Parker–Hulme murder case
Pauline Yvonne Parker
Pauline Yvonne Parker
26 May 1938
Christchurch, New Zealand
Juliet Marion Hulme
28 October 1938
Blackheath, London, United Kingdom
The Parker–Hulme murder case began in the city of Christchurch, New Zealand, on 22 June 1954, when Honorah Rieper (also known as Honorah Parker, her legal name) was killed by her teenage daughter, Pauline Parker, and Pauline's close friend, Juliet Hulme (later known as Anne Perry). Parker was 16 at the time, while Hulme was 15. The murder has inspired plays, novels, non-fiction books, and films including Peter Jackson's 1994 film Heavenly Creatures.
Pauline Yvonne Parker (aka Pauline Rieper) was born on 26 May 1938. She met Juliet Hulme, who was born in London, when they were both in their early teens. Parker came from a working-class background; while Hulme, who arrived with her parents in New Zealand in 1948, was the daughter of Henry Hulme, a physicist who was the rector of University of Canterbury in Christchurch. They both attended Christchurch Girls' High School, then located in what became the Cranmer Centre. Both girls had debilitating illnesses as children – Parker osteomyelitis and Hulme tuberculosis – and they initially bonded over it. According to Parker's accounts, she and Hulme both romanticized the idea of being sick.
The girls first met at Christchurch Girls' High School where they initially bonded over their respective medical conditions. Later, as their friendship developed, they formed an elaborate fantasy life together. They wrote plays, books, and stories centred in this world. They became nearly obsessed with one another. Pauline's parents, in particular, became concerned that the girls were becoming too close, and that their relationship might be sexual. Homosexuality at the time was considered a serious mental illness. The Hulmes also had concerns, but both families continued to allow the girls to see one another, and Pauline was accepted at the Hulme home in Ilam for overnights and vacations. Juliet became withdrawn and ill when Pauline would leave the Hulme home without her.
During their relationship, the girls invented their own personal religion, with their 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 because of their friendship.
Pauline was not invited to go to Ilam over the summer holidays in 1953 as she had been in previous years. In 1954, Hulme's parents separated. Problems with faculty and the board forced her father to resign from his position as rector of the university, and her mother was carrying on an affair. The family planned to return to England, but it was decided that Juliet would be sent to live with relatives in South Africa—ostensibly for her health.
Both girls were heartbroken over their upcoming separation and decided that Pauline should go to South Africa as well. They thought the Hulmes would agree to this plan, though in fact they were unlikely to allow it. Pauline was sure her mother would not allow her to go with Juliet. The girls then formed a plan to murder Pauline's mother in order to remove the one perceived obstacle of remaining together. Their long term plan was to go to South Africa and then head to Hollywood or New York City, where they believed they would publish their writing and work in film.
On the afternoon of 22 June 1954, Honorah had gone for a walk through Victoria Park, in Christchurch, New Zealand with her daughter Pauline Parker and Pauline's best friend Juliet Hulme. Approximately 130 metres (430 ft) down the path, in a wooded area of the park near a small wooden bridge, Hulme and Parker bludgeoned Rieper to death with half of a brick enclosed in an old stocking. After committing the murder, which they had planned together, the two girls fled, covered in blood, back to the tea kiosk where the three of them had eaten only minutes before. They were met by Agnes and Kenneth Ritchie, owners of the tea shop, whom they told that Honorah had fallen and hit her head.
The body of Honorah Rieper was discovered in Victoria Park by Ritchie. Major lacerations were found about her head, neck, and face, with minor injuries to her fingers. Police soon discovered the murder weapon in the nearby woods. The girls' story of Rieper's accidental death quickly fell apart.
Trial and conviction
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 surname "Parker".
The trial was a sensational affair, with speculation about their possible lesbianism and insanity. The girls were convicted on 28 August 1954; and, as they were too young to be considered for the death penalty, each spent five years in prison. Some sources say they were released on condition that they never contact each other again, but Sam Barnett, then Secretary for Justice, told journalists there was no such condition. Hulme's release was unconditional, and she immediately rejoined her father in Italy, while Parker was placed on six months' parole in New Zealand, after which she left the country.
Less than four months later, the murder was taken as strong evidence of moral decline by the Special Committee on Moral Delinquency in Children and Adolescents in what became known as the Mazengarb Report, named after its chair, Ossie Mazengarb.
Following her release from prison, Pauline Parker was given a new identity as Hilary Nathan, and spent some time in New Zealand under close surveillance before being allowed to leave for England. From at least 1992, she was living in the small village of Hoo near Strood, Kent, and running a children's riding school. As an adult, she became a devout Roman Catholic. While she has never spoken to the press, in a 1996 statement released through her sister she expressed strong remorse for having killed her mother. Her sister further stated that "[Pauline] committed the most terrible crime and has spent 40 years repaying it by keeping away from people and doing her own little thing...After it happened, she was very sorry about it. It took her about five years to realise what she had done."
After her release from prison, Juliet Hulme spent time in England and the United States, later settling in England and becoming a successful historical detective novelist under her new name, Anne Perry. She has been a Mormon since about 1968. Until 1994, it was not well known that Perry was Hulme. In March 2006, Hulme/Perry stated that, while her relationship with Pauline Parker was obsessive, they were not lesbians.
The story of the murder was adapted into the 1971 French film Mais ne nous délivrez pas du mal (Don't Deliver Us From Evil) and into Peter Jackson's film Heavenly Creatures (1994). Perry's identity was revealed publicly around the time of the film's release. The case was also fictionalised in 1958 as The Evil Friendship by M. E. Kerr under the pseudonym Vin Packer.
Inspired by the case, Angela Carter wrote an unproduced screenplay called The Christchurch Murder in which Pauline Parker was renamed Lena Ball and Juliet Hulme, Nerissa Locke. Carter's screenplay influenced the 1994 Peter Jackson film Heavenly Creatures and was later produced as a play for radio, airing on BBC Radio 4 in September 2018.
Mary Orr and Reginald Denham's 1967 play Minor Murder, Michaelanne Foster's 1992 New Zealand play Daughters of Heaven and Canadian Trevor Schmidt's 2010 play Folie à Deux were based on the Parker–Hulme murder.
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.
The Mystery Woman television film "Mystery Weekend" strongly bases its story on the Parker-Hulme case. The names are changed and the location of the crime is changed to Halifax. However, the crime itself is kept intact, as is the concept of one of the murderers later becoming a bestselling mystery novelist.
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the news that two girls, each aged about 16 years had been arrested in Christchurch on a charge of murdering the mother of one of them. It soon became widely believed (and this fact was established at their subsequent trial) that the girls were homosexual.
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Re-published 1995, Ithaca, Firebrand Books. With an introduction by B. Ruby Rich.