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 6

Zelda Cypress (DoB May 81) Age at first interview 8yrs 11mo


1.0      Summary

1.1        Interviewer

Use of suggestive questions and some social influence

Zelda reticent, so direct questioning used often

Potentially suggestive use of body diagram

Three interviews

1.2        Possible sources of external contamination:

Mother's questioning/discussion of allegations

Rewards (ring, toy seal) may be associated with disclosure

1.3        Child's demeanour

Shy, reticent, anxious

Quiet spoken, whispers at times


2.0      Interview 92/172 07.04.92

2.1        Peter Ellis as friend:

2.1.1     Zelda indicated (Transcript p7) that Peter had been on the creche staff when she attended, that he had been her favourite teacher (p8) and that he had given her a silver bracelet for her fourth or fifth birthday. Peter had talked to her a lot (p9), had played good games, and did things she had liked.

2.1.2     Asked (p9) if he did anything she didn't like, she said, "Not much". Prompted to say what she hadn't liked, Zelda said that he had said things like 'I'll put you in a cage when you grow up and we'll run off." (Note: Could this sort of comment be the origin association of Ellis with cages by Bart Dogwood?). This had made her feel 'yucky'. (Later, (p16) Zelda said she believed he was serious when he said this, and that it was said 'heaps' and (p18) that what scared her was his saying he would run away with her.).

2.1.3     Asked (p10) whether there were any other things he said or did that Zelda felt not good about, Zelda said, "Just things he said."

2.1.4     Zelda checked (p10) with the interviewer over whether she would ever see Peter again, the interviewer reassured her and told her (p11) about her role as an interviewer (Note: Much of the emphasis was on children disclosing events that generated negative affect). The interviewer suggested (p11) that Zelda may be scared she was going to see Peter again, Zelda agreed.

2.1.5     Zelda said (p12) that Peter had called her Zelda Welda, which she did not like (Note: Molly Sumach, had reported similarly).

2.1.6     In response to a suggestive question (p12), Zelda indicated she had had OK cuddles with Peter.

2.1.7     Zelda told (p13) that Peter had visited her house, the interviewer said it was for Zelda's birthday. Zelda said she once had gone to Peter's house. Direct questioning (p13) revealed she had been left in his care by her mother.

Comment: Zelda described what appears to have been a close relationship with Peter Ellis, including a being given a birthday gift and a suggestion of display of affection ('cuddles'). He apparently attended her birthday and she had been left in his care on one occasion. These may be perfectly innocent acts, but it has to be acknowledged that the circumstances at least create the potential for seduction and, possibly, abuse.

2.2        Allegation of indecent assault:

2.2.1     Zelda (p15) asked how long the talk was to be. The interviewer suggests to her that she was nervous and scared before and asked directly if she still is. Zelda whispered, "Peter.". The interviewer asked directly if she was scared of Peter, Zelda nodded. Asked (p16) how much, Zelda said very. Asked when this started, Zelda said, "When 'X' [mother] reminded me about him.". Asked if she was scared before the reminder she said, "No.".

Comment: Important here is the context and process of reminding If Zelda was told Ellis had sexually abused children and quizzed as to whether she had been a victim, this could create problems of suggestion or contamination. A parent who learned of the allegations against Ellis and knowing her child had had a close relationship with him and that she had left the child in his care might feel additional concern, and thus felt obliged to question her daughter. Further, if, for example, the child had engaged in normal sexual exploratory play with peers, under questioning the description of what happened could easily be attached to Ellis' name and an allegation generated.

2.2.2     Zelda revealed (p19) that among the 'bad things' Ellis had talked about was his 'diddle.' She said (p20) she could not remember what he had said, so was asked to think really hard about what he had said (Note: Application of pressure to remember may generate false reports as the child tries to please the adult).

