assured by experts their children had been abused, would doubt
what they had been told?
Probably the most suspect of all the "evidence" came relatively
late in the investigation from a boy whose allegations led to the arrest of
Davidson, Keys and Buckingham. This boy, N, and his mother, S3, were the ones
who came up with the "circle incident", the "cages"
Andrew's "sacrifice" and other absurdities that helped to put the
women creche staff under suspicion. His mother became second only to S1 in promoting
the belief the Civic was a lair of mass ritual abuse.
Before the Knox Hall meeting, S3 hadn't been much concerned at the abuse
rumours. believing they didn't affect her family. Knox Hall changed her mind
and she set about enthusiastically questioning N. "The impression I got
[from the meeting] was that you don’t approach the child directly in regard
to what may have happened,” S3 stated during the depositions. “I chose to
ignore this. The way we worked with N was that if there was a problem, we would ask a direct question.”
N underwent five videotaped interviews between May and October 1992. Each
produced progressively more unusual claims. The first allegation Social
Welfare extracted from the by-now six year-old N was that Ellis "wobbled
my dick" while changing his nappy at the age of three. Yes, this led to
a charge of indecent assault, though it was dismissed by a sceptical judge at
depositions. At later interviews, N alleged Ellis defecated on him in a bath,
stuck a stick in his anus, sodomised him and subjected him and other children
to the "circle" ritual at the house in Hereford Street (he knew the
address because his mother took him there on the way to see Sidey). Still
later came the cages. His mother also claimed he'd been forced to kill
"Andrew" with a knife during a sacrificial rite. Sidey, despite
prompting him, couldn't get N to verify this palpable fiction.
The detail N gave worried Sidey and Zelas. Sidey declined to interview him on
one occasion because she suspected too much maternal prompting. Zelas also
noticed parental questioning of L.
"It is clear that L's parents elicited disclosures of abuse by Peter
Ellis by highly leading questioning," Zelas wrote in a letter to
Detective Sergeant John Ell on August 28 1992. "N's brother and parents
did the same. In N's case, the parents subjected him to intensive
interrogation pertaining to ritual abuse... N would then disclose in the next
interview with Sue Sidey the information elicited by his parents the previous
But far from this casting doubt on the allegations, to Zelas it made them
“extra important" because of supposed similarities between what N and L
were saying. Small wonder that Ellis's lawyer, Rob Harrison, rhetorically
asked Zelas during the trial if anything wasn't evidence of abuse.
At the depositions, N's mother demanded that an American ritual-abuse
"expert", Pamela Hudson, be brought to Christchurch. S3 was
familiar with Hudson's work. N's allegations contained all 16 of Hudson's
"indicators" of ritual abuse; everything from being defecated and
urinated on to being held in cages and partaking in sacrifices.
Despite the lurid nature of N's evidence and the blatant maternal coaching
which produced them, Ellis was found guilty on three of the four counts
concerning N that reached the High Court. The only one the jury rejected
concerned the "circle" incident.
A year ago I sat in S3's living room with Assignment reporter Rod Vaughan and
director Di Musgrave. For more than two hours we listened to S3, her partner
and a friend describe in disturbing detail what she claimed had happened to
her son and other creche children. N was at a table behind us the whole time.
I kept glancing at this young boy, about the same age as my own eldest child.
He sat rigid as a board, eyes bulging, as he listened to every word. It was
hard not to believe N was indeed the victim of abuse.
Last October, S3 applied to Justice Williamson for the five videotaped
interviews featuring her son. "I believe it is necessary to obtain
copies of those tapes to assist N in his healing process," she said to
the judge. "He has told me he would like to be able to see the tapes and
I think that it is important that he see them in a safe
environment." She enclosed a
letter from her son's therapist supporting her application. I'm told Justice
Williamson agreed to give her the tapes before his untimely death after heart
surgery six months ago.
