Radio New Zealand
"Nine to Noon"
25 August 2003

Presenter Linda Clark with Nathan and his mother

Presenter (Linda Clark):  When it comes to the Christchurch Civic Crèche case I think we now all agree that the children were abused.  What the country can’t agree on is by whom.  Is it Peter Ellis who’s to blame or the legion of psychologists and interviewers who questioned these children and led them to believe the abuse took place?  As you know, a celebrity-studded petition calling for a royal commission into the case goes before a select committee in the next few weeks.  This morning you’re going to hear from one family who claims know a great deal about Peter Ellis and the Christchurch Civic Crèche yet they were never part of the police case.  The boy was never interviewed as a small child by police or by psychologists.  He was never part of the process Peter Ellis’s supporters claim brainwashed the other children.  And why?  Because it wasn’t until he was 16 years old that he told anyone he’d been abused.  I spoke to him and his mother on Friday afternoon.  I began by asking him why he was so sure it was Peter Ellis who abused him.

Nathan:  Because I remember it was him.

Linda Clark:  Remember his face?

Nathan:  Yep.

Linda Clark:  And how old were you when you were at the crèche?

Nathan:  I would have been about four I think.

Linda Clark:  And you were never interviewed as part of the Civic Crèche case?

Nathan:  No.

Linda Clark:  So you weren’t.. is that because at that point you’d never told anyone?

Nathan:  Yeah.

Linda Clark:  How old were you when you told Mum and Dad?

Nathan:  16 I think.

Linda Clark:  It’s a long time?

Nathan:  Mmm, yep, a long time.

Linda Clark:  So what happened in those years?

Nathan:  A lot of confusion I think.  I didn’t really know what to do or who to you know.. how to talk about it.

Linda Clark:  Did you.. how old were you when you worked out you’d been abused?

Nathan:  Ah, I would have been about 14.

Linda Clark:  So up until that time, from 4 to 14 did you feel there was something wrong?

Nathan:  Yep.

Linda Clark:  Tell me about that?

Nathan:  Um, well I mean, you know things.. I knew things that children my age shouldn’t have known and you know, you can just.. you know there’s something wrong.

Linda Clark:  You knew things about sex you mean?

Nathan:  Yeah, yeah.

Linda Clark:  And these are things that you would never have heard at home?

Nathan:  No, no that’s for sure.

Linda Clark:  Or you hadn’t seen on tv?

Nathan:  No.

Linda Clark:  Or on videos?

Nathan:  No, they don’t show that sort of thing on tv.

Linda Clark:  So at 14 what happened?

Nathan:  Um, when I was 14 it was sort of when I first started becoming more social with friends and with girls and that sort of thing and that’s when it sort of started to hit me the worst because you know, I sort of started to realise that I wasn’t on a.. wasn’t really a normal, to use the sort of strange term but wasn’t really a normal teenager.  you know, when I looked at the way that my friends reacted to some things and the way that I reacted, you know, I knew that I had to deal with it.

Linda Clark:  Give me an example?  what do you mean, the way you reacted?

Nathan:  Socially with.. like I mean I went to a boy’s school.  when I was 14, 15 and we started.. the friends that I made there, we started socialising with girls at parties and that sort of thing and it scared the living heck out of me to the point where you know, I knew there was something wrong.

Linda Clark:  So if a girl tried to kiss you or touch you what would happen?

Nathan:  Ah, I’d freak out.  I mean there’s other situations where it’s a lot more difficult for example going to a boy’s school that was quite involved in sport, I couldn’t handle playing sport or doing P.E because of the changing rooms and that side of things.

Linda Clark:  You didn’t want to go in the changing rooms?

Nathan:  No.

Linda Clark:  Was it the changing rooms or was it getting changed?

Nathan:  Um, getting changed.

Linda Clark:  You didn’t want anyone to see you?

Nathan:  Um, yeah, yeah, I suppose that’s how you’d.. you know it’s just an uncomfortable situation to be in.

Linda Clark:  So you’re 14 and you realise that you’re different from everybody else around you and you think this is something I need to deal with and then what happens?