2.2.3     A body diagram was drawn by the interviewer (pp20-21) and Zelda was asked to name the parts (Note: Rawls (1996) found this use of body diagrams to be suggestive, prompting false allegations of sexual abuse by younger children). Zelda was asked to identify (p21) eyes, nose, mouth, fingers, toes, thigh, funny bone, neck, tummy button [knows (p22) function of umbilicus], breasts, vagina. Asked about boys, she indicated no breasts and identified (p23) 'diddle'

2.2.4     Asked (p23) the source of her knowledge, she said books, identifying this as where she had seen boy's bodies with no clothes on. Asked directly if she had seen boys' diddles, she shook her head, asked if she had seen anybody's diddle, she shook her head. Asked, "Only in books?", she nodded (p23).

2.2.5     Social influence was now applied to Zelda by the interviewer to get her to repeat an allegation made to her mother (p23), she was asked if able to remember what she had told her mother. She shook her head. The interviewer appeared (p24) to increase the pressure by going over the list of bad' things Zelda had thus far alleged Peter doing and was asked if there was anything she could remember to add to the list. Zelda responded by saying "He talked about my vagina.". Asked what had been said, she replied, "Nothing much.". Asked if it was hard to say, Zelda nodded and asked why the interviewer wanted to know. The interviewer said that she thought Zelda was really scared, that she had kept them to herself for a long time, and when Zelda said they were 'yuck' and that she kept them in her head, the interviewer encouraged her to divulge and feel better. Asked (p25) if there was more to tell, Zelda indicated that a lot of things she didn't like had been talked about.

2.2.6     Some time was devoted to reassuring Zelda (pp26-27) and the interviewer sought to add to the 'list'. Zelda said (p27) he had talked about getting into his bed with no clothes on. At this stage Zelda sought reassurance that no one else would find out about what she was saying. The interviewer said, "You haven't told mum any of this, have you?", Zelda indicated she had not. Then the interviewer told her that she had told her mother but did not now remember, Zelda then claimed to remember. Asked (pp29-29) what she did remember, Zelda said (p28), "He wanted, he wanted me touch, he showed me his diddle.". (Note: Earlier (p23) Zelda had said she had only ever seen one in a book).

2.2.7     Zelda went on to say (pp28-29) in response to mainly direct or multiple choice questions, that she thought this had happened at his house when he was looking after her, in his bedroom, that she had been seated on his bed and he had been standing 'far away' near the door, neither had said anything and that afterwards he had pulled his pants back up and she went home. She did not know who took her home.

2.2.8     Zelda asked (p30) if the interviewer would tell anyone and got reassurance that it would only be people helping her, not Peter Ellis. Asked what she thought might happen if Ellis knew, Zelda said she did not know.

2.2.9     Asked suggestively (p30), "Was it a secret or something?", Zelda said he had said it was a secret and a game when (p31) he had pulled down his pants and that she was allowed to play it. She said he had said 'that it was his special game' and she was not to tell anyone. The interviewer restated (p31) the allegation thus far, and asked (p31) about whether Zelda went to bed with Peter with no clothes on. Zelda (p33) shook her head. In response to direct questioning she indicated she had never seen him in bed without clothes and that he had talked about it at creche.

2.2.10   In response to further questioning Zelda indicated she felt safe talking about things to her mother rather than her father. The interviewer suggested she return to talk more so that she would not have to worry about it any more.


3.0      Conclusions:

Zelda presented as shy and reticent, the interviewer had to encourage her to talk, as Zelda indicated she was scared Ellis might find out about her allegations, although she had no evident threat in mind. Perhaps as a result of her apparent reluctance, the interviewer tended to use a number of suggestive and/or direct questions and occasional suggestive social influence



Missing pages




4.1.4     The interviewer reminded Zelda (pp5-6) of what she had said about going to Peter's house [adding detail that Zelda had not herself provided about the timing of the visit]. The interviewer asked Zelda to talk more about that. She repeated that she was sitting on his bed and that he was close to the door, he took down his pants and she could not recall him saying anything and it happened once. (Note: These details match those in 92/172 and were not part of the reminder at the start of this interview).

