15 Aug 2019

Ellis case 'a witch-hunt against victims' - complainant's aunt

From Checkpoint, 5:14 pm on 15 August 2019

The aunt of one of the first complainants in the Peter Ellis sex abuse case remains convinced Ellis is guilty. She says continuing to drag the case through the courts is further victimising the former creche children further.

In 1993 Ellis was sentenced to 10 years' jail for abusing seven children at the Christchurch Civic Creche, but he has always maintained his innocence. 

Recently diagnosed with terminal cancer, Ellis is now taking the fight to clear his name to the Supreme Court. 

The original convictions were based on preschoolers' testimony of ritual abuse and torture. Three convictions were overturned in 1994 after one of the children said she lied. 

Ellis has declined to be interviewed by RNZ. His appeal will focus on whether the children's evidence is reliable

The aunt, who cannot be named for legal reasons, now works in the legal profession. The child in her family was interviewed by police, but was not one of the seven who Ellis was convicted of abusing. 

"There's been a very one-dimensional analysis of the case and false stories spun," and families who are committed to the privacy of the children cannot respond, she told Checkpoint.

"So we never have, we've let the law talk for us. And the result is there's been a whole lot of other talk that's left to go unchallenged, and a completely bizarre story made up as if it's fact, and in the public domain."

She says she is convinced Peter Ellis is not innocent. 

"I've asked myself this from the beginning and every year since. There can only be two possibilities: Children were harmed, or they were not. For it to be not - that they weren't harmed - there must be another plausible reason for all the evidence."

She says the evidence against Ellis has been upheld through years of process, including two appeals and a judicial inquiry, which "said the appeal failed by a long shot.

"So people have just taken a stance over the coffee cups as it were.

"And I actually don't know how this would have played out without that. But people had a reason from very early on, with their careers, academically, for taking a stance that they've really held on to… because there's been absolutely nothing in the media, because there can't be - parents and children have remained silent.

"We've now created something that is so unsafe in New Zealand, that none of the child victims could possibly come forward now, without fear of being held down.

"The people that are suspecting the evidence is to fit with the scenario which again I say - they've hinged a lot of personal and academic and 'coffee cup' attachment to because it's never been challenged. Whole careers have been built on this. And they're missing the central point. Why would the evidence be there? Why would the consistency be there?

"I honestly think the whole satanic ritual abuse thing is just a red herring for what we now know as widespread child pornography.

"This was in the background of the 1990s… People couldn't believe it could happen.

"We've got huge cases overseas - New South Wales, Northern England - where there was different styles of dress ups, child pornography well and truly established. And that's really what we've got the case of here. I think that's led to some of these so-called bizarre claims, what's not bizarre is the consistency amongst the children."

She says claims that Ellis was a victim of homophobia had been upsetting for victims' families, who did not have a problem that he was a homosexual.  

"This was the woke liberal creche from Christchurch. Everybody there was warmly supportive. The complainants' families themselves, many of them were friends of Peter's. He was warmly supported in his identity.

"This is not conservative white Christchurch being shocked at someone who was a bit out there. This was liberal Christchurch being delighted by someone who was a bit out there, And as a result, probably didn't see things sooner."

The background

Ellis' case re-emerged earlier in late July when he was granted leave to appeal his conviction to the Supreme Court.

However, Ellis is now dying of cancer and has been given three months to live. 

When he dies, the Supreme Court proceedings die with him. 

His lawyers have asked for urgency, but time must be given to the Crown to consider new evidence, and that's expected to slow things down.  

Ellis was arrested on the first charge of 45 he would eventually face in March 1992.

It wasn't till after the actual trial that the full details emerged … by which time Christchurch was being swept along in an international focus on child abuse, on exaggerated figures of sexual assault and a dogma of believing the children, and believe it or not, on satanic rituals and paedophile rings. 

By October 1992 four of Ellis' female co-workers at the Christchurch Civic Creche were arrested on child sex assault charges. 

Charges against all four women were dropped just before the Ellis trial. 

Ellis was found guilty in June 1993 and served seven years of a 10 year sentence, protesting his innocence all along.