Several meetings with S3 left me in no doubt she fervently believed the Civic
Creche was a hive of abuse. She's now a leading figure in a ritual-abuse
organisation, partly funded by the Lotteries Commission, that publishes a
newsletter which regularly attacks those who doubt ritual abuse happened at
the Civic or anywhere else.
The August 1992 interviews with N, citing the circle incident, put women creche
staff under suspicion for the first time. Helping to confirm it was a report
on the creche prepared for the Christchurch City Council by psychologist
Smart's report assumed Ellis was guilty, despite it being written almost a
year before his trial. It contained extensive accounts of his deviant
lifestyle, allegedly related to Smart by his co-workers, though reading the
report one sees the influence of mother S1 too. Smart quoted now-discredited
research by the New Hampshire sociologist David Finkelhor, whose 1987 book
Nursery Crimes became the bible for American believers in ritual abuse.
Finkelhor's "research" highlighted the alleged involvement of women
day-care workers in sexual abuse.
Detectives involved in the Civic case told me Smart's report was central to
their decision to investigate Ellis's female colleagues.
To the police, the possible involvement of creche workers other than Ellis
gave the case an alarming new dimension. The women N had named still worked
at the Civic. It meant scores of children might still be at serious risk.
They decided the creche must be closed for the safety of the children. This
was done abruptly on September 3 1992. All 13 staff were made redundant. It
was a controversial closure that much later resulted in the Employment Court
awarding the sacked staff $1 million damages. The council's appeal against
this decision is due to be heard in the Court of Appeal in August.
In late September 1992 the police decided they had enough evidence to charge
Gaye Davidson, Jan Buckingham, Marie Keys and Debbie Gillespie. Before
arresting them they decided to search their homes and that of another creche
staff member, Jenny Wealleans. It's symptomatic of the state of mind of the
police team at this time that they didn't go to the nearby district court to
get a judge or registrar to sign the search warrants. Instead, they went to
the suburbs to get the signature of an elderly justice of the peace, despite
it being 10am on a weekday, when the court was open. The irresistible
inference is that the police thought a judge might ask tough questions about
After Ellis's trial, Marie Keys' husband, Roger, officially complained about
the process used to get the warrants. Detective Superintendent Neville Stokes
accepted it was valid criticism.
"There is a general police policy... that legal documents should be
obtained from a court when these facilities are open and to use justices of
the peace out of hours,” Stokes wrote to Roger Keys. "Detective Legat
[who obtained the warrants] acknowledges he was aware of this policy but on
this occasion made a decision to use a JP on the basis that the issue would
be more secure. I do not support that explanation, but it was a judgement he
The houses were searched for everything from address books and pornography to
babies' bodies. Nothing was found. The women were arrested amid massive
televised publicity of the most prejudicial kind. Davidson, Keys and
Buckingham were charged with assaulting children during the "circle"
incident. Gillespie faced three preposterous indecency charges. The first
alleged she had sexual intercourse with Ellis on the creche toilet floor
while children watched. Its basis was welfare interviewer Cathy Crawford
interpreting how a girl played with dolls. The second alleged Gillespie and
Ellis had sat naked in the creche and put their fingers in a two-year-old's
vagina. It resulted from insistent, leading questions from the same
If anything stands out about the four arrested women it is their
ordinariness. The thought of the kindly Marie Keys taking part in the sexual
abuse of children is laughable. The charges against the four were so
preposterous it is extraordinary they were laid, let alone survived almost to
trial. All four were sent for trial after the depositions. The only charge
against them dismissed at depositions was the one claiming Gillespie had sex
with Ellis. Justice Williamson reluctantly discharged the women before
Ellis's trial, on the grounds their chances of a fair trial would be
prejudiced by their association with Ellis. He later rejected their
application for costs, making it abundantly clear in his judgement that he
supported the police decision to bring charges.