4.1.5     The interviewer prompted (p7) Zelda to talk about going to bed with no clothes on. Zelda said Peter had said it in a 'different', 'yucky' way, "He talked about sex."; "Doing sex.". Peter had told her about this. Asked (p8) what he had told, she said he had explained about a man and a woman. The interviewer produced the body diagram and asked if there was any other part of Peter's body she saw, but she implied just the 'diddle'.

4.1.6     Asked (p7) what she did, she said she went away and ignored him by going and looking out the widow. (Note: In interview 92/172 Zelda said (p29) she could only remember him showing his penis and that she went home afterwards).

4.1.7     Asked what else happened while he was standing showing his diddle, Zelda said (pp8-9) he had told her that it was something that we have a baby with.

4.1.8     Social influence was applied (p9) by the interviewer to get Zelda to make a further disclosure. Zelda said it was something about Peter and was asked to write it for the interviewer. After some discussion about other matters (pp10- 12) the interviewer (p12) listed some of the negative feeling terms used by Zelda about Peter and asked direct questions about sadness and anger (Note: Terms not used by Zelda, but she circled anger after the suggestion).

4.1.9     The interviewer then applied social influence (p12) to get Zelda to talk about a subject that she had talked to her mother about. Zelda asked what and the interviewer asked suggestively if it was something Peter said or did. Zelda said, "Did". The interviewer asked (p13) if it was to her or someone else, Zelda said, "Me.". Asked where did it happen, Zelda seemed unsure of the context, so the interviewer said, "Hitting you." (Note: Zelda had not raised this.). She asked the interviewer, "How do you mean?".

4.1.10   Asked (p13) to write it down, Zelda apparently indicated that Peter touched her vagina with his hand. She said (p13) it was in the bedroom and in response to a multiple-choice question and a direct question (p14) indicated she was standing on the bed. Direct questions were asked replies indicated that Peter had his clothes on, he pulled down her pants and touched her with his fingers. Feelings of 'bad' and 'yucky' were described. She said (p14-15) Peter said that it was a secret game and not to tell anyone. She had told her mother a long time after, when her mother had asked her about Peter, she indicated it was yesterday (p15). The touching had happened once at the same time as the earlier alleged event. Asked why she had not disclosed earlier in the interview, Zelda said she didn't want to tell anyone.

4.1.11   Toys were produced (p16) and Zelda said that they had started in the lounge playing snakes and ladders and Peter had invited her to play a game in the bedroom. It began with showing his 'diddle'. After he had touched her vagina she pulled up her pants (p17). Suggestive questions now were asked about what feelings she had, she was asked if it had hurt or not, she chose 'hurt'. Crosses were added to the body diagram (p17) to locate touching. Asked if any other parts needed a cross (Note: This can prove suggestive), Zelda said 'breast'. She said his hand had touched her breast in a circular motion.

4.1.12   Asked (p18) if Peter had asked her if he could touch her vagina, she nodded and said she had said no, but he had done it.

4.1.13   Zelda is noticed (p19) wearing a signet ring (not noticed before by interviewer) given her by her mother (Note: Is this a reward for disclosure?).

4.1.14   Left in the room (p20) Zelda sorted through the toy box and said, "I Hate Peter." to herself.

4.1.15   The interview resumed and Zelda was asked (p20) what Peter's penis looked like, she referred to the drawing and appeared to describe testes as well. She said (p21) it looked funny. Asked where his hand was she pointed to the drawing, the interviewer interpreted this as being on his penis. Asked directly if the touch on her vagina was around or inside, she said around and demonstrated a squeezing motion (Note: Could this be squeezing the labia together?). Asked (p21) if any other part of Peter had touched her or just his hand, Zelda said (p22) only his hand. Asked about other parts hurt, Zelda indicated only her breast.