Nathan:  Um, it just got.. got worse and worse over the next two years as I..

Linda Clark:  In terms of how you felt?

Nathan:  Yeah, in terms of how I felt and you know, because I was becoming more and more socially involved with girls and you know, that sort of early teenage sort of introduction to the whole sex side of things and..

Linda Clark:  Well, all your mates are going to parties?

Nathan:  Yep, yep, it just you know.. it makes it very, very difficult to try and.. to fit in.

Linda Clark:  When did you tell your mother?

Nathan:  Um, one morning before school.  I think my father was giving me a lift into school at that time and I didn’t go to school that day because I was quite upset.  Mum came in and asked me what was wrong and it took me.. took me a few hours to sort of decide that you know, it was right to tell her.

Linda Clark:  So you must have been weighing that up for a long time?

Nathan:  Yeah.

Linda Clark:  Trying to find the right time?

Nathan:  Yeah, it’s not something that you know, you can sort of bring up in.. even in a really good family environment it’s not something you can bring up just out of the blue.

Linda Clark:  So what did you say to her?

Nathan:  Um, I just asked her if she, you know, remembered me going to the crèche and that something had happened but I never really went into detail with her.

Linda Clark:  Till later?

Nathan:  Mmm, yep, it was quite a bit later.

Linda Clark:  You know that Peter Ellis has always denied that he touched any of the children inappropriately at the crèche?

Nathan:  Yep.

Linda Clark:  And he still denies it.

Nathan:  Yep.

Linda Clark:  And the women who worked with him say that it could never have happened?

Nathan:  Well, I suppose they’ve got to say that really, don’t they?  I mean anything is possible and I mean, of course he’s going to deny it and you know, I can’t see how.. I can’t see how they can deny it.  it’s hard enough living with having it happen to you let alone being the person that’s done it to all these children.  I don’t see how he you know.. how he gets on with himself.

Linda Clark:  You’ll know because we all do, Lynley Hood has written this book, it’s called “a city possessed” and she says that the children at the crèche who are so convinced that they were touched and abused by Peter Ellis have been.. have got false memories, that they’ve been manipulated into thinking that by their parents or by counsellors and by psychologists. 

Nathan:  I never really had much to do with any of the case at all so I mean I don’t really know the processes which they went through but I know that they.. you know, she sort of says that oh, some of the things that they have said are so far fetched that you know, it’s impossible but children believe in Santa Claus so you know, I can’t see how they can say that it didn’t happen when you know, children are impressionable but they’re not.. I mean you can’t just say to a kid well, did this happen and they getting all the details.  I mean kids that age don’t know that sort of thing.

Linda Clark:  So you..

Nathan:  And I don’t, you know.. you can’t.. you can’t teach them that sort of thing just by asking them about it.

Linda Clark:  Your mum is listening to this conversation.  let’s bring her in.  nice to have you on the programme.

Mother:  Good morning, Linda.

Linda Clark:  It must be very difficult for you to hear your son talk about this, even after so many years of having dealt with this as a family?

