9:35p.m., Saturday 16 August, 2003 

“Edwards at Large” Transcript

Presenter Brian Edwards
Segment with Lynley Hood


Brian Edwards             In recent months there appears to have been a ground swell of public support for a further review of the conviction of Peter Ellis for the sexual abuse of children in his care at the Christchurch Civic Creche.  There can be little doubt that much of the impetus for this ground swell including the petition calling for a Royal Commission to look into the case has come from Lynley Hood whose almost 700 page book, A City Possessed, critically examined the evidence presented at Ellis’s trial and the conduct of the subsequent appeals and the inquiry by Sir Thomas Eichelbaum.  Well, Hood has received no less than three Montana awards for A City Possessed and a Doctorate in Literature from Otago University for it and her previous books on Sylvia Ashton-Warner and Minnie Dean.  Could she, nonetheless, have got it wrong.

Well, Lynley Hood, it is very nice to have you here tonight.  There have been some interesting developments today.  Two of the young people who were questioned during the investigations into the Ellis affair have now come out, they are teenagers of course, and they are expressing an interest in appearing at the hearing in parliament into all of this.  What is your response to that?

Lynley Hood                 Well, I think it is once again the sex abuse industry hiding behind the children.  The people who should be accounting for themselves are the interviewers and therapists and professionals involved, the kids are pawns in all of this, and once again they are pawns.

Brian Edwards             These two teenager, as I understand, are the same two young people who appeared in Barry Colman’s ad, whose interviews appeared in Barry Colman’s ad which he paid I think $25,000 for in the Sunday Star Times are the same two children I understand.

Lynley Hood                 Yes

Brian Edwards             So, I don’t quite follow your argument here because if they are now teenagers and able to make reasonable conclusions about what in, what happened to them, and able to go back to their memories now, surely, it would go very much against Peter Ellis if they now say “Yes, what we said before, we now hold to”?

Lynley Hood                 We know that the interviewing techniques, the ones that were recorded, and we also know they were questioned a lot and continuous therapy with techniques that are known to create false memories and this was all in a climate where they were told that Peter was a bad man and he had to be put in jail and they had to help get him there and they were asked leading questions about Peter and bottoms and poos and wees and, you know, for months and they said nothing happened and they liked Peter and they liked the crčche.  And they basically eventually cracked under pressure.  And their memories have been utterly stuffed around.  There, there’s no way that what they remember now can be remotely reliable.

Brian Edwards             So you think these teenagers are going to be incapable of even knowing what happened to them?

Lynley Hood                 Ooh, absolutely, yes, yes.  I mean, we know that from.  I mean they are talking about Peter’s mother hanging them up in cages for goodness sake and there is absolutely no evidence to support that.  I mean, the thought of her doing anything like that or being physically able to do it.

Brian Edwards             You see, now we are having parliament look at this again.  You wonder how much is going to happen before people like you are going to be satisfied and I am just going to go through the opportunities he has already had.  He started off with a deposition hearing, then we had the trial, then we had two High Court appeals, then we had an inquiry by a highly respected former high court judge, indeed, Chief Justice Sir Tomas Eichelbaum.  How much more do you need?

Lynley Hood                 Well, it is just not me who, you know, there are a raft of law professors and QC’s saying, in this case, the justice system has failed, and failed catastrophically at all these levels and is incapable of self correcting.  So there is something terribly wrong and that is why we need a commission of inquiry.

Brian Edwards             Well, in a sense, Lynley, well it’s you that has kicked it off isn’t it.  I mean

Lynley Hood                 Ooh

Brian Edwards             You have got the ball rolling.  And just as there was a sort of snow ball effect that you talk about in the build up to this whole case, there is a sort of another snow ball effect now, with people saying “ooh, he must be innocent”, writing letters to the papers, and on and on it goes.  Barry Colman stuck there.  So you have got a whole new snow ball effect now haven’t we?

Lynley Hood                 Well, I wrote the book initially to get, I thought there has got to be a story here and I am going to get to the bottom of it.   And I wasn’t concerned whether Ellis was guilty or innocent or anything else.  It was just a story that demanded to be written and once I got into it, um, I just found scandal after scandal, cover up after cover up, and at that point I thought I’ve got to get this right and I spent seven years dotting the “i” and crossing the “t” and I thought I would put it out there and people can read it and make up their own minds and at least I will be able to live with myself in my old age.  So I wasn’t telling people to do anything.  I was just saying, read it and make up your own minds, and this was the response.  I was not campaigning.

Brian Edwards             I find it a little bit hard to believe that you started off just to tell the story.  Because, it seems to me that you started off an absolute mind set.  You spent the first two hundred pages of your book basically telling the reader what a dreadful place Christchurch is and how what we have now got in this case, is that actually a new Salem witches situation.  You started off with that mind set didn’t you?

Lynley Hood                 No, but, that is what the people were telling me.   I mean, even the complainants were telling me stories of ritual satanic events and I was saying where did these ideas come from.  And it was the search to make sense of what the complainants were saying about phantom pornography rings and ritual satanic abuse in a child care centre that leaves absolutely no trace.  What on earth is this all about?  And, it was the, I was at the time writing a book on Minnie Dean.

