The Christchurch Civic Creche Case

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Analysis of Christchurch Creche Evidential Videotapes
by Barry S. Parsonson
MA DipClinPsych PhD FNZPsS

 

All names amended to match the pseudonyms used in A City Possessed

 

 

 

Part A

Tess Hickory (DoB Nov 85) Age at first interview 6 yrs 6 mo.


1.0 Summary:

1.1               Interviewer:

a) The interviewer (Ms S.) frequently asks closed and multiple choice questions, many of her questions, including some open-ended ones are suggestive and/or leading in content.

b) Probes used by Ms S. at times include potential social influence (e.g., "I've heard you told your mother...")

c) Reinforcement may be implied from time to time (e.g., "You can see your mother as soon as we've finished.").

d) Three interviews

1.2 Use of props is potentially suggestible:

a) Dolls and toys are used extensively (their manipulation by the child is not always visible to the camera).

b) Dolls with genitals and body-parts diagram appear to prompt responses relevant to allegations on occasion.

c) The interviewer appears to manipulate the dolls occasionally for Tess.

1.3 Possible external contamination:

a) Mother has been involved in questioning Tess (92/242)

b) Mother has assisted Tess in putting together a "story" book about the Civic creche and Peter Ellis. This is brought to at least two of Tess's interviews (92 /242; 92/ 300) and is read to the interviewer and referred to by the interviewer:

c) Child refers to the book as a "story" (92/ 242) and the child's evident familiarity, with its content suggests it may have been read before the first interview.

1.4 Child's demeanour:

a) No evident indications of emotional distress at any time.

b) Child laughs often during some "disclosures"

c) Child is intelligent and verbally skilled.

d) Child appears sensitive to suggestion by interviewer, e.g., changes statements in response to suggestive or direct questioning.



2.0 Interview 92/ 242 12.05.92

2.1 Allegation that Peter Ellis urinated in children's mouths in the Creche Toilets.

2.1.1 Tess Hickory alleged that entry into the Middle Toilet meant that Peter Ellis always urinated into the mouths of those children. She initially alleged that she saw it happen to two children, Hariette and Kari. She added that she avoided this by closing her mouth (apparently unbeknown to Peter Ellis).

2.1.2 In her description of events (Transcript pp15-31) Tess Hickory draws on the pictures her mother has drawn in the book and uses dolls and toys supplied by the interviewer.

2.1.3 Initially Peter Ellis is described by Tess as "sitting on the toilet" (demonstration with doll) with his pants down, urinating. In response to a suggestive question she states he always sits down to urinate (p16). Tess then changes this in response to the question "Or does he sometimes stand up?", now stating "He stand he standed up I think."

2.1.4 Tess then alleged she had to put her mouth on "Peter's bottom and he did wees."(p16). She repeats (laughing) that the "wees" came from Peter's bottom (p17).

2.1.5 At this juncture a body diagram is produced and used to try to clarify Tess's concepts of anatomy. At first (p17) Tess appears to accord "vagina" and "bottom" the same location, but modifies this in response to direct questions. Further specific questioning using the diagram (p18) is followed by the child changing her original statement to "Penis because that's where the wees comes out".

2.1.6 Tess changes her evidence about who wiped the urine up off the toilet floor (pp25-26) when challenged by the interviewer. She also changes her evidence about the sequence (pp22, 26, 27) in response to questioning and is further confused about children, anatomy, and the disposition and colour of clothing in subsequent descriptions of alleged events (pp27-29). As part of this Tess appears to deny any involvement of Peter Ellis' "burn" (p28) and in response to specific probing questions says "I think it happened with Kari." Upon challenge, she says "Because I were watching.", apparently replacing uncertainty with certainty and then introducing some otherwise previously unmentioned person named "Mandora" to whom it is not clear what happened.

2.1.7 Asked to report of Peter Ellis' clothes, Tess initially states his pants were up (p29), but when challenged about how his penis did wees in her mouth if they were on, Tess changes her statement to their being "down" (p29).

2.1.8 Asked about what happened to Kari (p30), Tess says "exactly the same" as to Hazel, adding that she had only watched during the "drinking of the wees" and then went away, but she (Kari) was still there (p30). This statement is notable in the light of subsequent allegations (see below).