Mother:  It is.  it’s very difficult and I know that he has some very hard moments in his life even now, with nightmares.  He wakes up in the middle of the night having nightmares and he gets out of bed and he vomits, and he has done this for a long, long time.  As he said, when he was 16 he told me about it but I actually took him away from the crèche because I suspected there was something untoward going on at the time and he was only at the crèche for a very, very short time when he was 4 going on 5.  Some of the things that I had noticed when he.. we took him to the crèche.  we lived out in the country and he had been to a pre-school prior to going to the crèche and this was the crèche in the old dux deluxe [phon] centre, not the crèche at the Cranmer [phon] Centre I think it was.  First of all we noticed he.. after a very short time being at the crèche he was very reluctant to go to the crèche.  When we would come into the city he would hang onto the car door when I tried to.. When we arrived at the crèche he would hold onto the car door until his little knuckles were white.  He’d scream.  He didn’t want to get out of the car.  When I got him to the gate of the crèche he’d hang onto the rails with his hands and put his feet on the rails and scream and say no, no.  and we thought at the time, both my husband and myself that you know, he was just reluctant to be away from us and yet we’d never had this problem before.  I also noticed that some of the children in the playground and the playground at the time was open to the car park in the arts centre, they’d be playing in the playground with either no knickers or no clothes on and I disagreed with that and told the crèche staff at the time that under no circumstances was my son to go without his underclothes or to be fully undressed and.. because of sunburn and people hanging about the crèche because at the time my daughter was in a ballet school in the arts centre and the dance teacher had told the parents not to bring the children into the arts centre in leotards and tights because they were having problems with some strange people hanging about the toilets and the things, so I was aware of this problem that they had in that area and I insisted that he didn’t go without his clothes in the playground or without knickers.  and I had taken a big pile of knickers into the crèche for him to wear at the time and said that you know, some were his older sisters’ hand-me-downs and some were his own and I said that they would.. to keep them there and if he did have an accident of any sort, that they were to keep him dressed.  He was toilet trained at two.  He never wet the bed by the time he was two, completely toilet trained but when he was at the crèche he started to go back.  While he was at the crèche also he started having nightmares.  he’d wake up in the middle of the night screaming and complaining that he had a greasy bottom and we couldn’t make this out.  We thought perhaps he’d got hot and sweaty during the night but we found out later on what that was about when Nathan told us.  An older sister who was in a Polytech course had to go and.. had to stay with him for the whole day because he was so distressed when she took to him to the crèche one day she was about 18 at the time, and she said he was just so distressed when he.. when she took him there that he.. that she stayed with him for the whole time.

Linda Clark:  So for these reasons you withdrew your son from the crèche after a relatively short period of time?

Mother:  No, that wasn’t all.  I think another day he came home from the crèche or he comes back to my business and told me that he had been taken to a house by some of the crèche staff and I wasn’t happy about that.  And he also told me another day that he’d been taken to a park by crèche staff.  He also came home from the crèche with a very sore penis and we took him to our doctor who sent us to a urinologist and we also went to see Dr Casely [phon], a paediatrician in
Christchurch and they couldn’t figure out what was going on. 

Linda Clark:  Did you suspect abuse at this point in time?

Mother:  No, I didn’t.  That was the last thing I thought of.  We all.. He also told me that he and another little boy had run away from crèche staff and hidden in the cupboard.  He was very distressed, unhappy, he still didn’t want to go to the crèche and in the end I think the last straw was two crèche staff, a man and a woman and the man was Peter Ellis, brought him back to my business.  Peter Ellis stood at the end of the window of my shop and the woman pushed him through the door and took off with no explanation of why they should be bringing him back into my business.  He was supposed to be in the crèche till
five o’clock and this was about three thirty in the afternoon and they just pushed him in the door and left him.

Linda Clark:  And you’re absolutely sure that the man who did that was Peter Ellis?

Mother:  It was Peter Ellis.

Linda Clark:  Because this is one of the things I need to ask you in terms of the chronology of this.  This is all at the end of 1985, is that right?

Mother:  Yes, that’s right.

Linda Clark:  Because according to Lynley Hood’s book, Peter Ellis didn’t begin working at the crèche until 1986?

Mother:  Yes, I know and I’ve been through that with the police.  The police said at the beginning when we went to the police they said that no, it couldn’t have been Peter Ellis because he wasn’t employed there then, but they came back to me later on and said no, we have a very reliable witness who says yes, Peter Ellis was associated and hanging out with people at the crèche at that time.

Linda Clark:  So maybe not working there?

Mother:  Maybe not working there.

Linda Clark:  But associated with the crèche at that time?

Mother:  Yes he was.

Linda Clark:  And you’re not.. I don’t want to labour the point but you’re in no doubt that the man you saw with your child when he came to your business was Peter Ellis?

Mother:  No doubt at all.

Linda Clark:  When your son told you.. He’s 16 years of age and he told you that he had been abused, at that time did he tell you it was Peter Ellis that was the abuser?

