The Christchurch Civic Crèche Case

A City Possessed - by Lynley Hood - Index

A City Possessed - Reviews


July 10 2003

Why Peter Ellis Should Be Pardoned
Book Review by Anthony Frith

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

After a decade of debate, it seems the Peter Ellis case is simply not going to just go away. It also seems there is nothing to write about it that has not already been written a hundred times over. Anyone who has studied The Crucible will be all too aware of the ability history has to repeat itself.

The extraordinary, vindictive ignorance of the hyper-zealous parents, therapists and “experts” involved in the Christchurch Civic Creche circus beggars belief. Why these people were so dead-set on believing that the children had been abused is utterly bewildering. Their callous determination to paint the man who had cared for their children as the personification of depravity is unforgivable.

Plaudits must go out to people such as Lynley Hood, Katherine Rich, Don Brash and Barry Coleman for lending their own weight behind the campaign to give Peter Ellis a full and deserved pardon. Anyone who has reached their own conclusions about Ellis’s guilt without reading Hood’s extraordinarily well researched and argued A City Possessed should bite their tongue and hold their pride until they have read it.

At the risk of repeating what dozens of others had repeated ad nauseum, I will give a summary of some of the aspects that make Peter Ellis’s conviction unsafe, as discussed in Hood’s book:

1)              No disclosures were made in the first round of interviews. Disclosures were only made after repeated interviewing, some interviews lasting around two and a half hours, enough to wear down any poor child’s defence. Children who made no disclosures were said to be “in denial.” Children who made disclosures, it was said, “must be believed” – no matter how outlandish or imaginative the disclosures. As such, there was no response the children could give that would not implicate Peter one way or another.

2)              Despite being instructed told not to, overzealous parents repeatedly interrogated their children at home, and there was a great amount of networking between these parents. Where parents networked, the amount of “disclosures” grew. As did the level of cross-contamination.

3)              The oldest and most credible of all the witnesses later withdrew her allegations, saying that she only said what she thought she was supposed to say. This should have been the end of it all. However, while the convictions related to her were dropped, judges who reviewed resulting appeals said that she was in denial. She still stands by her claim she lied. Other children who made allegations have since retracted them, again claiming that the methods of questioning used resulted in them saying what their interviewers wanted to hear.

4)              Among the disclosures the Creche children made were; being suspended in cages, having burning paper and sticks inserted up their anuses, watching a classmate being being pursued by Ellis and killed with an axe, being thrown down trapdoors, being part of satanic ceremonies, being defecated and urinated on, etc etc. Not once did a parent report their children to come back from creche soiled in any way. No bruises or any other kind of injuries were ever reported. No trapdoors or evidence whatsoever was found of ritual abuse. The house where the ritual abuse had allegedly taken place – supposedly ground zero for satanic rituals in Christchurch - was no longer inhabited by Ellis, and he had paid only one brief visit there with the children.

5)              The policeman in charge of the case was homophobic, and held relationships with the parents and social workers involved in the case. He was known to show up unexpectedly at the children’s homes to convince them to say things that would get Ellis locked up.

6)              Expert Karen Zelas reported the following behaviours displayed by the “victims” to be consistent with sexual abuse: sleep disturbances, nightmares, tummy aches, vomiting, moodiness, separation anxiety, anxiety about school, loss of concentration, over conscientiousness, low self-esteem, tantrums, reluctance to go to bed, fear of spiders, not eating spaghetti...the list goes on. When Ellis’s defence attorney cross-examined Zelas and asked what behaviours were NOT consistent with sexual abuse, she replied, “I hadn’t thought of that yet.”

7)              In the five years Ellis worked at the Christchurch Civic Creche, no abuse was seen by any adult whatsoever. Parents and staff came and went freely; for them to have not walked in on Ellis at all during the allegedly perpetual offending is scarcely believable.

8)              When Ellis took the children for walks (during which orgies and ritual ceremonies were alleged to have taken place), all of the creche staff bar one said the walks never lasted more than 70 minutes, and that the children enjoyed them and never returned in a state of distress.

9)              It was alleged by the “victims” that Peter Ellis drove them to the aforementioned place of abuse. Ellis could not drive and did not have a car.

10)          Ellis’s four female co-workers were discharged in regards to the notorious ritual “circle incident”, charges which Ellis was nonetheless convicted of.

11)          Because he was a homosexual and occasionally made scatological wisecracks in the company of adults, Ellis was painted as sexually deviant and perverted, and thus supposedly consistent with the makeup of a child molester. By this criteria, most homosexual men would have the makeup of a child molester.

12)          Despite the testimony of only a handful of the children being deemed worthy to take to trial, approximately 40 families from the Civic Creche received a $10,000 payout from ACC – a windfall that may have acted as an incentive to many.

13)          The mother of the child who made the first disclosure – about Peter’s “black penis” - that started it all was a militant feminist with a history of drug and alcohol abuse. After shifting her son from the Civic Creche to another creche, she proceeded to accuse a male worker at that creche of sexually abusing her son too.

14)          Some of the videotapes of the children being questioned – many of which showed highly questionable, impressionable methods of questioning – were not allowed to be shown to the jury by the presiding judge. Thus the convicting jury never got the full picture of the highly doubtful tactics used to procure these allegations.

15)          Aside from the highly questionable and subjective testimonies of the children - which despite being irrepairably contaminated, were still allowed as evidence – there was no physical evidence or any adult witnesses to the abuse to corroborate their testimonies.

16)          The laughable bandwagon of allegations have still not ceased; recently, a 22 year old man known as “Nathan” made allegations that he had been abused by Ellis when he attended the Civic Creche. “Nathan” left the Creche in 1985. Peter Ellis did not begin working at the Creche until August 1986.

I could go on and on...A City Possessed is close to 700 pages. So, before claiming you know best and pronouncing Ellis guilty simply because he looks like a creep, read the book, and explain away the evidence – or lack thereof.

This case has made men afraid of becoming creche workers, teachers, babysitters, and – god forbid – loving parents. Ellis’s conviction perpetuates the outrageous myth that a man cannot be left alone in a room with a small child. As a result, the divide that isolates ordinary, caring men from our society’s children is widening. The zealots – often with a grudge against men or homosexuals – who launched the unstoppable juggernaut of hysteria that saw Ellis locked away are the ones who should be locked away themselves. For wishing sexual abuse onto their own children, and most likely scarring them for life by letting them believe that they were sexually abused. And for destroying the life of a well meaning man who was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Phil Goff has said that a Royal Commission of Inquiry will not be set up unless new evidence is introduced by Ellis’s defence team. Why should Ellis’s team need to provide new evidence when the Crown was never required to provide any to begin with?

Let’s hope sense prevails.