2.1.9 This topic is returned to later in the interview (Transcript pp42-46).

It is raised via a specific set of questions from the interviewer (p42), relating to "bums" and "bottoms". Tess initially (pp42-43) assumes this related to her initial allegation about bums being painted by the pool at creche, however the interviewer specifically directs attention a statement Tess appeared to have made in the earlier confused exchanges (pp27-29). At first Tess states it is about Kari having wees in her mouth (p43). At this point the interviewer draws Tess's attention to the fact that the "bum" being at the back and asks "Where did Peter's burn go?", after which Tess places the dolls in a position with "Karl's" mouth on "Peter's" anus. Having demonstrated, Tess is asked how she knew Kari had to do that, "Because I were watching."(p43) (Note: On p30 she had said differently). The further specific questioning relates to the disposition of Peter's burn and Kari, and is followed by an allegation that Peter Ellis defecated in Kari's mouth. Tess then amends this allegation (p44) back to urination (also demonstrated with the dolls), but changes again back to defecation following further specific and suggestive multiple choice questioning.

Comment: In response to direct multiple choice questions from the interviewer (p45) Tess at first alleges the wees went in before the poohs, and then that it was a different time altogether. No questions were asked about whether the urine splashed on her, the other children or the children's or Peter Ellis' clothes, why she would have entered the toilet having already seen this just happen to Hariette, or what the consequences were for Kari or her clothing of having to eat faeces.

The question forms used in obtaining this allegation often are leading or suggestive, the child appears to change her testimony in response to these question forms, so seems both alert and responsive to potential sources of suggestion in the questioning. There is little free account of events, with most of the information being elicited by interviewer questions. The toys and dolls may appear to lend some credibility to the child's statements, but it has to be noted that Tess's use of them changes from time to time in accordance with suggestive questioning. There also are indications that the child is at times confused and uncertain, producing conflicting and contradictory statements.

It is evident that there are no displays of distress or overt trauma, indeed, the child laughs at times about matters pertaining to allegations. Her mood and demeanour seem normal at all times.

 

2.2 Allegations re the "Bath":

2.2.1 Initial descriptions (often from the "book") about the alleged visit to Peter Ellis' house (Transcript pp 32-41) allude to a horse and carriage, pillow fights, a walking doll, and playing "snap" along with accompanying creche friends Zaza and Kari. The descriptions of events are accompanied with laughter. Peter Ellis' mother is included, she is given 3 alternate names in response to a question about what her name was (p36). Tess states she has been to Peter Ellis' house on just this one occasion. She indicates (pp40-41) that "It was fun", that they "didn't do anything" other than ride the horse, and that the only thing that wasn't fun was when she hurt her knee. Attempts to get Tess to produce other information by social influence, e.g., "I know some things that you've been telling Mum about Peter's house. Mum and I have been having a chat." (p41) "It sounds like some other things happened there." (p42) end with Tess stating "But nothing else at Peter's house." (p42), which hints that Tess might have forgotten just what she recently had told her mother.

2.2.2 The matter is raised again later (Transcript p48) with the question "Have you told me everything that you've told mum or not?". This has a suggestion of social influence about it, which is amplified and made more suggestive in the subsequent question (p49), "See what I've heard is that you have told mum some stuff about a bath.". Tess explains, "Urn I went in the bath and he washed my bum." In the next question the interviewer suggests the person who washed her bum was in the bath with her. "Who were you in the bath with?"; "Peter." Tess is then asked whereabouts this was but before she can answer is led by the interviewer in a multiple choice question, "Was that at the creche or somewhere else?" Tess responds to the suggestion in the question, "It was at creche.". The interviewer repeats "In the bath with Peter at creche?" Tess affirms "Yes"(p49). The interviewer then adds an alternative suggestion, "Or was it at Peter's house?" Tess changed her answer to conform with this new suggestion, "Urn it was at Peter's house." The interviewer consolidates this apparently more acceptable response, "You had a bath at Peter's house." Tess indicates in response to a specific question that Zaza and Kari were at the house, engaged in pillow fights at this same time (p49).

Comment: In the above sequence, Tess is prompted to talk about having a bath, it is suggested by the interviewer that the other person is in the bath also, and she responds in concert with suggestive questioning by changing the location of the alleged event in line with the locations suggested in the questions (creche/ Peter's house).

2.2.3 Tess is asked (p50) if any other children have a bath at Peter's place. She responds, "Just me.", then, after the interviewer says, "Just you?" , Tess repeats "Yes", and immediately amends her response to, " Oh, no no not just me, um everybody did.", before amending it again to, "Oh no we were playing with, they were playing with their baby wanna walk (p50). (Note: On p49 Tess had said while she was in the bath the others were engaged in pillow fights together, now she says they played with a doll).

2.2.4 The interviewer then twice asks a suggestive question, "What made you want to have a bath at Peter's?"; "What made you want to have a bath there?"(p50). Tess replies that Peter asked her if she wanted to and she had wanted to. The interviewer suggests that Tess had said "Yes I'll have a bath.", to which she replies, "Yes."(p50). When asked on this occasion who took her clothes off, Tess says she did.

