Book Reviews

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

Reviewed by Dr S Alexander
© ChildForum

 

No other case of child abuse in New Zealand's history has held public attention so strongly and for so long as the Christchurch Civic Creche case. While charges against four of his female colleagues were dropped after an 11-week preliminary hearing, Peter Ellis was later sentenced to 10 years' imprisonment.

Fourteen months later, a child retracted her allegations, saying that she had said only what her mother had wanted her to say. A report in 2001 by the former Chief Justice, Sir Thomas Eichelbaum, commissioned by the Attorney-General, concluded that the remaining convictions should stand.

Ellis maintains, even after release from custody, that he is innocent.

Lynley Hood, the author of books on baby farmer Minnie Dean, the only woman to be hanged in New Zealand, and controversial educationalist Sylvia Ashton-Warner, has bravely done what no one else dared - search for answers to the question of what did or didn't happen at the Christchurch Civic Creche.

Hood's investigation was as an independent researcher - one who persisted, despite legal and other pressures, to get to the bottom of the case.

It is noteworthy that she did not set out on a personal crusade to free Ellis. (Ellis had to buy his own copy of the book to find out what was written, and the book was not published until after his release.)

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