The police who decided to arrest the women believed creche staff socialised
together, as if this proved criminal intent. They believed they watched
pornography together, but not a shred of evidence was found. The police
seized pornographic videos from shops and individuals all over Christchurch
and tried to link them to the Civic inquiry, but there was no link. Mothers
S1 and S3 were always approaching the police alleging fantastic conspiracies
involving the creche staff. They adopted a number of their delusions as
In Davidson's office at the creche, the police found two obviously joke
employment letters, one purporting seriously to decline a job application,
its twin stating the creche already employed a paedophile, so it didn't need
another. At Gillespie's house they found an equally joking scrap of paper
about children watching through a window as "Mr Playschool" had sex
with women inside a house.
Senior police officers proffered these stupidities to me as proof of their
allegations against the women, even though the documents concerned had been
suppressed during the depositions and had not been presented at Ellis's
trial. One senior detective showed me an intercepted letter, written by Ellis
from jail to Jan Buckingham's daughter. It contained raunchy sexual comments
the officer rightly intimated were unacceptable to send to a child. But the
daughter concerned is 23. Ellis says he wrote the letter in response to one
from her. This also raises the question, what right do the police have to
intercept letters from prison inmates and show them to passing journalists?
It would be easy to allege bad faith on the part of the police involved, but
having met the leading investigators and discussed the case with them, it's
clear everything they did was based on their firm belief the Civic was as bad
as they portrayed it. Like the parents, they were told by experts this was
The man in overall charge, Chief Inspector Brian Pearce, was vilified after
appearing on Holmes in June 1992 to say the Civic was evidence society was
reaping the fruits of mocking Patricia Bartlett, John Banks and God. But Pearce and his colleagues genuinely
believed the Civic was a den of Sodom. Society has reached a sad stage when
good men like Pearce are attacked for their moral and religious beliefs
rather than the evidence they put forward of a crime. The evidence was sadly
wanting in the Civic case but not the investigators' convictions.
The most serious criticism of the investigators, police and Social Welfare
staff, has to be the fact they lost all sense of perspective. Nobody, it
seems, stood back and asked if the fantastic tales they were hearing were
plausible, given all the circumstances. All appear simply to have accepted
the theory that any allegation of abuse must be true.
Crown prosecutor Brent Stanaway was apparently the first to realise the
limitations of the police case. He quickly narrowed the charges. In the
absence of medical evidence, charges of sodomy and vaginal rape became Ellis
placing his penis against vaginas or anuses. Stanaway strove successfully to
prevent any whiff of ritual abuse from reaching the jury. Though the women's
participation was crucial to the police case, Stanaway was able to convince
the jury of Ellis's guilt without the women being in the dock too. He ran a
case good enough to put Ellis away for 10 years despite the abundant doubts
raised by the nature of the evidence, or lack of it.
Of 28 charges that reached the trial, the jury found Ellis guilty of 16 and
not guilty of nine. Three others collapsed during the trial when children
denied them. One child innocently told the court that "Cathy taught me
what Peter did" before the interview began. Cathy Crawford was the
interviewer whose interpretations led to Debbie Gillespie's arrest.
Since the trial of Peter Ellis three years ago, strong new evidence has
emerged to cast serious doubt on the case against him.
While helping with the Assignment programme on the Civic affair I sent
thousands of pages of court documents and transcripts of the videotaped
interviews to one of the world's foremost experts on the credibility of
children's evidence, Professor Stephen Ceci of Cornell University, New York
State. Unlike the "rent-an-expert" typically wheeled into trials by
the prosecution and defence, Ceci has never taken the stand for one side or
another in a child-abuse case, but he's conducted extensive academic research
I asked Ceci to review the material I sent him and to come back with whatever
he made of it, whether he thought Ellis guilty or innocent. His considered
response was heavily damaging to the Crown case.
"This case entailed an array of factors that give me cause for
concern," Ceci said.
"Children frequently reported highly implausible events that were never
checked, for example the presence of the defendant's mother during baths,
repeated sodomy occurring only minutes apart with other children who were
said to be present, and they were never reined into reality. That some of
their claims were plausible is no assurance that they did not emanate from
the same sources as the implausible claims."
Ceci said the child interviews were not the worst he'd seen, nor the best.