4.1.16   Zelda elaborated on why she had not told, claiming Peter had told her that 'X' [mother] would not love her if she told.

4.1.17   The interviewer led Zelda to tell if she ever had been touched on her bottom. She said only once (p22) at the same place (p23) and his hand had gone around and around. (Note: Suggestive use of diagram elicited allegation).

4.1.18   Zelda indicated (p23) in response to a direct question that she had told everything about the touching and talking with Peter.


5.0      Conclusions:

The interviewer used suggestive and direct questioning and some social influence in obtaining allegations about alleged abuse of Zelda. These techniques are problematic because of their potential effect on the accuracy of resultant reports, in that while more information may be obtained, its accuracy may be much less than with open questions and / or free recall. It also is possible that the use of the body parts diagram had the potential to generate further allegations, because it can serve either as a reminder or as a prompt leading to embellished reports.

The interviewer also put considerable time at the start of the interview into reminding Zelda of what she had alleged in the previous interview. This could function as a review which consolidates memory and increases the chances of a consistent report. In effect, the opportunity to test for consistency is lost by use of this strategy, However, it is noted that Zelda was consistent on a number of details that had not been included in the review. It is not possible to tell whether this is because she was telling of actual events or because the detail had been rehearsed and consolidated in other tellings, e.g., to her mother.

From what Zelda said, she had been questioned further by her mother after the initial interview. The possibility exists that, if this were by suggestive question and/ or involved some pressure, Zelda might well have felt obliged to disclose more, resulting in this second interview. Alternatively, it may have helped her to remember more, hence the need to return.

In this interview, under' the above questioning regime, Zelda expanded on her initial allegation and added more detail. A number of factors could account for this, these include: First, it is possible Zelda has remembered more since the first interview; second, Zelda may have become less anxious about revealing her abuse and more trusting of the interviewer; third, Zelda may have felt she had to tell more to her mother in response to the latter's enquiries after the first interview and she knew the interviewer was aware of what she said to her mother, so felt obliged to repeat it (whether true or not); fourth, Zelda was rewarded with a new ring after the first interview and this might increase the probability of further reports and, possibly, further rewards. This could either increase the desire to disclose more of what had happened or increase the desire to disclose more, regardless of whether it happened or not.

Some of what Zelda described between herself and Ellis sounded like sex education. This might have come from the sort of exchange she alleged had occurred. Other possible sources include reading books (she refers to getting information from books) and school and/or parental instruction.

Zelda presented as quiet, reserved, and reluctant to talk, much as in the first interview. What she described, admittedly under a fairly suggestive questioning process, was essentially credible. Whether the perpetrator, if there had been one, was Peter Ellis cannot definitely be ascertained from this.


6.0      Interview 92/ 302 28.05.92

6.1        Context of the third interview:

6.1.1     Zelda presented as more relaxed, cheerful and outgoing at the start of this interview. She still spoke quietly and whispered occasionally.

6.1.2     The new allegations, resulting in this interview, apparently arose after a medical examination of Zelda (presumably as a result of her having made allegations of sexual abuse) and it seems were made to her mother (Transcript p4, p9) some two weeks after the examination (p9).

6.1.3     Zelda asked (p4) the interviewer to ask her questions when asked to report her new allegations (Note: This creates the environment in which direct or suggestive questioning becomes more probable).

6.2        Allegation of indecent touching at creche:

6.2.1     Zelda said (pp4-5) the events happened at the creche when she was aged four years, but she could not recall where in the creche (Note: This memory is now some five years old). The alleged behaviour happened to her and there were no witnesses, nor did she tell at the time. She alleged (p5) [whispered] that Peter touched her bottom with his hand.

6.2.2     Asked (p6) to describe the touch, Zelda demonstrated rubbing. The body diagram was produced and Zelda was asked to define the function of the anus. She also had pointed out to her the tummy button (p6) and breasts (pp6-7), and was asked to identify the genitals, she named vagina and, for boys, dick/diddle. The function of the 'vagina' and anus were sought and given (p7).