Mother:  Yes.  When he told me he was going through a lot of difficulties at the time.  He wasn’t happy at school, he wasn’t settling down at school.  He was just a very, very unhappy teenager and we were worried about him and had actually been to see his school counsellor and I had found a note in his bedroom when I was cleaning that I wasn’t.. that really distressed me and gave me cause for concern and we went to see his school counsellor and the morning he talks about, he.. his father used to take him to.. drop him off at school before he went to work and this morning he didn’t want to go to school, he was upset and I had rounded on him because he wasn’t.. he’d decided he was going to leave school and not sit his bursary exams and he was.. I gave him a bit of a dressing down and he went to his bedroom and he was there for a while and I went up to see if he was all right and he was just sitting on the bed breaking his heart and I sat down beside him, put my arm round him and said to him, what on earth is the matter?  You know, what has upset you so much?  Surely you know, the ticking down I’d given him, I didn’t think it was that bad.  And he told me, he said to me it’s what you have always suspected mum, he said it’s the crèche.  And I said to him what do you mean the crèche and he told me that.. he told me different things that had happened to him at the crèche and he drew me a picture of the room that he’d been taken to in this house, where the furniture was, where the door was and he had very good recollection of what had happened.

Linda Clark:  So when he said to you in that conversation it’s what you always suspected mum, had you raised this as a possibility with him before?

Mother:  Um, well I.. when I took him away from the crèche I’d gone down to the crèche to see the staff and asked for an explanation why he was taken away from the crèche and had been at somebody’s house and also why he had been dropped back at my shop in the afternoon when.. by these two people when he was supposed to have been at the crèche until
five o’clock.  They sort of ganged up on me and pushed me into a corner and sort of.. I felt very, very intimidated and they told me that I couldn’t take him out of the crèche until the end of the term because he was booked in till the end of the term and I just said look, he’s extremely unhappy, I’m not unhappy.. I’m not happy with what is going on here, what I.. you know, various things I’d seen and I said I don’t care what you say, I’m taking him out of here.  and that was the last time I.. that was the last time he went to the crèche.  from there he went to the Christchurch Polytech Crèche and he settled down there and was perfectly happy.  We never had any problem with him going there.

Linda Clark:  But in the intervening years when it was clear that as he’s told us himself, that he didn’t feel like other kids and he was having difficulties and stresses..

Mother:  Yes, well we..

Linda Clark:  Did you ever raise with him the possibility that something might have happened to him at the crèche?

Mother:  Yes I did once.  We never suspected that and he seemed to be you know.. sort of pick up a bit after we took him away from there.  We moved away from
Christchurch to South Canterbury when he would have been about six.  He went to a new school and was.. and we did.. we never had any contact with anybody from the crèche, any other parents or anything like that.  We were living in South Canterbury when the thing broke, when Peter Ellis was actually charged.  We didn’t really know about it and it was only really by accident that I found out about it.  One night I went upstairs to see the news and Nathan came up with me.  I turned the television on and Peter Ellis was walking towards the camera on the news clip and Nathan came into the room, saw Peter Ellis on the television and he just stopped dead in his tracks, he went as white as a sheet and he said to me, I was at that crèche, I was at the crèche.  He said nothing happened to me, nothing happened to me and he ran away and hid.  He ran out across the veranda and hid in a tree until it was dark and I thought yes, something has happened here.   And later on that night I took him aside and I sat him down and said to him, when you were at the crèche did anything happen to you?  And he pulled away from me and said no, no.  and I thought well, we’ll just leave it at that.  The next day I rang the.. Brian Pearce at the Christchurch police station and he said to me you can come up and talk to me about it if you like.  I came to Christchurch within.. shortly after that.  I spoke to him and I spoke to a lady, I think it was Jen Crossan [phon] who was a social worker working on the case and I asked her what I should do.  you know, I told her what my suspicions were and how I’d taken him away from the crèche for various reasons and she said do nothing, she said don’t ask him again.  She said you’ll just have to wait until he’s ready to tell you.  She said don’t ask him, Don’t mention it.

Linda Clark:  And that’s what you did?