They were typical of those in the US in the late 1980s. He didn't believe
Sidey and her team engaged in a witch hunt, but nor was their style designed
to maximise accuracy. They didn't query allegations to test their veracity,
but they repeatedly pressed for details of abuse.
"There wasn't any effort to falsify the [interviewers'] hunches [that
Ellis was an abuser]. Often there was a repetition of questions: it was almost
as though the interviewers were surprised that the child said `that's all' Mr
Ellis did to them and therefore they would repeat the same question over and
over again. There wasn't an effort to rein the children back into reality
when they roamed into these fabulous claims. Whether or not the interviewers'
minds were made up prior to the interviews I can't say, but what I can say
[is] there was no serious attempt to test an alternative hypothesis to the
[Crown's] claim that Mr Peter Ellis molested these children."
Most compelling was Ceci's verdict on whether the alleged abuse had occurred.
"Some of the things the children said I would be exceedingly sceptical
that they ever occurred. It, in my experience, is exceedingly unlikely that
you can coerce a group of children this age into silence for prolonged
periods of time when the following were allegedly involved... anal
penetration, forcing children to walk over precarious ladders perched high
above buildings, defecating and urinating on children... these are events
which cause almost instant revulsion in children, night tremors,
unwillingness to go to school, fear of the perpetrator.
“In my view it is very very unlikely that you could persuade children to be
silent about that for long periods and also to exert affection for the
perpetrator which many of these children did. So on that level I'm
exceedingly sceptical. I don't think the bizarre stuff happened. Does that
mean nothing happened? Well, I simply
don't know. No one else knows either except God and Mr Peter Ellis."
I sent Ceci's 14 close-typed pages of reasoned comments to Attorney-General
Paul East. He passed them to the Crown Law Office, which apparently gave them
to Social Welfare. Neither organisation has publicly challenged Ceci's
Since then, new New Zealand research has emerged to cast doubt on the
multiple interviews of the Civic children. For a research project, Hamilton
child psychologist Jane Rawls had 30 five-year olds play dress-up games alone
in a room with a man called Trevor. The games consisted of the child and
Trevor selecting two items of clothing from a box and putting one item of
clothing on themselves and one on the other.
No clothes were removed to do this.
Later, each child was interviewed four times in a manner similar to Social
Welfare evidential interviews. Some were asked open questions about what
happened, others were asked leading questions such as, "Did Trevor put
his hand over or under your dress?" Seven children reported they had
been abused, either by genital touching, having their bottoms touched or
being made to touch Trevor. Of course, no abuse happened, as could be proved
by videotapes of the dress-up games.
"Their errors seemed to evolve over time with repeated interviews,"
Rawls wrote in the April 1996 edition of Law Talk.
Her research casts obvious doubt on the accuracy of the multiple interviews
and leading questions used to elicit evidence from the Civic children. Social
Welfare reacted critically to Rawls' findings, but a police response was
" Our concern about the research is the number of interviews that were
carried out," wrote police legal adviser Mark Copeland and child-abuse
interview training coordinator Wendy Burgering in a letter to the Dominion on
May 31 1996 after the paper published an article on Rawls' research.
"Dr Rawls stated she did four interviews with each child. For specialist
interviewing this is well above the standard practice of one interview.
Specialist interviewers are very aware of the problems of the reliability of
the disclosure through overinterviewing."
Just one interview? Tell that to the Civic Creche prosecutors.
Did Ellis get a fair trial? Auckland
University evidence expert Scott Optican says there's nothing unusual in the
way Justice Williamson managed the trial, nor in the Court of Appeal
decisions which upheld the convictions. That doesn't mean they are beyond
Optican says the large number of charges Ellis faced made his case hard to
defend: "It's the argument about where there's smoke, there's fire. The
jury thinks there must be something there." Similarly, Williamson's decision to admit
evidence that Ellis had talked of practices like golden showers was extremely
prejudicial. "It would have had a very powerful effect on the
jury." But probably any judge would have allowed that evidence.