2.2.5 The interviewer reiterates Tess's original allegation while answering her own question, Yeah and what did you do in the bath, he washed your bum?" (p50). (Note: Rather than provide another opportunity .for the child to restate the allegation, the interviewer, by using this mode of question, may in effect prompt the child to maintain the allegation.). When asked "And where else did he wash you?", Tess says, "Nowhere else.". This response appears to have been ruled unsatisfactory, as the question is repeated, "Mmm, where else did he wash you?". The response is the same, "Mmm, nowhere else, I did it everywhere."(p51). The interviewer now asks "Who washed Peter?". Tess at first responds, "He washed himself.", then immediately changes this to, "I washed him." This change is unquestioningly accepted and a body parts diagram is produced for her to point out on. She identifies hands, arms, stomach, legs and feet (p51), and his face (p52). After Tess has completed volunteering parts of the body, the interviewer specifically introduces his bottom, "And what about his bottom, who washed his bottom?" Tess states, "I did." The interviewer then points to the groin of the body diagram, "Mmm, and what about there?"(p52). Tess appears not to answer this question in the past tense, saying , "Well I'll just have to." The interviewer then makes an obvious suggestion, "Yeah, so you washed his penis as well, is that right?", to which the child indicates No by a shake of her head. "You didn't wash it?"; She then changes her verbal response to "Yes, yes." The question is put in the affirmative, "You did wash it?", to which Tess responds, "Yes."

Comment: In this sequence of leading and suggestive questions, along with the use of the body-parts diagram the interviewer brings the child to the point where she alleges that she washed Peter Ellis' body, including his bottom and penis, although she herself at no stage volunteered such information. At the end of this segment of the interview (p52), the interviewer produces a toy bath and implies it is necessary because some children find it hard to tell. In the writer's opinion, Tess, because of the type of questioning has not had an opportunity to volunteer information. When any information generated by questioning apparently has not produced an adequate allegation, more specific and suggestive questioning has followed. Once an allegation is obtained changes in testimony or contradictory statements are ignored or left unchallenged by the interviewer.

2.2.6 Following unsuccessful use of social influence and specific prompts to find out about a game (p53), Tess describes the arrangement of the bodies in the bath using toys and dolls, denying that she was sitting on Peter Ellis' legs (p54), and stating that after the bath, she got out, put her on clothes and went back to the creche (p55).

2.2.7 On p55 the interviewer repeats the question asked earlier (p51) in a different form, "And anything else. Did lie touch any other part of your body in the bath or not?". Tess responds, "No.". The question is then repeated in a different form (but identical to p51), "He washed, did he, where else did he wash you?". Tess's response was consistent, "No, nowhere else." As if recalling that she had talked about washing other body parts (pp 51-52) she begins "No, no, no,", starts to refer to "his" then changes her response to "my back" and adds "my arms, my stomach, and my legs", "and my feet". The interviewer then adds a specific suggestive question, "OK, so he washed those parts and who washed your vagina?". The initial response is "I washed it. Pardon?"(p55). The question is repeated (p56), "Who washed your vagina?", the response is the same, "Oh, I did." The interviewer retorts, "You did?", Tess's response now changes to "No, I mean Peter did." "Peter washed your vagina?"; "Yes.". (Note: The change in Tess's evidence, as a result of this questioning from that given earlier (pp51-52) and immediately prior (p55) is unchallenged by the interviewer).

2.2.8 Tess is unable to give any information on how she felt about this event, and in terms of her then present feelings said, "Oh, OK."(p56). The response does not suggest that the event, if it occurred, was traumatic. Further specific questioning (p57) leads Tess to state that Peter Ellis touched her vagina with his hands when he washed it, and she indicates that it felt "tickly". At this point she denies that any other part of his body has touched her vagina.

Comment: Again, suggestive and direct questioning along with a degree of social influence are used by the interviewer. They result in allegations and changes to reports previously given by the child. The child seems to be responsive to suggestion, given her pattern of responses to the questions used by the interviewer. There are no emotional indices of distress or trauma in the child's behaviour or demeanour.