Mother:  And that’s exactly what I did.  I never asked him again, we never brought it up and we never.. we never.. he never watched it on television or anything like that and we didn’t really follow the case because we were extremely busy..

Linda Clark:  All right, let’s come back..

Mother:  In the business that we had.

Linda Clark:  Let’s come back to your son.  Your mother said to us there that you’ve been to the police with this information.  You went to the police last year?

Nathan:  Yep.

Linda Clark:  And what happened when you went to the police?

Nathan:  Um, they of course went through their investigation process.

Linda Clark:  So they interviewed you?

Nathan:  Yep, and things became quite difficult I believe for them because of the whole publicity of it and the political side of things and they assured me that you know, they wholeheartedly would like to be able to do something but I believe it’s a bit risky for them to go ahead with anything just on my evidence alone because of the fact that there’s so much publicity for him that it would be very, very silly to go ahead with anything unless you know, it was 200% sure to nail him.

Linda Clark:  Would you like to press charges?

Nathan:  Mmm, yeah I..

Linda Clark:  Your family have looked at a private prosecution?

Nathan:  Um.. pass.

Linda Clark:  Ok.  The.. if you.. so the police say that they can’t.. they’re not proceeding.  I mean there’s not going to be a police case?

Nathan:  Not at this stage.  They don’t have enough evidence from me alone to be able to get a rock solid case.. [indistinct]

Linda Clark:  Well and anyway he’s served 7 years inside and he’s been found guilty of.. I suppose that’s part of the logic isn’t it, in relation to the crèche.. in relation to what happened at the crèche?

Nathan:  Yeah, I wouldn’t really call it logic but I suppose you could say that he has served some time for what he did.

Linda Clark:  What do you think of this campaign.. You mentioned it a little earlier, this campaign to clear Peter Ellis?

Nathan:  I think.. it baffles me as to how he can afford to do it for a start.  I mean I know that I sure as heck can’t afford or couldn’t afford to.. one of the best or most.. probably one of the most expensive lawyers in the country and yeah, I.. I can understand though why he has so much public support because there’s never been anything said for the children as you know, on the greater scale that is being done for him um, which is kind of tragic really.

Linda Clark:  Your mother said that you had as a child, and even now, you have nightmares?

Nathan:  Yeah.

Linda Clark:  You still have nightmares?

Nathan:  Yep.

Linda Clark:  Do you still wake up and vomit?

Nathan:  Yep.  yep.  Probably every second or third night at least.  um, it’s.. yeah, kind of makes it interesting.  I’ve been.. I’m now married but it’s.. luckily I’m very, very lucky to have a.. such an understanding loving wife because there’s a lot of things that as a wife she has to deal with as well and that’s definitely one of them, you know, because she more often than not wakes up with me and I mean I can’t imagine how hard it must be for her to deal with it.

Linda Clark:  Can you imagine getting over this?

Nathan:  Yeah, maybe one day.

Linda Clark:  Because it must feel like it’s with you for ever?

Nathan:  It certainly does when you know every, second day or every second week it’s brought up again and rubbed in your face.

Linda Clark:  So it’s painful to see Peter Ellis on the television?

Nathan:  Yeah, and I mean it’s not just the television it’s you know, the newspapers, the radio, people talk about it, you know.  I mean even at jobs I’ve had and that, people have been.. it’s been in the newspaper or the news and whatever and people are sitting round in the smoko rooms talking about it and you know.. and I mean they’re totally unaware and they turn to you and ask you for your opinion but I mean you know, how do you deal with that to these people that you don’t really you know.. you know I mean, I.. a lot of the people that I’ve worked with have been older than me so I’ve never really socialised with them at all and it’s quite difficult to you know, deal with that when you know, I mean you don’t really want them to know but you, you know, you can’t just sort of sit there.

Linda Clark:  Would you like there to be a royal commission to clear this up once and for all?