Brian Edwards             Yes

Lynley Hood                 And that was mass hysteria at a distance and over again, over the care of children and how ancious people become.  I thought, wow, I can study this phenomenon close up.

Brian Edwards             But that is precisely my point.  You were doing this book on Minnie Deans, with all that moral panic that you were talking about

Lynley Hood                 Yes

Brian Edwards             And it suddenly occurred to you, that here was another case,

Lynley Hood                 Yes, but

Brian Edwards             with the same sort of thing.  So you were with that mind set before you started writing.

Lynley Hood                 But even the prosecutors and crown witnesses were saying there was mass hysteria.  I mean the book, they told me, and that is what I went to examine as to what the social dynamic of it was.       

Brian Edwards             Then you had this absolutely curious view of Christchurch. I lived in Christchurch for five years when I came here and I didn’t recognise the Christchurch that was described in your book.

Lynley Hood                 Well, I have heard quite a few of people say I have got it absolutely right.  Yeah, lots of people said to me. “Well, it had to happen in Christchurch didn’t it”.   And I would say ”Why?”.  And they would say to me “Because it is so flat”.

Brian Edwards             Now, I have got to say.  I have actually got that quote down here.  You say “The flatness of the city makes it easier for anyone with a bright idea to gather together enough like minded people to turn any theory, be it dazzling enlightening or downright flaky into action”.  The flatness of the city!

Lynley Hood                 Yeah, but

Brian Edwards             Hold on.  What on earth can the flatness of the city have to do with Peter Ellis’ guilt or innocence?

Lynley Hood                 No, I am just saying that it allows movements to get into fruition.  Um, and all these half baked

Brian Edwards             I don’t understand that…

Brian Edwards             What, because you can drive a car more easier.

Lynley Hood                 Yes, yes, you can have a committee meeting much easier.  There are national bodies, like starting with suffragettes, can get organised much easier in Christchurch because it is flat, than you can in a hilly place. That is all I am saying.  And,

Brian Edwards             You are smiling, don’t you see an element of absurdity in what you are telling me here.

Lynley Hood                 No

Brian Edwards             That the flatness of the city

Lynley Hood                 No, no

Brian Edwards             That the flatness of the city give us

Lynley Hood                 No, No

Brian Edwards             Some indication of the chances of Peter Ellis chances of getting a fair trial.

Lynley Hood                 No, I am not.  No, I am not making that belief at all.

Brian Edwards             OK

Lynley Hood                 I am saying the flatness of the city made it easy for people who believed in rituals to commit abuse to get together and look around and think where is it happening

Brian Edwards             All right.  During the commercial break, I am going to try and think about that one and we will come back and talk to you some more.  We will be back with Lynley Hood after the break.

Brian Edwards             I am talking to Lynley Hood.  Lynley, there is one it seems to me to be one critical piece of information that you didn’t have when writing your book and that is that you were not present at any of these trials.  So that critical ingredient is that you are not able first hand to judge the credibility of any of those witnesses, parents, children, police, anybody, you weren’t there?

Lynley Hood                 I read the entire transcript from the depositions and the trial

Brian Edwards             That is not the same.

Lynley Hood                 I interviewed all the people

Brian Edwards             Yes

Lynley Hood                 I think I know the depositions and the trial far better than the people that were there.   And I also interviewed them all, at length, everybody involved.

Brian Edwards             No, you didn’t

Lynley Hood                 Well, almost

Brian Edwards             No, you didn’t.  You haven’t interviewed all the parents.

Lynley Hood                 Yes, well, that is not my fault. I gave them the opportunity.

Brian Edwards             No, but nonetheless, you haven’t interviewed all the parents.

Lynley Hood                 I have read the notes they made while talking to the children.  I have read their statements to the police.  I have read their evidence under oath.  I have read their statements to other media.  I mean I have got a really good overview of where they are coming from.

Brian Edwards             Well, another thing that bothers me.

Lynley Hood                 I have read the book that one of them has written

Brian Edwards             Ooh, all right.  One of the  things  that bothers me about the Barry Colman stuff, the huge two page advertisement that appeared in the Sunday Star Times is that, that that is only a tiny, tiny fraction of the evidence given by those children and yet you yourself complained that the jury didn’t hear all the evidence from the children either.   Now this is just,

Lynley Hood                 Well

Brian Edwards             Doing the same thing again, I mean

Lynley Hood                 No, it has all gone onto a website.  The complete transcript.  So people can read them and make up their own minds.

Brian Edwards             Yes, but, the purpose of those pages that were published in the Sunday Star Times as I understand it, with the … of the reader.  Look, you see all this extravagant claims that these children made, that they had burning paper shoved up their bums, that they were hung from cages and rooms and all the rest of it, so therefore you can dismiss the rest of the stuff, they say.                that they were interfered with by Peter Ellis.  It doesn’t necessarily follow at all, does it?