3.0 Interview 92/300 28.05.92

3.1. Allegation re bath revisited.

3.1.1 Tess reads from her "book" (Transcript p11) about herself and Peter Ellis in the bath. The interviewer reminds her of talking about Tess taking off her clothes and getting in the bath and Peter getting in the bath (Note: Tess had not volunteered the latter in 92/ 242), and then washing each other. Tess recalls (p12) "His bottom" and that "He washed his nose.". Tess is then asked to assist by getting two dolls which have genitals (Note: Tess may be prompted by the genitalia to make further allegations, this was the case in 92/ 242 when a body diagram was introduced.). Once the dolls clothes are removed, Tess appears to note the genitalia ("Cool, cool, that's how babies really look" p12) The female doll is identified by the interviewer as "Tess" and the male as "Peter"(p13). Tess is asked to show the parts she washed on Peter. She points to and identifies penis and bottom (laughs). Other parts are pointed to by Tess but not necessarily identified for the camera (This suggests the 'critical' parts have been identified), she names face, arms, hands (p13). Tess appears fascinated by the doll (And, oh that one's so cute, I like him...." p13).

3.1.2 Tess then is asked (p13) ..."and where abouts did he wash you?" At this point she appears (p14) to note the labia on the doll ("He, he did, he washed me. How come they have got them there?" (appears to point to labia on doll) p14). The interviewer repeats the question, "Where abouts did he wash you?" Tess uses the dolls to identify areas allegedly washed (p14), tummy button, bosoms, hands, arms,..."And that's all" (p14). Apparently, since she failed to identify the genitalia, which she previously had been prompted to identify in interview 92/242 (see 21.2.7 above), the interviewer proceeds to use pressure and prompts Tess, "Alright, OK, and I think there was another place last time you told me where he washed you and you haven't told me today."(p14). Tess is unsure, and asks "Where?". The interviewer now becomes suggestive by pointing to the genital area of the doll and says "I think you told me last time he might have washed somewhere around this area (points to doll)." (Note: Tess had not volunteered this in interview 92/242, but had been asked who had washed there, see 2.1.2.7 above). Any response by Tess is not audible. The interviewer prompts further, asking "What's the name of that? (points)." Tess responds, "Ah, Vagina and bottom."(p14). A suggestive multiple choice question follows, "Right, so did he wash you there or not?" Tess acquiesces, "Yeah." (p15).

Comment: In this sequence, the child's initial statement that non-genital washing was all that occurred is ignored, and using the dolls and prompting and suggestive questions, the interviewer leads her to include genitalia. This is a similar process to that which had occurred in interview 92/242, and uses information obtained through suggestive processes on that occasion to have them restated, again after suggestion, on this second occasion.

3.1.3 Tess is then asked (p15) what was used to wash. Tess stated that it was a face cloth. She is then asked suggestively what she used to wash Peter Ellis' penis and bottom, was it the face cloth or not. She responds, "yeah". (p15). When the issue of what was used was revisited (p17), Tess now changes her statement to, "Hmm, I don't know, I can't remember (Laughs)." She then changes her statement again, back to, "He used a face cloth." This latter immediately is reinforced by the interviewer "Right, he did use a face cloth....(p17). (Note: In the first interview (92/242), no mention is made of a face cloth, Tess had then stated (92/242, p57) in response to direct questions that required a logical response, that his hands had touched her. Clearly there is a lack of consistency within and between statements in this respect).

3.1.4 Tess (p16) introduced the idea that Peter Ellis had waterproof cushions in his bath.

3.1.5 In response to questions about what happened after the washing had occurred, Tess stated, "Mmm, we got out."(p18). She was asked, "Did anything happen before you got out or not?", Tess's response was, "No.". Later questioning (p21) about what they did afterwards evoked the response, "We played 'snap'." (Note: Earlier (92/ 242) she said she got dressed and went back to creche. see 2.2.6 above).

 

3.2 Allegation that Peter Ellis put his finger in Tess's bottom and vagina

3.2.1 The interviewer now appears to proceed (p21) to try to get Tess to allege that Peter Ellis had touched her vagina in another way. This is introduced through a general question. Tess identifies her mother, herself, and her father as persons who had touched this area, "...but no one else." (p21). This results in a direct statement that includes social influence, "Right, OK, I guess, I guess what I heard was that someone had, I heard that someone, that you had told your mum that someone had touched you." Tess responded, "Who, I can't remember?" The interviewer now leads with, "Touched your vagina and bottom." Tess apparently still cannot remember and asks, "Who?". The interviewer prompts further, "With their hands." Tess still does not recall and asks, "Who?". The interviewer prompts with more detail, "And their fingers." Tess stated, "I can't remember." (p21). Tess appeared to assume this related to when she was a baby (p22). The interviewer reiterated the prompting statement, "Yeah, OK, So urn so I guess what I've heard of the, someone else has touched you down there with their fingers, with their hands and fingers."(p22). Tess does not remember and appears to seek further prompting "I can't remember saying Mmrn, who was it?"; "Who was the person who touched it?" The interviewer adds further social influence, "No it was, yeah, I guess it's what, it's the, it's the new stuff that I heard that you'd said to mum since we last talked." and "You told mum that someone had touched your fan, your ah bottom." Tess still appears bemused, "Me?"(p22). The interviewer expands on the suggestion, "Bottom and vagina with...". Tess intellects, "Did I?". The interviewer continues, "Yeah, With, with their finger." Tess still is unclear, "Who, who did I say?". The interviewer adds some pressure for Tess to provide the sought response, "Well it's really important for for you to tell me who it was.".."But you are not remembering.". Tess confirms this, "No, I can't remember."(p23).

