Parker–Hulme murder case

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Pauline Yvonne Parker (Hilary Nathan)
Born Pauline Yvonne Rieper
(1938-05-26) 26 May 1938 (age 80)
Christchurch, New Zealand
Criminal charge Murder
Criminal penalty 5 years
Criminal status Released
Anne Perry
Born Juliet Hulme
(1938-11-28) 28 November 1938 (age 79)
Blackheath, London, United Kingdom
Criminal charge Murder
Criminal penalty 5 years
Criminal status Released

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 (also 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 movie Heavenly Creatures.

The murder

On 22 June 1954, the body of Honorah Rieper was discovered in Victoria Park, in Christchurch, New Zealand.[1] 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.[1] 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.


Before the trial began, it was discovered that Honorah Rieper had never legally married Herbert Rieper,[2] who was still legally married to another. 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.

Parker came from a working-class background; while Juliet Hulme was the daughter of Henry Hulme, a physicist who was the rector of University of Canterbury in Christchurch.

As children, Parker had suffered from osteomyelitis and Hulme had suffered from tuberculosis; the latter was sent by her parents to the Bahamas to recuperate. The girls initially bonded over their respective ailments, but, 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 each of them spent five years in prison as they were too young to be considered for the death penalty. Some sources say they were released with the condition that they never contact each other again,[3] but Sam Barnett, then Secretary for Justice, told journalists there was no such condition.[4]

The murder was touched upon as strong evidence of moral decline less than four months later 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.[5]

After her release from prison, Juliet Hulme spent time in the United States and later began a successful career as a historical detective novelist under her new name, Anne Perry. She has been a Mormon since about 1968.[6] The fact that Perry and Hulme were the same person was not well-known until 1994. In March 2006, Perry stated that while her relationship with Pauline Parker was obsessive, they were not lesbians.[7]

Pauline Parker 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.[8] 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.[8]

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.

Beryl Bainbridge's first novel, Harriet Said..., was inspired by newspaper reports of the case.[9]

Angela Carter wrote an unproduced screenplay inspired by the case called The Christchurch Murder in which Pauline Parker was renamed Lena Ball and Juliet Hulme was called Nerissa Locke.[10] Carter's screenplay also influenced the 1994 Peter Jackson film Heavenly Creatures.

The 1967 play Minor Murder by Mary Orr and Reginald Denham and 1992 New Zealand play Daughters of Heaven by Michaelanne Forster were based on the Parker–Hulme murder.[11]

The novel All The Birds Singing by Evie Wyld was also inspired by this case.[12]


  1. 1.0 1.1 "Dutiful Daughters". TruTV Crime Library. Archived from the original on 1 September 2007. 
  2. "The Parker Hulme Case - Page Twenty four". Christchurch City Libraries. Retrieved 2014-08-06. 
  3. "'Heavenly Creatures' found guilty of murder". New Zealand History Online. NZ Ministry for Culture & Heritage. 15 July 2011. Retrieved 29 July 2012. 
  4. Graham, Peter (2011). So Brilliantly Clever: Parker, Hulme & The Murder that Shocked the World. Awa Press. p. 261. ISBN 978-1-877551-12-3. 
  5. Mazengarb, Ossie (1954). "Preliminary Observations". Report of the Special Committee on Moral Delinquency in Children and Adolescents. p. 7 – via Gutenberg. 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 known (and this fact was established at their subsequent trial) that these girls were abnormally homosexual in behaviour. 
  6. Biography at the Wayback Machine (archived October 19, 2007)
  7. "We were not lesbians, says former Juliet Hulme". The New Zealand Herald. Mar 5, 2006. 
  8. 8.0 8.1 Parker-Hulme murder exclusive at the Wayback Machine (archived July 21, 2006)
  9. Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center
  10. The Curious Room
  11. McCurdy, Marian Lea (2007). "Women Murder Women: Case Studies in Theatre and Film" (PDF). 
  12. Guernica Magazine. "Felt Not Known". Guernica / A Magazine of Art & Politics. 

External links