Pauline Parker

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Pauline Parker
Born (1938-05-26) 26 May 1938 (age 75)
Christchurch, New Zealand
Nationality New Zealand
Other names Hilary Nathan
Criminal status
released
Conviction(s) Murder

Pauline Yvonne Parker (born 26 May 1938) is a woman from Christchurch, New Zealand, who, together with her friend Juliet Hulme (now known as acclaimed fiction author Anne Perry), murdered her mother, Honorah Rieper, on 22 June 1954. It is believed that the two girls killed Honorah because Hulme and her father were leaving shortly for South Africa and, though Parker wanted to accompany them, her mother forbade it. According to their own accounts, Parker and Hulme were devoted friends who collaborated on a series of adventure novels which they hoped would be bought by a Hollywood studio and made into epic films. The girls' friendship was documented in detail by Parker in a series of diaries during her teenage years.

Relationship with Juliet Hulme[edit]

The girls met in their early teens, when Hulme's family moved to Christchurch from England. They both attended Christchurch Girls' High School, then located in what became the Cranmer Centre.[1] Both girls had suffered from debilitating illnesses as children – Parker from osteomyelitis, Hulme from tuberculosis – and they initially bonded over it. According to Parker's accounts, she and Hulme both romanticized the idea of being sick. During their friendship, the girls invented their own personal religion, with its own ideas on morality. They rejected Christianity and worshipped their own saints, envisioning a parallel dimension called The Fourth World, essentially their version of Heaven. The Fourth World was a place that they felt they were already able to enter occasionally, during moments of spiritual enlightenment. By Parker's account, they had achieved this spiritual enlightenment due to their friendship. Eventually, the girls formulated a plan to flee to Hollywood.

Shortly prior to this, Hulme had discovered her mother was having an affair and her parents were separating. This devastated Hulme as well as Parker, who, due to having spent so much time with the Hulmes, thought of Hulme's parents as her own. Both girls were unaware of the fact that both sets of parents were collaborating at the time in an effort to separate the girls, viewing their friendship as potentially unhealthy or homosexual (which, at the time, was thought of as a mental illness). The Parkers and the Hulmes' efforts culminated in a plan for Juliet to accompany her father to South Africa, where he planned to move after the divorce, so Juliet would leave Pauline behind in New Zealand. Parker's mother was particularly concerned about the nature of the girls' friendship and was adamant that Pauline not accompany her best friend.

The murder[edit]

The girls began to plan the murder of Parker's mother in June 1954. This amateurish plan was documented in Parker's diary entries. On 22 June, the girls led Mrs. Rieper to a remote area of a park near Christchurch and beat her to death with a half brick concealed in a stocking. They immediately ran to a nearby tea shop, visibly upset and covered in blood, claiming that Pauline's mother had slipped and fallen. When the body was discovered by police, their story did not hold up in explaining the 45 wounds on the woman's head. The torn, blood-soaked stocking with the brick in it was found nearby.[2]

Trial and imprisonment[edit]

Parker and Hulme were tried by jury in Christchurch, and were found guilty. A plea of insanity was rejected by the court. As the girls were too young to be considered for the death penalty under New Zealand law at the time, they were convicted and sentenced to be detained at Her Majesty's pleasure. In practice, this sentence meant they were to be detained at the discretion of the Minister of Justice. They were released separately some five years later.

Prior to the trial, Pauline Parker had been known as Pauline Rieper. Her mother, Honorah Rieper, had been living with her father, Herbert Rieper, but during police investigations, it was revealed that they were not, in fact, married. Thus, during the trial, both Honorah and Pauline were referred to with the "Parker" surname.[3]

Later life[edit]

Upon release, Parker apparently spent some time in New Zealand under close surveillance before being allowed to leave for England. As of 1997, she was living in the small village of Hoo near Strood, Kent, and running a children's riding school,[4] under the name "Hilary Nathan".[5] She has become a Roman Catholic and for many years Parker had refused to give interviews surrounding the murder of her mother and expressed strong remorse about killing her.

In popular culture[edit]

The girls' story was made into a film, Heavenly Creatures, by producer-director Peter Jackson, in 1994. Parker was played by Melanie Lynskey and Hulme by Kate Winslet. As of 2011, Alexander Roman has completed a documentary called Reflections of the Past, in which Pauline Parker is played by Alice Drewitt. It premiered at Lincoln University (in lieu of Rialto Cinema, which was closed due to the February 2011 Christchurch earthquake) on 9 May.[6][7]

Beryl Bainbridge's novel Harriet Said was inspired by the incident.

Episode 429 of The Simpsons, "Lisa the Drama Queen", is also loosely based on Parker and Hulme.

Footnotes[edit]

References[edit]

  • J.H.H. Gaute and Robin Odell, The New Murderers' Who's Who, 1996, Harrap Books, London
  • Famous Criminal Cases, Volume Two, 1955, London
  • Hallmark of Horror, 1973, London
  • Obsession, 1958, London
  • More Criminal Files, 1957, London
  • Patrick Wilson, Children who kill, 1973, London
  • London Daily Mail, Jan. 6, 1997, p. 17