Comment: It seems very clear from this exchange that Tess cannot recall what she must recently have told her mother in the three weeks since her first interview. Despite specific prompts, probes and social influence, the sought-after information is not produced.

3.2.2 In an apparent alternate approach to obtaining the sought-after allegation, the interviewer leads into the issue of Peter Ellis allegedly showing Tess the puppy's bottom using social influence and suggestion, "Mmm, OK, alright, well look what urn perhaps what I could also tell you that I've heard was um that you know when you've drawn this picture of mum about at Peter's house, Peter showed the puppy's bottom...And you also said some other things about Peter doing something with the puppy's bottom." "Mmm, you said to mum that Peter showed the puppy's bottom." Tess said "Yes." The interviewer continued to lead with, "And that you also said he did something else to the puppy's bottom, is that right?"(p23). Tess does not provide the sought-after response, so after a diversion about being allowed to pick the puppy up, the prompting question is repeated (p24), "Mmm, so Tess, what else did Peter do to the puppy's bottom?" This produces the required recall, "He put his finger in it. That's what I forgot, lie didn't let me pick it up, he put his finger in it." The interviewer subsequently consolidates this report, "So he put his finger in the puppy's bottom?" Tess responded "Yes. Did I tell you that? (Note: No puppy was mentioned in the initial interview (92/242).

3.2.3 The above exchange is shortly followed by a direct, prompting question, "Has Peter put his finger in any other bottoms before or not?". Tess's response is clear, "No I don't, well I don't know, he hasn't put it in my bottom."(p25). This is probed by repetition, and reaffirmed by Tess on the second repetition. Social pressure and a suggestive statement follow (p26), "OK. Cos I, cos I guess what I've heard is that urn you said that Peter did put it in your bottom." Tess responds in a querulous voice, "Did he?". The interviewer responds, "Did you?" Tess replies "Oh, yeah.". Tess seems uncertain, "Did I?", the interviewer affirms "Yeah.", Tess reaffirms, "Oh yeah" The interviewer rechecks twice, Tess reaffirms twice. Asked where it happened, Tess says the dining room and then subsequently amends it to happening in the bath. She first says it happened before he washed her, then changes this to after. When asked why she had not told about this earlier Tess replied, "Cos I couldn't remember then." The interviewer acknowledges that she has reminded Tess, "Right, OK, but I guess I've reminded you because I heard that you had said that.".

Comment: Clearly, this has not been a spontaneous disclosure, but one generated by prompting, leading, and suggestive questions, along with social influence used by the interviewer to obtain information she had been briefed on by Tess's mother.

3.2.4 Having shortly before apparently been unable to recall the alleged incident, the child is next asked to identify which finger Ellis allegedly used.

She identifies one ("It was this finger." p27). Another prompting question follows , "Yeah, and did that finger go anywhere else on you, it went in your bottom, did it go anywhere else or not?". Tess now expands on the initial allegation with "And on my vagina." Tess subsequently (pp27-28) was unable to describe how the finger felt in the respective orifices and was offered suggestions from which to choose (Hard, soft, tickly, or sore, p27), she chose "tickly". (Note: There is no indication of emotion or distress, no statement that suggests pain or discomfort during the alleged experience.).

3.2.5 Tess is asked (p30) "Urn has Peter ever put anything else in your vagina or not?" She responds "No" both to this and to a direct question relating to her bottom. The question was repeated, "Did any other part of him touch you, your your vagina or your bottom?" The response again was, "No.". This is further explored (p31), with, "Ok, and did any other part of him touch your bottom?"; "Nope"; "Just his finger?"; "Yep."; OK, and you know how you washed his penis?"; "Yes."; "Did any other part of you touch his penis?"; "No...";

3.2.6 Tess is asked (p32) where Kari and Zaza were during the bath.

She stated that "they were riding on the horse". In 92.242 she had variously described them as having pillow fights (p49) and playing with a doll (p50).

3.2.7 The description of events expands to include a visit to Orana Park after the bath (Note: 92/242, returned to creche; earlier in 92/300, played 'snap').



