Parker–Hulme murder case
|Pauline Yvonne Parker|
Pauline Yvonne Rieper|
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 film Heavenly Creatures.
On 22 June 1954, the body of Honorah Rieper was discovered in Victoria Park, in Christchurch, New Zealand. That morning, Honorah had gone for a walk through Victoria Park 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 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. Her body was found by Kenneth 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.
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Before the trial began, it was discovered that Honorah Rieper had never legally married Herbert Rieper, who was still legally married to another woman. Though Pauline had always been referred to as Pauline Rieper by all who knew her throughout her life, both Honorah and Pauline were referred to by Honorah's maiden name, Parker, during the trial.
As children, Parker had osteomyelitis and Hulme had tuberculosis; the latter was sent by her parents to the Bahamas to recuperate. The girls initially bonded over their respective medical conditions. Later, as their friendship developed, they formed an elaborate fantasy life together. They would often sneak out and spend the night acting out stories involving the fictional characters they had created. Their parents found this disturbing and worried that their relationship might be sexual. Homosexuality at the time was considered a serious mental illness, so both sets of parents attempted to prevent the girls from seeing each other.
In 1954, Juliet's parents separated; her father resigned from his position as rector of Canterbury College and planned to return to England. It was then decided that Juliet would be sent to live with relatives in South Africa—ostensibly for her health but also so that the girls would be more effectively, if not permanently, separated. Pauline told her mother that she wished to accompany Juliet, but Pauline's mother made it clear it would not be allowed. The girls then formed a plan to murder Pauline's mother and leave the country for Hollywood or New York City, where they believed they would publish their writing and work in film.
Trial and aftermath
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.
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.
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.
That Perry was Hulme was not well known until 1994. In March 2006, Perry stated that, while her relationship with Pauline Parker was obsessive, they were not lesbians.
Pauline Yvonne Parker (aka Pauline Rieper) was born on 26 May 1938. She met Juliet Hulme when they were both 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. Both girls had 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 because of their friendship. Eventually, the girls formulated a plan to flee to the United States.
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.
Following her release from prison, Pauline Parker spent some time in New Zealand under close surveillance before being allowed to leave for England. Since 1997, she has been living in the small village of Hoo near Strood, Kent, and running a children's riding school. As an adult, she became a Roman Catholic. She expressed strong remorse for having killed her mother and, for many years, refused to give interviews about the murder.
Portrayals in fiction
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.
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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