Lynley Hood                 Well, uh, you need the whole context, but really when you sit down and analyse what he was accused of, and the layout of the crčche and the way that it functioned.  There is no way that any of it could have happened.  Umh, yes, I agree, you need the whole thing.

Brian Edwards             Nonetheless you see.  You have I think you have seven children who say that there were indecently assaulted, or sexually abused or interfered with, whatever you want to call it, by Peter Ellis.   Seven kids say that.

Lynley Hood                 One of them retracted.

Brian Edwards             Retracted yes.

Lynley Hood                 And she was the oldest and most credible child

Brian Edwards             Right

Lynley Hood                 And she said she had    said those things because she thought that is what her mother and interviewer wanted her to say.

Brian Edwards             So right, you have six children who say that Peter Ellis did these things.

Lynley Hood                 Yes, well we’ve only got two who are still saying it as far as we know.

Brian Edwards             Right,

Lynley Hood                 It is just.  I

Brian Edwards             We don’t know about it about the others

Lynley Hood                 No, no, we don’t know.

Brian Edwards             It is no good saying, we don’t know what they are saying

Lynley Hood                 We don’t know, exactly.

Brian Edwards             I mean

Lynley Hood                 I mean I would have lay money that the mother who rounded up the other one, rang round all six and for all we know the other four said  “Go to hell”.  

Brian Edwards             Lynley, laying money is not a scientific approach.

Lynley Hood                 No

Brian Edwards             It is not evidence really.

Lynley Hood                 Well, it would be an interesting.   You see if we get a full commission of inquiry they could have a private hearing and talk to not only those complainants but the scores of now teenage children who have signed the petition calling for a full inquiry, because they went to the crčche and they loved it.  And they have never been heard by any court and neither have their parents.  You know normally, when you get an alleged crime say, at a party, the police interview everyone at the party.  But when you got an alleged crime at the crčche, they just interviewed this core group of complainants and the other maybe four hundred families who used it, who said “Look, I think you should know about what a good place it is”, the police said, “Go away, we are not interested, we are only interested if you’ve got something bad to say.”

Brian Edwards             Do you agree with me that if even on one occasion Peter Ellis interfered with one child in his care that would be sufficient for him to be charged, arrested, and if found guilty, sent to prison?

Lynley Hood                 Well, sure.

Brian Edwards             You, you agree with that?

Lynley Hood                 Yeah

Brian Edwards             So, you are discounting that as a possibility.  That there was no interference, even with one child on one occasion.  You discard that possibility?

Lynley Hood                 Absolutely.  I mean these were the kids that were brought up to scream blue murder if anyone touched them inappropriately and were read books about secret touching and how you had to tell and all that sort of thing.   And, during that three or so years at the crčche, none of them said boo.  They all said that they liked Peter and they liked the crčche.

Brian Edwards             Yes

Lynley Hood                 It was only after they had left, I mean, you know, that the thing took off. That they were interviewed and initially, again, they said they liked the crčche, they liked Peter, and it was months of questioning before they came up with any allegations.

Brian Edwards             I think another thing that concerns me about your book is the amount of which you might call ad hominem attack on people you disagree with in the book.  And so you mean. 

Lynley Hood                 What

Brian Edwards             Well there is a whole lot of them.  I mean you look at some of the people, like Dr Karen Zelas, ahh.  In one part of the book you actually go through all, all the letters she’s got after her name.  All her qualifications, and you dismiss them one by one.   You say well this is nothing, that is nothing, that doesn’t mean anything.

Lynley Hood                 Yeah, well

Brian Edwards             And you do this with the parents.  I mean you portray some of the parents as a bit neurotic or a bit nuts, some of the children as disturbed

Lynley Hood                 Well, some of them were

Brian Edwards             Well, this is the bit.   You are not dealing with the facts or the evidence.

Lynley Hood                 No, no, but

Brian Edwards             This is a personal attack on the people giving the evidence.

Lynley Hood                 But you’ve got to consider the credibility of the people as well as what they are actually saying.  I mean, that is what juries do. 

Brian Edwards             You remember the old days when, when rape victims would come into court and all their past would be dragged up and how many sexual partners they had had and so on, and we came to accept that that sort of thing is irrelevant.  In a sort of a way, that is the same thing that you do

Lynley Hood                 No, No

Brian Edwards             You say, have a look at all these people’s past, can we really believe what they are saying.

Lynley Hood                 But, that is what everybody does in life.  I mean, the mother of one of those two children, has in separate court cases been roundly ticked off by the judge for telling whoppers.  You know, I think you need to take these things into consideration.

Brian Edwards             All right. OK.   Tell me as quickly as you can.  What are your main reasons for believing there should now be a commission of inquiry or a royal commission?

Lynley Hood                             Because the issues affect everybody of sex abuse hysteria and false allegations that need to be addressed.  The way that sex abuse allegations are investigated and prosecuted, make it difficult for courts to distinguish between the innocent and the guilty.  And at the other end there is the problem of the Court of Appeal not being able to undo its own mistake.

Brian Edwards             So you’re convinced that Peter Ellis is not guilty.

Lynley Hood                 Absolutely.

Brian Edwards             Lynley, thank you very much indeed.