4.0 Conclusions:

As the above analysis demonstrates, the process by which allegations are obtained in this interview continue those applied in the first. In effect, a very considerable degree of suggestive, leading and/or prompting question use is evident, along with use of social influence, to apparently bring the child to the point at which she confirms information passed to the interviewer by the child's mother. The child makes very few spontaneous or voluntary allegations, and often contradicts herself when she does. In addition, dolls and toy props are used to both elicit responses and to get the child to demonstrate alleged events and details of alleged incidents. Further, Tess's mother has had a role in assisting the child to produce a "book", the narrative of which is used in the interview at times. It also appears that Tess and her mother have discussed issues, but the style of questioning used by the mother and any suggestive influence is completely unknown. Tess is made aware by the interviewer that her mother is a source of information.

Tess shows herself to be open to a degree of suggestion in responding to prompts and suggestive questions, although this is not invariably the case. Her evidence, perhaps as a function of the suggestible questioning, also is inconsistent and changeable.



5.0 Interview 92/467 03.08.92

5.1 Further allegations re the bath

5.1.1 Toys and dolls are made available and Tess indicates (p7) that she wishes to talk about "bath stuff". Tess responded to a question (p9) about how Peter's clothes came off with "Well, he stripped them off like me." (Note: In interview 92/300, p37, she had indicated he had undressed in his room). In response to a leading question re herself, Tess indicates she took her clothes off (consistent with 92/ 242) except she adds a new detail about Peter Ellis assisting her with her jersey and grabbing her skin, "It hurt" (laughs). (p9). When asked what made her get in the bath (OK Tess changes from the evidence given in 92/242 that she had wanted to alleging a threat, that she was told by Peter Ellis to "..get in the bath with me or else I'll call your mummy." (00) (Note: This seems an unlikely threat, given its potential to disclose the alleged event.).

5.1.2 Tess then proceeds to introduce, with accompanying laughter, what she claims is "the scary part" (p10). "Well he got in.." (p10).."And 'um (laughs) he put the his penis in my vagina."(p11). Asked what it felt like on her vagina, Tess says (pH), "Feeled yucky and hairy." (Note: Repeated direct questioning in earlier interviews (92/ 242, p57; 92/ 300, pp30-31) produced denials that "any other part" of Peter Ellis' body had touched hers (92/242) or her vagina (92/ 300) or that any other part of her had touched his penis (92/ 300).).

5.1.3 Asked to use the dolls to demonstrate relative body positions, Tess gives a number of different examples. First she has herself sitting facing Peter, describing herself as having her legs "on top of him"(p11) "...so that I kind of sitting on him." (Laughs). Then she amends that arrangement, holding the dolls so that the male is lying and the female is sitting at the same time complaining "But but actually it was it was kind of like him like that, it's hard to do it with the dolls." Subsequently Tess demonstrated with her own body, so that the male was demonstrated to be on his front with back arched in lordosis and head up. Tess stated, "But he was sitting up like its really hard to do it, I don't know how.". Tess demonstrates herself in a sitting position. (Note: It is not possible to gain a clear impression from the videotape or the descriptions of the relative body positions, or to ascertain whether or not contact between genitalia would have been at all possible, given the relative size differences between an adult and a four-year-old, and particularly in a bath.).

5.1.4 Tess describes (p12) this activity as 'sexing'. She does not provide the source of this knowledge. In describing what it felt like and what his body was doing, Tess laughs. She demonstrated what the body was doing and stayed still, the interviewer then suggests, "So it was staying still?", which Tess affirms. "Or it was moving?". Tess reported, "It staying still."

5.1.5 In response to the question, "What happened after that?", Tess said, "Well, we got out." (Note: There is no reference at this stage (p12) to Peter urinating or defecating in the bath, as was the case in 92/300, although it is led later with suggestive questioning (p27) and results in some different detail).

5.1.6 The allegations about vaginal contact were revisited (pp20-22), initially with a reminder from the interviewer of the alleged event, "Yeah and Tess, urn so you know when his penis went in your vagina?" (p20). She then proceeds to ask the following question, "Hm, urn, did it actually go, what, what does, what's a vagina like, do you know? The child answers, "Yes.", but none of her answers indicate that she has any concept of the complex anatomy of the female external or internal genitalia ("Oh, they're rude."; "They're private."; "I don't know."). This results in the interviewer prompting the child with a multiple choice question, "And they do..and they're like..they're the parts that do wees, so did it go on your vagina or i n your vagina?" Tess chooses "In." (Note: Consistent with her initial allegation on p10). The interviewer asks, "How far in?", Tess responds, "Hmm, don't know, just a little bit." (p20). Asked how her vagina felt afterwards, she says "Oh....normal"(p21).

