The Centrepoint cover-up: How did Bert Potter get away with child abuse for so long?
In 1991, controversial spiritual community Centrepoint was raided by the New Zealand Police. After years of rumours about child abuse, leader Bert Potter was charged with committing sex offences against minors. Along with several of his acolytes, potter was convicted of indecent assault on numerous children, including one as young as three years old. Despite the serious nature of his offending however, Potter received a seemingly short sentence of just seven years, and was released in 1999. Afterwards, he continued to live in Auckland, before dying in 2012.
By that point, the media had largely moved on from the Centrepoint scandal, despite claims that initial investigations into Potter had by stymied by a high-ranking police officer who was later convicted of similar offending:
A retired detective who, in the 1980s, was the first to make inquiries into the new-age Auckland commune and uncover allegations of child sex abuse, revealed to the Sunday Star-Times last week that a former colleague hampered a raid on Centrepoint by meeting cult leader Potter to “smooth the waters” around unwelcome inquiries into his commune.
During the meeting, the high-ranking policeman — who had previously discouraged the detective from pursuing the inquiry — gave in to Potter’s demand to be present at any interview at Centrepoint…The senior policeman, it was later discovered, was himself a paedophile: convicted in 1995…for molesting two victims over a period of nearly 30 years, both before and after the 80s Centrepoint interviews. Neither he nor the detective can be named, to protect the identities of the victims.
It appears that since then, the detective has unmasked himself as Dene Thomas, who was interviewed for documentary, Heaven and Hell: The Centrepoint Story (2021). In the film, Thomas tells essentially the same story, with his suspicions raised after Potter stated his disturbing beliefs about the sexuality of minors. Despite the potential implications of this aspect of the Centrepoint story, it was only mentioned briefly in the actual documentary, with little further investigation into a wider conspiracy to protect the group. Moreover, the name of the high-ranking officer who seemingly protected Centrepoint remains unknown.
Part One coming soon.