Nathan:  Um, that depends.  I mean there’s so much publicity and crap surrounding this thing that you know, I can’t really see how it could be a fair one.  I mean particularly if some of these people that have signed this thing for him or saying that you know, something needs to be done, are on the board or the panel or whatever hears it because you know, it’s just.. all people who have ever heard it this whole time has been his side of the story and that’s what a lot of them are basing their opinions on.  I mean that’s what that woman wrote a book about so you know, how can you.. how can you really do any justice when you know.. the public has got such a one-sided attitude.

Linda Clark:  But without a royal commission it’s not going to go away, is it?  You’re still going to be picking up the paper and seeing his face from time to time and he’s still going to be on the Tele and he’s still going to be on the radio and it’s still there?

Nathan:  Yeah, exactly.  that’s why I mean it’s a hard one to call really. 

Linda Clark:  And he’s never going to admit he did it?

Nathan:  No, no, that’s for sure.  I mean he couldn’t.. couldn’t now anyway after all these bloody years but um, it would be nice but I mean, as far as I’m concerned he hasn’t you know.. he hasn’t served enough time.

Linda Clark:  Were you abused by more than Ellis?

Nathan:  Yeah, yep.

Linda Clark:  Were other children there at the same time?

Nathan:  Yep.

Linda Clark:  Do you know whether those were the children that were involved in the court case or not?  I’m thinking they probably aren’t because of the time?

Nathan:  Yep, I have no idea.  I’ve never.. never contacted of the children or anything from when I was there and I’ve never really you know, wanted to dredge all that up again.

Linda Clark:  Let’s come back to your mother finally.  You.. I mentioned a private prosecution a little earlier and your son was obviously a bit surprised by that, but you have considered that, haven’t you?

Mother:  Yes we have.  when Nathan told me, or my son told me, about the crèche, I asked him what he’d like to do about it.  I said to him.. and he said what were his options and I said well, we could go and we could go and talk to our doctor which we did and she talked to Nathan and recommended counselling.  He had some counselling at the time.  We also went to the police and we actually went to the police four years ago and they have been to-ing and fro-ing for the last four or five years.  We went.. when he was about.. not long after he told me we went to the police and we have waited for quite a long time and finally this year they told us that due to public opinion being swayed, half the population believed he was innocent, half believed he was guilty.  There’d been a lot of money spent on the case, it was historical.  They gave all sorts of reasons why they weren’t going to visit it again but they said they wouldn’t close the case, they would hold it open and if any other children come forward they would revisit it then.  I think they did try to see Peter Ellis and they had sent it to the Crown Prosecutor out of
Christchurch who weighed everything up and we met with him and discussed it with him, my husband, myself and my son, and his.. he came back with the opinion that you know, public opinion was divided, it was historical.  there’d been a lot of money spent on the case.

Linda Clark:  So what do you want to want to happen now?

Mother:  We have also seen a solicitor.  I would like.. and I know my son too would like.. Peter Ellis to admit what he did and to show some repentance for what he did to not only my son but to other children as well.  there are other things here that are probably.. my son doesn’t want to go into right now but there are other ongoing health problems that.. he’s suffering all the time and I just think that it’s a life sentence.  He can deal with it but it will never be dealt with.

Linda Clark:  And somewhere you must feel guilty about this too, do you?

Mother:  I do.  I feel very guilty that I actually chose the crèche to go to and he feels very, very guilty.  He told me not long after that he initially told me that what really upset him the most was the fact that he was one of the older children and had he told when he was there, a lot of these other younger children wouldn’t have been abused and I said to him that that is not your baggage.

Linda Clark:  do you really think that, that he could have stopped it?

Nathan:  Mmm.

Mother:  He felt that.  he felt that had he told somebody then he would have saved a lot of these other children from abuse and I said to him you cannot feel guilty for that and he.. that does upset him a lot.

Linda Clark:  Well, I appreciate you both joining us for this conversation and I know it’s been a difficult thing to talk about.

Mother:  Very difficult.

Linda Clark:  As I said at the outset, we pre-recorded that interview, clearly for legal reasons, and we haven’t.. we have deliberately not used the name of the boy although his mother there referred to him by his first name Nathan, and that was at the wishes of the family.