5.1.6 The interviewer now revisits the relative body positions with the dolls (p21), demonstrating herself what she recalls of Tess's earlier attempts. Tess does not respond helpfully to these demonstrations and her verbal responses (p21) suggest she is confused by them.

5.1.7 Further questions about what was scary about this alleged event result in both laughter from Tess and an inability to describe what was scary.

Comment: The allegations of vaginal penetration are serious and the initial statement apparently was unsolicited. On the other hand, these alleged events are described with occasional laughter, there is no evidence of distress or other emotional reaction, or of any reluctance to disclose. It is difficult to effectively determine relative body positions, or the extent to which dolls may function as prompts for responding. The event may or may not have happened. It is possible to argue that the "disclosure" emerged only after the child had learned to trust the interviewer, and/ or that it took time for her to remember it, given the possibly traumatic nature of the alleged experiences she describes at the hands of Ellis.

Alternatively, in considering this allegation one cannot avoid viewing it with a degree of caution because of the fact that it comes in the third interview of a series in which the complainant often has been exposed to extensive suggestive and leading questioning relating to sexual activity, including digital vaginal and anal penetration, which may have created an expectation in the child that information of this type was sought and of permission-giving and acceptance of allegations with this type of content. Further, it could be argued that she had been given frequent opportunities in preceding interviews to produce the allegation, but had persistently denied that any other touching than that which she had already described, under direct, suggestive and specific questioning had occurred between Ellis' and herself. The child's descriptions and demonstrations of the relative body positions are conflicting and not always evident to the observer. Nor do they seem to give unequivocal support to the allegation of attempted sexual connection in a bath tub full of water. A further point to consider is that it is not possible to know what effect other factors, such as on-going maternal questioning and/or attention to reports of events, counselling, or contact with other creche children (e.g., Kari Lacebark) or peers may have had on the production of such an allegation. In addition, there is a span of at least 1 year 9 months since the alleged events, so memory distortion and possible contamination cannot entirely be ruled out.

The location of the alleged attempt at penetration is the bath. Over the series of three interviews various details of the bath incident are elaborated, amended, and conflicting. They are often obtained through prompting and suggestive questioning supported by provision of toys and dolls which ostensibly illustrate the alleged events. The bath incident occurs variously at the creche and at Ellis' sometimes single-storey, sometimes two-storey house, the bath at one time has waterproof cushions in it, and is allegedly defecated in by Ellis. On the same day as the bathing allegedly occurred, Tess and her two friends Zaza and Kari leave the creche and go the Ellis' house, where (across interviews) they also ride in his horse and carriage, visit Orana Park / Willowbank, and his beach house before returning to creche. Tess is adamant that she only once visited Ellis' house and implies that these events all happened on that same day (they are not reported together, but are gradually elaborated across the three interviews).

Other unsolicited information produced by Tess Hickory, such as that Ellis kept a horse on his property, had a carriage to which the horse was hitched to give the children rides, slept in the same bed as his mother, and owned a beach home which the children visited are unlikely to be given much credence by a critical listener. The question remains as to whether the allegation of attempted sexual violation should be given equal status with these or more, solely by virtue of its nature and seriousness.

5.1.8 Subsequent questioning focuses on revisiting the digital anal penetration (pp23-25), which Tess only reaffirms after specific and prompting questioning by the interviewer.

5.1.9 A further and new allegation is later (pp40-46) prompted by direct and suggestive questioning that includes social influence, "Now, Tess, there's just one other thing I need to ask you about and I'm going to need you to tell me in your words. Mum said that urn ah mum said that um...mum said that something else touched your vagina before, is that right? Tess seeks further clarification, "I can't remember, what, what has...?" The interviewer then adds more a detailed suggestive prompt, "What else could have, what else could have touched it and made it bleed?" Tess now responds, "Oh, needles."..."Well, in the creche toilets Peter urn put some needles up our bum."(p40) Tess specifies her "burn", and claims it was a sewing needle (p40), it hurt (p41) and, in response to a suggestive question, chose the location as "Where the poos come out." Initially (p43), in response to a leading multiple choice question, Tess said there was no blood, but changed this immediately to indicate there was, and that "It went on Peter's finger.". A multiple choice question asking "And how much blood came, was it just like lots of blood or just a wee prick of..?" produced the response, "Lots of blood." Asked who wiped it off, Tess responded, "I had to...". In response to specific questions, Tess (p44) says she first told her mother, and that what made her tell was "Mummy started talking about it." Tess changed her report about whether there was any involvement of other children from "No." to include Kari (p44) to report that Kari told her (p45). Tess said (p46) at first nothing had stopped her telling the teachers, and changed this to "He just, if you tell anyone, I'll call your mother."

