16 May 2018

Abuse at Gloriavale: 'The leaders knew everything'

From Checkpoint, 5:09 pm on 16 May 2018

A former Gloriavale member says he knows for an "undeniable fact" that sexual abuse has occurred in the West Coast religious community.

The man's comments come after the death yesterday of Hopeful Christian, the founder of Gloriavale and convicted sex offender.

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Photo: Alexander Turnbull Library

He died at the age of 92 from cancer.

Also known as Neville Cooper, he established a community known as the "Cooperites" in 1969 in North Canterbury.

The community later moved to the West Coast in the early 1990s and now has about 600 members.

Former Glorivale member David Ready left the community in September 2016 at the age of 17 but still visits his parents regularly.

Mr Ready was not related to Neville Cooper, but lived in his community for the first 17 years of his life.

When asked by Checkpoint whether there has been sexual abuse in the community, he said: "Yes, I know that for a fact. An indisputable, undeniable fact."

"It happened to my friends, it's happened to some of my family members...and I know it's happened and I know the people that did it. I know when it happened."

He said leaders knew about it, including Mr Christian.

"The leaders knew everything and they refused to take action," he said.

Hopeful Christian

Hopeful Christian Photo: Greymouth Star

Mr Ready said he knew of one incident involving Mr Christian.

"He was involved in one and when I found it out about it I was not a happy boy."

Mr Ready said he was "kicked out" at the age of 17 for "asking too many questions and demanding too many answers".

"I was called into a meeting...It's like 16 against one in there...They basically just ripped me to pieces. They sit there and basically take turns at destroying your character, destroying everything that you can use against them."

He felt like a "fish in a barrel surrounded by cats".

He was told to leave and given $700 and a plane ticket to Napier.

When he heard Mr Christian had died, he felt relief.

"Eventually death visits everyone and when death comes knocking on your door, you have to answer...

"And in life I believe he just ran from a lot of things, he covered up a lot of things, and he would not admit to a lot of things, but now he's facing the complete reality of death."

Mr Ready did not expect any major or immediate change in the community due to respect and loyalty for Hopeful Christian.

The Gloriavale community declined to comment today.

West Coast Police Area Commander Jacqui Corner said a multi-agency approach to safety within the community had been adopted at Gloriavale, and regular visits were made to the community by police, and also in a multi-agency led approach which included Oranga Tamariki, the District Health Board and the Ministry of Education.

She said police continued to work with the Gloriavale leadership team to assist in providing advice and support.