6.2.3     Zelda (p7) made two marks on the behind of the figure in the diagram.

6.2.4     She was asked (p8) multiple choice questions about whether touching was on top or under clothing and whether she had clothes on or off, she chose underneath and on. A further multiple choice question about where she felt his hand was answered with the choice of "On my skin".

Comment: The above process could be seen as setting up possible allegations because it ranged over aspects of the body parts that were not related to the disclosure by the child, which referred to her bottom only. When asked direct open questions of some detail, Zelda had tended to say she could not remember, as a result detail was obtained primarily by suggestive questioning, which raises the question about what she remembers and what is simply response to options proffered by the interviewer.

6.2.4     Further direct questioning (p9) focused on the medical examination of genitals and anus and the resulting further disclosure to her mother. (Note: The medical examination may have stimulated recall of actual events or provided a basis for generating new allegations).

6.2.5     Zelda talks (pp9-11) about getting a new fluffy seal toy that she had always wanted. This revelation seems to have been stimulated by a comment from the interviewer about Zelda's mother being shopping. Zelda appears to include the interviewer in the suggestion of getting a new toy. (Note: This again raises the issue of rewards for making disclosures which could also motivate the making of false allegations).

6.2.6     Zelda is asked (ph) to tell about what she has reported to her mother. She repeats her inability (p5) to remember where in the creche this happened. Asked why she did not tell, Zelda said, "Because he, he did it, he said if I did then he will come to my house and tell me off.". (Note: On p5 Zelda said she could not remember Peter saying anything.).

Comment: This threat seems a most unlikely one.

6.2.7     Zelda then added (p11) to her allegation to one which included being made to touch 'his' [presumably Ellis'J penis. He pulled down his pants and she had to touch with her fingers (p11), demonstrated (p12) with a squeezing movement of the fingers, which she called 'tickling'. At this point the interviewer suggested that this was similar to that described as having been done at his house that Zelda had told about last time (92 / 183). Zelda nodded. (Note: Zelda had made no such allegation of having to touch his penis at that time. Her nodding suggests acquiescence with the suggestion).

6.2.8     Asked (p12) what his diddle felt like, Zelda wrapped her hand in her jumper and described it as "Hardy softy".

6.2.9     Zelda said (p12) Peter went into the girls' toilets a lot, she could not remember if he helped kids on the toilet, she did not receive help, but he came in and waited. She then seemed to change her statement (p13) in the face of a suggestive question to indicate that Peter had helped her, but that no other teachers did. She said it was yucky and she used to tell him not to, but he kept on. Her own childhood memory was that no one had helped her, even at home, when she was three or four (Note Possible, but unlikely, especially after defecation).

6.2.10   Zelda was asked (p14) to explain what was yucky, and she said it used to hurt, indicating the genital area on the diagram and in answer to a direct question also identified her 'back bottom'. (Note: Children may complain of hurting because the wiping adult is not always aware of the pressure being applied, and the toilet paper is not always soft in these settings).

6.2.11   Asked (p15) how many times this happened, Zelda said about 10 (Note: Such estimations may be meaningless in terms of accuracy but can give the impression of detail remembered). Asked 'did it hurt lots or not much', Zelda chose 'lots'. Asked was paper used, she nodded.

6.2.12   Asked (p15) if anything else happened in the toilets, there was some confusion about the answer [transcribed first as "he weed on mei, which transpired to be an allegation that she was touched after she went to (p16) the toilet. Zelda pointed to the genital and anal areas of the diagram, and said it had been with hands and fingers. Asked if this was different from the toilet paper, she said yes, asked which came first, she said toilet paper, the interviewer interpreted this as toilet paper then fingers. No one else was present. Asking (p16) if it hurt as when paper was used, Zelda said worse.