Comment: These allegations are elicited as a consequence of direct and suggestive questioning by the interviewer. The allegation begins with the interviewer suggesting that Tess's mother had told her it involved a needle touching her vagina. Tess reports the needle being in the bottom and involving "lots of blood", and that it happened to at least one other child (Kari).

5.1.10 Tess responds to a question about what Kari and Zaza were doing by stating that they were playing with cards (p15). (Note: On earlier occasions they were variously described as engaged in pillow fights (92/242), playing with a doll (92/242), and riding the horse (92/300).


6.0 Overall Conclusions:

The series of three interviews of Tess Hickory is contaminated by leading suggestive, and direct questions relating to the majority of the critical allegations, often supported by use of toys and dolls. The interviewer often uses social influence, concerning sources of her information (primarily Tess's mother) to prompt Tess into repeating allegations that may have been made under conditions of less than ideal questioning by Tess's mother. Tess's mother has participated in the production of a "book" which contains the "story" of alleged events involving Peter Ellis, Tess and her two friends, Zaza and Kari. The book is referred to and read from in at least two of the three interviews, serving as a prompt to reports of events by Tess. It is problematic that this 'permanent product' source of memory prompting is accessible to Tess and is used within, and possibly outside, the interview context to consolidate memory for what may or not be facts.

Other sources of potential contamination include contacts with peers and with other creche children (e.g., Kan Lacebark), questioning by and discussion of events with adults (e.g., mother), and television news.

In the interview context, Tess demonstrates herself to be responsive to suggestion and prompting frequently changing her report to conform with the suggestive questioning and prompts used by the interviewer. The internal and inter-interview consistency of Tess's reports of events is poor in many instances. This may be because of her responsiveness to suggestion and/or to poor memory for the alleged events. Tess often appears to include in her reports events that can be viewed as having had a low probability of occurrence in the context of Ellis or that have been transposed from other experiences (e.g., the horse rides, the visit to Orana Park/ Willowbank). This suggests she may have source monitoring difficulties and means that it is difficult to ascertain just what, in all of her narrative, is true and relevant and what is introduced from outside or from other experiences and reported as if associated with what she is alleging happened to her.

When making allegations and reporting their content, Tess is remarkably calm and unemotional. The only emotion displayed at anytime is laugher, which accompanies a number of her descriptions. It does not come across to the writer as nervous or embarrassed laughter, but more as light-hearted, which seems incongruous in the context of disclosure of alleged abuse. One might have expected a traumatised child to evidence withdrawal, depression, or distress, with perhaps tears and evident reluctance when dealing with traumatic experiences, but there is no sign of this in any of the interviews. Of all of the allegations Tess Hickory makes, that relating to alleged attempted sexual violation is the most serious. Unlike many of the allegations of abuse in her reports, this one is unprompted by the interviewer. One cannot ignore the possibility that it may have some basis of fact, in that someone may have attempted such an act with her, which she attributes to Peter Ellis. On the other hand, it is by no means clear just what might have happened, if anything. For example, it may be that Peter Ellis had a bath with her and attempted the described act with her in the bath, with her sitting at one end and he attempting contact in the male-superior position. The chances of achieving contact between the respective genitalia under the described circumstances might be very low, however. The source of the child's sexual knowledge is uncertain, it could have come from peers (the most common source), from experience, or from overhearing others. Further, the allegations relating to the bath incident are often obtained under specific and suggestive questioning the descriptions and details of the bathing and related events vary in important detail from interview to interview, and occasionally within interviews. Again, given the seriousness of the allegation, the laughter and almost light-hearted disclosure are somewhat incongruous, detracting from the credibility of the account in this writer's judgement.

Allegations of activities involving vaginal,' anal, and penile touching, urination, defecation and coprophagy, and use of needles are found elsewhere in the literature of creche child abuse allegations (cf Rosenthal, 1995), so it is evident that children are capable of generating such allegations de novo, probably drawing on their own fantasy or experience and recreating it for apparently attentive and permissive adult listeners, especially in the context of suggestive and prompting questions and interviews which focus on sexual and other activities.

The use of dolls and toys in the interviews is also problematic, in that while these may enhance children's descriptions of events, they also may induce inaccurate reporting (e.g., Wilson & Pipe, 1995). Further it has to be remembered that such items have, for children, a strong association with both play and fantasy, which often is encouraged in association with toy use as an aspect of normal child cognitive development.

In sum, the writer is of the opinion that, primarily because of the poor standard of interviewing with its extensive reliance at critical points on suggestion, prompts, props, and social influence, one should view the resulting allegations with considerable caution.