A City Possessed

A City Possessed: The Christchurch Civic Creche Case

A City Possessed: The Christchurch Civic Creche Case by Lynley Hood

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Think the Salem Witch Hunts couldn’t happen in modern times?

Think again.

A shocking case of mass hysteria.

This book doesn’t bother making any pretence of being a dispassionate, unbiased account so neither will I.

When rumours of a Christchurch based cult abusing children and then the (later and separate) allegations against workers at the Christchurch Civic Creche started in the early 90’s – I believed them. I was a young mother at the time and one of the messages we absorbed was if your child made any remarks that could remotely be construed as being about sexual abuse – believe your child. I loved my children and thought I was the luckiest woman alive being their mother, but there was always an element of fear. I couldn’t be so lucky to parent these wonderful beings, something would have to go wrong. I think these were the subliminal messages I was absorbing.

Further along of course you know children can and will lie about almost anything. In some cases I would call it more make believe and sometimes (and this is important) if you badger children and won’t accept an answer of, “I don’t know” or “I can’t remember” children will say what they believe their parent wants to hear.

I did start wondering when the four woman childcare workers were acquitted, but I didn’t start to really doubt till I read some of the children’s allegations – & even more when the oldest child accuser recanted and said she had made her claims because she thought that was what her parents wanted to hear. Even though those charges were dismissed there was no move to rehear the other cases. Peter Ellis remained inside. He wouldn’t attend parole hearings as he wouldn’t admit to something he hadn’t done. Most telling was that in most cases NZ prisons are hell on earth for child molesters – but Peter was untouched as his court guards let it be known (after sitting through some of the “evidence”) that they believed he was innocent and the charges were a farrago of nonsense.

Peter Ellis was set up. I think a lot of the problem was parents don’t want very young children in the care of males and this book makes serious allegations against the policeman in charge of the investigation. Problems remain to this day in NZ in getting male teachers to teach children of any age. He wasn’t released until 2000 and had just received permission to appeal his charges, but died of cancer in September. I hope the appeal still goes forward.

I know I’m making some judgemental comments, but I had to knock off half a ★for a few of Hood’s own. The first 167 pages were background info and she describes a child witness as the school gossip. How do you think the child would feel reading this as an adult? And calling Sharon Crosbie a radio diva, sounds like paying off an old score. I also found some of the indexing a little frustrating when I wanted to look things up.

Still a very important read for New Zealanders, but if you aren’t interested in all the background (Hood is very thorough) Start reading from about page 167.

Further reading https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Ellis_(childcare_worker)


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