6.2.13   Asked (p17) to demonstrate touching Zelda made a squeezing motion [similar to that in 92/183].

6.2.14   Asked (p17) about other touching Zelda pointed to the diagram and said "Boobies". Asked on top of or under clothing she said both. Asked (p18) if at creche or elsewhere, she said creche. Asked if at the same or different times, she first said she could not remember and then said at different times and as many times as the other touching happened. The interviewer used the number 10. Asked how this felt, she said yucky and on her bottom 'horrible'. Asked (p19) if they, felt sore, she said yes. Asked if it went on for a long time in the toilet, was it quick or a long time, Zelda chose a long time. She said Peter only said "There you go." (Note: This would seem consistent with someone having wiped a child clean after toiletting and then dismissing them to return to former activity).

Comment: One problem with these allegations is the way the body parts diagram was used in a way that could prompt further allegations by having the child identify body parts about which no allegation had, to that point been made. The subsequent allegations could be said to be prompted in this way. Further, the use of suggestive and/or direct questioning to elicit detail also could have a suggestive or prompting effect. The additive effect of these two processes may have contributed to Rawls (1996) finding with younger children, even when the closed questions were apparently less suggestive than these (J. M. Rawls, 1998, personal communication).

6.3        Allegation of attempted penile-vulval /penile-anal contact:

6.3.1     Zelda began (p20) by suggesting that she had something more to tell that had not been told to her mother. In response to a multiple choice question re location, she selected 'creche' but could not remember where. The interviewer then suggested (p21) that as Zelda had said the earlier events had happened in the toilets and asked which of the two children's or the adult toilet was involved. Zelda chose 'grown ups' (Note: Earlier (p12) she had said the girl's toilets, implying children's).

6.3.2     The touching she had or had not told to her mother was traversed in a series of direct questions (p21). Zelda said her next allegation was too yucky to tell so was invited to write it down. She asked the interviewer to leave, which she did (p22). Zelda consulted notes or drawings on the table and with face close to paper, writes and/or colours in. When the interviewer returned she was allowed to look but not read aloud. She said things like, "Ok, its pretty scary, eh..."; "...It seems to me this is the really tough bit, eh."; "...cos you're scared of what people are going to say, is that part of it?". Asked what they might say, Zelda said, "That I was silly.". The interviewer suggested it might have been embarrassing Zelda agreed. The interviewer (p23) wanted to add it to the list, Zelda declined.

6.3.3     Two body parts diagrams, one male, the other female, were introduced (p23), one identified as Zelda, the other as Peter. Zelda said (pp23-24) they were both stood up with no clothes on in the toilet, she had just her pants off (p24), removed by Peter down to her ankles (p25). He said it was a game and he wanted to put 'them' together, but she did not let him (p24). They were standing facing each other (p25), his pants were on a stool and his underpants off. She want to participate and did not let any part of his body touch hers. She alleged this happened about five times. (Note: The problem with this description is the relative body heights of a four year old and an adult, her face would be nearer his genitals than her vulva would be).

6.3.4     Asked (p26) to describe proximity, her demonstration was not clear to the writer. She said just his hands touched her and demonstrated by crossing her hands over her chest.

6.3.5     Asked (p26) if it was always in the toilet, Zelda now added a new allegation that it occurred once at his house (Note: In interview 92/183, p23, she had said she had told the interviewer everything about the touching and talking.). She said she had seen his diddle and (p27) that he had wanted his diddle to touch her as part of the game and was telling her to do it by saying she could go closer and the diddle and vagina would be able to go together. Asked directly if this ever occurred, she indicated no, but agreed they got close.

6.3.6     Asked (p27) if the diddle and the vagina ever touched, Zelda changed her statement to 'only a bit' and demonstrated [amount not clear to viewer" In response to further questioning (p28) she said it touched only a bit, and she had stopped it. Asked directly again later (p28) she indicated it had touched a tiny bit on the outside of her vagina and that she didn't feel it go on the inside. Asked if the diddle touched any other part of her she said not. A suggestive question asked what about round the back In response Zelda negated her immediately previous statement and said "yes". Asked (p28) if it felt hard or soft, she again (as on p12) wrapped her hand in her jumper and said 'hardy softy' and in response to direct questions indicated it was on the outside of her anus and did not go in.