On the other hand, says Optican, the fact the charges came from the
uncorroborated evidence of young children should have made the prosecutors
and the judge more cautious. It would have been fairer had Justice Williamson
allowed the defence to play the videotapes which Rob Harrison believed cast
reasonable doubt on the more credible witnesses.
"The Court of Appeal upheld the convictions on the grounds it believed
the judge's evidential rulings were correct and the jury was entitled to
believe the kids. What sustained that was the way the jury discharged Ellis
on some of the more bizarre counts. One way to look at that is it meant the
system worked. The other way to look at it is that the bizarre ones taint the
Optican notes the Appeal Court only reluctantly quashed the charges relating
to S, the prime witness who recanted, because the court accepted the
"denial" argument. But her retraction, and the dropping of many
other charges, could also be viewed as casting doubt on the remaining
" Ceci would say that a lot of sexual abuse can go undetected for a long
time. On the other hand, given the number of allegations in this case over
such a long period, it's difficult to imagine they could go undiscovered.
It's really hard to imagine how it took five years to come to light. What is
disturbing about the case is, it may be that Ellis was guilty of some things,
but not what he was found guilty of.”
At Rolleston Prison, Peter Ellis says he's much more concerned for the
children than himself. He wants his convictions quashed for them, not him.
"The real child abuse is what has been done to the children in the
judicial, process," he says. "I'm angry that all those kids will go
through life with everyone thinking they were abused. If they get to I 19 and
have some problems, everyone will say, `Oh, he was at the Civic Creche.' They
need to know that nothing happened there."
It's telling that Ellis hasn't suffered the fate of many convicted child
molesters: being beaten up by fellow inmates. The prison guards who sat
through his trial let it be known they didn't believe the evidence against
him. Word soon spread. He's had no trouble at all.
Ellis was initially in Paparua Prison but was transferred to Rolleston after
taking up complaints about prison life on behalf of other inmates, even
calling in the Ombudsman. He has a determined support group outside, led by
Winston Wealleans, husband of former creche staff member Jenny Wealleans, and
Roger Keys, husband of Marie Keys. They beg him not to create a stir at
Rolleston, because if he's transferred away from Christchurch it will be even
harder to help him.
Those who know Ellis say he's not as outrageous as he was. Three years in
jail has matured him. But he is still wearing mascara the cold Saturday
morning I talk to him in the visitors' room and his sense of humour is still
cutting: at Paparua he ran into David Bain, the Dunedin man convicted of
killing his parents and siblings, and Ellis said to him, "Hello David.
I'll be your friend, but don't treat me as family."
Ellis has never said the children lied, just that what was alleged didn't
happen. He's spent a lot of time thinking where some of the stories came
from, parental input apart, of course.
"I was supposed to have driven them in my car to houses to abuse them,
but I don't drive, I've never had a car. But at the creche we played in
make-believe cars made out of boxes. That's where it would have come from.
And talk of the staff being bad, it came from the Wizard Of Oz. For weeks
[after it was on television], all the kids would play Dorothy, Toto and the
Wizard. But none of them of course would play the wicked witch, so Marie had
to. Creche staff always played the baddies in the games."
Ellis says he's aware that many lawyers and law students believe he's not
guilty. He's angry they sit around discussing his case at morning tea but
don't support him publicly.
"I'm angry that I could be prosecuted for abusing unknown children at
unknown places at unknown times. Where are all the children L said were
abused with her? Where is Andrew's
body? Why hasn't he been reported
missing? The interviewers assumed if a
Peter was mentioned it was Peter Ellis. N had bruises on his knee at one
interview and told Sue Sidey, `Peter did it.' But it couldn't have been me.
I'd been arrested long before. She didn't ask him the obvious: `Peter who?'
They never did."
Footnote: The four former creche workers arrested with Ellis are trying to rebuild
their lives. Gaye Davidson is selling real estate, Debbie Gillespie is at
university, Marie Keys is doing voluntary work and Jan Buckingham is looking
after her house and children.
The civic premises in the Cranmer Centre are again being used as a childcare