Second police investigation:

 Even though police concluded no abuse had occurred, some parents started asking their children about what went on at the creche and then shared these stories with other parents. The Department of Social Welfare was called in to conduct formal interviews with many of these children. A social welfare psychologist, Sue Sidey, initially revealed that there were six children for whom she felt there were grounds for concern, although the children made no disclosures of any indecent touching by a creche staff member. More parents became concerned that something must have happened. As the social welfare interviews continued, claims about bizarre sexual abuse incidents began to surface.[9] A meeting was held at the creche attended by staff members, a group of concerned parents and representatives from the Social Welfare Department. In response, the police reopened their investigation.[14 Altogether, at least 127 children were interviewed. Some detectives believed that up to 80 had been abused.[13]

Smart report:

In addition to interviews conducted by Sue Sidey, the Christchurch City Council, which owned the creche, requested that psychologist and sex therapist Rosemary Smart review the management practices at the creche. Even though Smart's report was completed nearly 12 months before Ellis' trial, she seems to have assumed he was guilty;[13] although the word "alleged" crops up occasionally in her report, severely incriminating circumstantial evidence is presented as factual.[16]
Smart even suggested that female staff may have been involved with abuse at the Civic Creche and her report helped convince investigating officers of the women's guilt. She quoted research by the New Hampshire sociologist David Finkelhor, whose 1987 book, Nursery Crimes, became the source for American believers in ritual abuse occurring in creches.[17] Finkelhor's work has since been discredited.[13]

Arrest of four female staff:

Smart's report was completed in July 1992 and a copy was given to police. Detectives said her report was central to their decision to investigate four of Ellis's female colleagues at the creche. Their houses were searched for everything from pornography to babies bodies. Nothing was found.[13] Even Ellis' mother was suspected of being involved and accused of administering drugs to the children.[8]
The four female staff members were arrested on 1 October 1992 amid considerable televised publicity. At depositions they faced 15 charges that included sexual violation, indecent assault and one charge of performing an indecent act (having sex with Ellis) in a public place. The charges were subsequently dropped when Judge Williamson concluded the publicity meant their chances of a fair trial would be prejudiced by their association with Ellis.[13] Although the charges were dropped, their careers were ruined.[9]


Ellis was accused, among other things, of "sodomising children, forcing them to eat his faeces, urinating on them, suspending them in cages, taking them on terrifying trips of abuse through tunnels, ceilings and trapdoors". Other allegations included children being forced into a steaming hot oven or buried in coffins; one boy claimed he had his belly-button removed with pliers.[18] Allegations which emerged later as the interviews progressed included "Asian men dressed as cowboys, Masonic lodges, cemeteries, the Park Royal Hotel and private houses far from the creche ... (and) the notorious 'circle incident' where Ellis and his co-workers supposedly took a group of children to 404 Hereford St on the other side of town and made them stand naked and kick each other while the adults danced around them ... Alleged by one parent, was the sacrifice of a boy called Andrew." No child was actually reported missing by anyone involved.[13]

Moral panic:

In the years preceding the first allegation of abuse against Ellis, there had been a number of high profile child abuse cases in Christchurch involving "highly suspect interviews of children", "mistaken mass diagnosis of children" and other "highly questionable claims". The case has also been linked with the day-care sex-abuse hysteria, a moral panic that originated out of California in 1982 and that existed throughout the 1980s.[13] It has also been cited as a major cause in the decline in the number of male teachers in New Zealand schools.[3]From September 1991 (two months before the first allegation against Ellis), there was "continuous publicity of sexual abuse and ritual abuse of children in the local press or in national media... " On 4 September 1991, a Wellington sex abuse counsellor, Anne-Marie Stapp, told the Christchurch daily, The Press, that "New Zealand was fast approaching the level of ritual abuse awareness found in the United States." North and South Magazine reported that it was common knowledge around town that "various Christchurch police officers were hunting for a near mythical pornography-paedophile ring alleged to involve judges, Freemasons and prominent businessmen, though it was never found." On 3 November 1991 the Sunday News quoted the police as saying that "Satanism was rampant in New Zealand and linked to child pornography."[13] Seventeen days later, a Christchurch mother rang Gaye Davidson, the supervisor at the Civic creche to make the first complaint about Peter Ellis.[13] When making his appeal to the Supreme Court announced in July 2019, Ellis' former lawyer, Nigel Hampton QC, said he wants the Supreme Court to take the moral panic of the '90s into account in its decision-making.["

PUBLISHER'S NOTE: I am monitoring this case/issue. Keep your eye on the Charles Smith Blog for reports on developments. The Toronto Star, my previous employer for more than twenty incredible years, has put considerable effort into exposing the harm caused by Dr. Charles Smith and his protectors - and into pushing for reform of Ontario's forensic pediatric pathology system. The Star has a "topic"  section which focuses on recent stories related to Dr. Charles Smith. It can be found at: Information on "The Charles Smith Blog Award"- and its nomination process - can be found at: Please send any comments or information on other cases and issues of interest to the readers of this blog to:  Harold Levy: Publisher: The Charles Smith Blog;