6.3.7     Further questioning (p29) indicated this alleged event occurred once at his house on her only visit [the same visit as the other alleged events in previous interviews]. Asked again how many times in the toilet, Zelda said four (Note said about five (p25)). Feelings Zelda might have were suggested (p30), she chose angry. It was suggested that she might work these through with Hildegard [counsellor?" Asked (p31) whether she had touched the penis more than five or ten times, Zelda volunteered 'about 15' (Note: She said about 10 times (p15)).

Comment: The interviewer obtained no information on context in respect of these allegations, particularly about body positions. Zelda had said both were standing in relation to the toilet allegation, but this has to be open to challenge given relative body heights which would make contact of the types alleged extremely improbable. No information was sought or given in respect of the allegation of events at Ellis' house.

6.3.8     Asked (p31) about the penis touching the vagina, Zelda said, "A bit." then retracted this by saying "It didn't quite reach, it just went like that [not discernible] and I didn't let it happen like that.". The interviewer then said, Right, Ok, so there was no other part of you that had to touch his diddle. No. So your hands had to touch.", to which Zelda replied, "Only my hands.". The interviewer then said (p31), "And nearly your vagina. Any other part?", Zelda replied, "No.".

Comment: Zelda appears to be changing what she alleged in significant ways. First she says now that the penis did not touch her vagina, stating now that it did not quite reach. In fact if she and Ellis were standing it would not be likely to reach at all. She also now has not repeated her allegation about the penis touching her bottom, saying no when asked if it touched any other part. These changes are important in the context of making allegations of attempted sexual violation.

6.3.9     Asked (p31) if his 'diddle' did anything Zelda asked, "How do you mean?", asked if it stayed the same or was different, she said it stayed the same. The interviewer led that it stayed 'hardy softy', Zelda indicated 'yes'.

Comment: This question is rather meaningless in the absence of context. Saying it stayed the same does not provide any information on what it was the same as. The child originally had used the term 'hardy softy', having wrapped her hand in her jumper, but no effort was made to determine then whether there was an erection or not, One might be assumed from the term hardy softy, but it cannot be concluded with any certainty that this was the case.


7.0      Conclusions:

This interview used direct and suggestive multiple choice questions, in conjunction with potentially suggestive use of body parts diagrams, to elicit a number of the allegations and much of the detail. Some information was volunteered, but could have been contaminated by the way the body parts diagram had been employed, since additional allegations involving other body areas (e,g. breasts, vagina, penis) followed after these had been identified on the diagram, even though not included in the initial allegation that led to its introduction.

Equally, important contextual information was overlooked in the questioning so that the circumstances in which the alleged events occurred often were at best sketchy. For example, the body positions suggested for alleged penile-vaginal and anal contact were unrealistic as described for the toilet and no information on these was sought or given for the alleged occasion at Ellis' home. Also, the description of the penis as 'hardy softy' was somewhat unsatisfactory, since it gave the impression of at least partial erection without ever clearly indicating just what the status of the penis was, yet no clarification or elucidation was sought.

Zelda revealed herself to be somewhat suggestible, often relying on question content to give detail and producing inconsistent testimony in the presence of suggestive questions (e.g., changing from the girls' toilet to the adult, changing her statement about penile contact with vagina and anus from contact to no contact).

Zelda's description of touching of vagina and anus in the toilets seemed, from what she alleged Ellis to have said, 'there you go', to suggest that wiping was what had occurred and the child was then dismissed with those words. The question is could she discriminate the paper from the hand (given the thinness of the paper) and is it possible that memory of the simple act of wiping now became an allegation of abuse in the context of the questioning about Ellis?

