When Kirsty Neilley first heard about the many crimes of notorious pedophile James Geoffrey Griffin, she struggled to reconcile that with the person she knew.
WARNING: This article contains content that some readers may find distressing.
- Kirsty Neilley has given evidence at Tasmania’s commission of inquiry, which is sitting in Launceston
- As a child, Ms Neilley was in the care of James Geoffrey Griffin, a pedophile working at Launceston General Hospital
- Ms Neilley says she now questions why no one in authority at the hospital did anything about Griffin’s behavior
“I did not believe that it could be real,” she told the Commission of Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, which is conducting hearings in Launceston about what happened at the hospital.
“That wasn’t the person I knew.”
Ms Neilley remembered Griffin as a “second father”, a “family figure”, a man who had attended her wedding.
But Griffin was not a family friend. He was a pedophile who worked as a nurse.
He met her when she was admitted to the children’s ward at Launceston General Hospital (LGH) in 2015.
She was a 16-year-old patient, he was her caregiver.
From early on he went out of his way to create a special bond with Ms Neilley, the commission heard.
“When I was first admitted, he was just like any of the other nurses,” she told the commission.
Ms Neilley was there for mental health reasons and so always had someone watching her.
More often that not that person was Griffin.
She told the commission she was not sure if it was because they got on better or because he requested her.
Ms Neilley told the commission she began to open up to him and they started messaging on Facebook.
“He told me not to tell anyone,” she told the commission.
Then late one night she got a phone call from him.
“He said somebody had reported him for getting close to me,” she said.
She told the commission no one at the hospital spoke to her about their contact, and Griffin made it clear it was to remain a secret.
“He told me not to tell anyone because he could lose his job over it, but he did not want me to be by myself,” she said.
She also told the commission Griffin would give her long hugs and kiss her when she said goodbye.
“At the time it was totally like, I had no problem,” she said.
“I felt like I had someone there for me. I do not know why he was doing it but I had no complaints, because he was there.”
She said that, reflecting back, it was not the way she’d treat a family friend.
The commission also heard how he would take Ms Neilley off the ward and do coffee runs to the shop near the hospital.
None of this raised alarm with Ms Neilley, who trusted Griffin.
But one incident, did make her feel “uncomfortable”.
“[It was night]he’d come in, I did not hear him or anything, and then I woke up to him sort of leaning over the bed and I felt really weird, “she told the commission.
Ms Neilley told the commission it was really dark but she could see he was holding his phone over her with the torch on. This happened five or six times.
Ms Neilley was discharged but ended up back in hospital a few months later.
This time she was in the ICU – where Griffin visited her a few times.
She told the commission that Griffin claimed that on one of his visits she had a seizure and he saved her life. Her mother backed up the story.
After that, Griffin would regularly remind her of that day. She told the commission she saw him as a hero and felt like she owed him.
She was eventually discharged but returned to hospital the following year after a horseriding accident, where she once again fell under the care of Griffin.
Ms Neilley told the commission she had torn a muscle in her leg and could not walk, so she needed help to get to the bathroom.
Rather than using the one in her room, he used a wheelchair to take her down to the main bathroom in the ward.
“I had a shower, got out and I could not find my clothes,” she told the commission.
‘A lot of red flags’
Ms Neilley and Griffin stayed in contact after she was discharged. In 2018, he attended her wedding.
When they ran into each other at the supermarket a while later, Griffin once again brought up how he’d saved her life.
“Then he was saying how proud he was of how much I’d grown up,” she told the commission.
“He mentioned he still had all the photos and memories of us. It was really confusing but, because he was at the wedding, I assumed it was the wedding photos he had.”
After everything Ms Neilley had now learned, she told the commission she was concerned he might have kept “other photos” of when she was at the hospital.
She said that, reflecting back on her time there, had made her question why no one did anything.
“There were a lot of red flags that people could have picked up on, that [weren’t]. Obviously, something was picked up on because there was a complaint.
“I just feel like I was really let down that nothing actually happened,” she told the commission.
The commission is conducting hearings in Hobart and Launceston until August 19, with live streaming available.
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