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A City Possessed 2019 Edition coincides with Ellis appeal

Originally published in 2001, A City Possessed is the harrowing account of one of New Zealand’s most high-profile criminal cases – a story of child sexual abuse allegations, gender politics and the law.

For author Lynley Hood, the book began in the early 1990s.

‘Child sexual abuse stories filled the media, but it wasn’t until staff of the Christchurch Civic Crèche were accused of being baby-eating satanists that my interest was aroused,’ she says.

‘The case began with the ambiguous comment of a three-year-old boy, and ended with a bitterly divided city, scores of families in turmoil, 12 childcare workers stripped of their jobs and reputations, four childcare workers arrested and discharged, and Peter Ellis convicted and sentenced to 10 years’ jail.’

Hood’s analysis of the social and legal processes by which the conviction of Peter Ellis was obtained, and repeatedly upheld, raises major issues for our justice system and the way we see ourselves.

Peter Ellis served seven years of his sentence. He always maintained his innocence. Despite two Court of Appeal hearings and a ministerial inquiry, public concern that a miscarriage of justice occurred in the Ellis case continues unabated.

A City Possessed is being republished by Otago University Press today as a paperback and ebook.

‘I was spurred into action by Peter’s terminal illness. By then the publishing rights had reverted to me, so I approached Otago University Press,’ says Dr Hood.

On 4 September 2019, Peter Ellis died after a short illness. His final appeal to the Supreme Court is scheduled for November 2019.


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