It is of concern that Zelda appeared to be getting rewards, in the form of a toy seal on this occasion, from -her mother for making allegations. This creates the possibility that a child might be tempted to embellish or create allegations in order to maintain rewards, given that an effect of rewards is to increase the behaviour that earns them. Another consequence of rewarding is that, upon cessation, the behaviour that originally earned them may become more frequent, more variable, or more intense. What this means is that more, and possibly more varied and extreme, allegations are likely to follow cessation. This could be an explanation for the production of new and different allegations over time by Zelda and other children in this series of interviews.

Other possible sources of contamination include maternal questioning and counselling, both of which could provide for rehearsal and/or elaboration of allegations.

Zelda's emotional behaviour was slightly more positive in this interview, especially at the start. She still came across as shy and reticent, but it is not possible to tell how this differs from Zelda in other settings, or whether her reticence is at all due to•anxiety, to the alleged abuse, or to experience of sex as a taboo subject, hence the embarrassment, the whispering, and the writing things down in preference to saying them.

The impression the write gained from this interview was that the allegations were of a somewhat different character to those initially made and thus were somewhat less convincing, perhaps because of inconsistency and / or changes in testimony.


8.0      Overall conclusions:

Most of the allegations made by Zelda emerged from direct and/or suggestive questioning. This may have occurred because of her demonstrable reticence, in all three interviews and because she asked the interviewer to question her in one (92/302). There was use of social influence to get her to report and body parts diagrams were used in two (92/172; 92/ 302) to elicit body part names in ways that could have prompted further allegations. Also, the interviewer kept a list of Zelda's allegations and cited these back to her at length at intervals, which provided both possible reminders and prompts which may have had a contaminating effect. An unintended effect of these strategies could have been to encourage and shape additional allegations.

Zelda showed herself to be somewhat suggestible, changing her responses in line with suggestions and sometimes elaborating detail in response to such questions when she had just previously indicated that she could not remember.

Sources of information about sexual matters include: Possibly the events she alleged, possibly books she had read, and possibly peer/school/parental information. Some of the events Zelda described, particularly in her first two interviews raised the question of seduction and abuse, including gifts, opportunity, and described acts. This does not mean that Peter Ellis necessarily was the perpetrator if they did occur, she could have been describing normal child exploration or exploitation by another adult. It has to be acknowledged that the allegations were-made in a climate of parental concern and questioning that focused on Peter Ellis. 'Attribution to Ellis would have been easy under such circumstances. The description of events in the third interview (92/302) was somewhat less convincing primarily because of the problem of any contact being possible with both standing and the apparent retraction of the allegations of penile-vulval and penile-anal contact.

Zelda is recounting events alleged to have occurred some four to five years previously, so loss of detail is to be expected. Her memory, except under suggestive questioning is similar to what one might expect given her immaturity at the time of creche attendance and the intervening passage of time in that she has limited recollection of what happened outside of what could be seen as basic facts. Equally, she might be capable of making up a basic story but be too unimaginative to embellish it without suggestive prompting

Her emotional responses raise the question of her being abused, given her expressed anxiety, her reticence, feeling of embarrassment, her voice changes at times, and her gradual disclosure. Alternative explanations include her being normally reticent and shy, reluctant to talk about sexual matters and, as a result of suggestive parental questioning has made allegations, and is now anxious that Ellis might learn that she is making allegations up, having previously been a good friend. It is not possible to tell which, if either, of these alternatives is the case.

Potential sources of external contamination include parental inquiries, counselling and written material on sexual matters. There is also the question of rewards, as she mentioned in 92/183 and 92/302 that her mother had, respectively, given her a ring and a toy seal. If these gifts were contingent on making allegations, they could function as rewards, increasing the likelihood of further disclosure. As noted in 7.0 above, cessation of rewards also has effects on changing the pattern of behaviour as the rewarded individual works to reestablish the reward regime by increasing the rate, variability, or intensity of responding.