The Christchurch Civic Crèche Case

A City Possessed - by Lynley Hood - Index

A City Possessed - Reviews


The Southland Times
February 23 2002

Hood challenges system
Book Review by Chris Chilton

A City Possessed:
The Christchurch Civic Creche Case
by Lynley Hood.
Publisher: Longacre Press 2001

Lynley Hood's book is important because of its challenge to New Zealand's judicial system.

Whether you believe Peter Ellis performed the sex crimes against Christchurch children that he was found guilty of in 1993 is barely as relevant as the questions Hood asks about the fallibility of the process that convicted him.

At the very least, A City Possessed presents a compelling argument that the process is as fallible as the humans who devise and uphold it.

This is a big, weighty book, and at times Hood's attention to fine detail interrupts the narrative's momentum. For the most part, the minutiae is necessary to support her argument that Ellis was made a scapegoat to break the fever of a conservative city that had become gripped by old-fashioned hysteria.

There are fleeting lapses in journalistic objectivity when Hood's irritation with some of the key characters is pointedly revealed, but these are merely exclamation marks in what is an otherwise meticulous analytical dissection of the Ellis case.

Time and distance from the alleged events allow for a more objective, rational perspective, divorced from the witch-burning mentality that did in Peter Ellis. Hood's book provides the background, the context and a wealth of evidence the jury members never heard. Had they heard it, there is ample cause to speculate that the charges against Ellis would not have been found proved beyond reasonable doubt