The young girls in this true story present a complex profile of two murderers who not only committed murder, but were also lesbians during a time when homosexuality was believed to be a mental illness. They also invented their own religion, The Fourth World, a parallel universe, complete with their own saints and their views of Heaven. However these two girls will likely never see Heaven in their own afterlife, if Christian views about the afterlife are to be believed.
Both Pauline Yvonne Parker and Juliet Marion Hulme, also known as author Anne Perry, were young girls who had suffered debilitating diseases in early childhood. Parker suffered from osteomyelitis, an infection of bone marrow and Hulme from tuberculosis, a lung disease that can also attack other parts of the body. Hulme was born in England and suffered shock from bombing when she was two years old. Nightmares and illness kept her from school for two years. After they came to New Zealand she was placed in a sanatorium for four months in 1953 for her illness and was not described as “cured” when she was discharged. Hulme was sent to the Bahamas to recuperate. Parker is seen in the back row looking down with a sullen look in this photograph.
Parker’s background was working-class, while Hulme’s was more privileged. Her father, Henry Hulme, was a physicist and the rector of University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand. Parker’s mother, 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 girls attended Christchurch Girls’ High School. When the girls met in England in 1952 they bonded over their early illnesses.
The Fourth World
As their bizarre 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 created. Together they wrote stories about the Fourth World. The girls believed they were each two planets: Heaven and Paradise. These realms existed in additional parts of the girls’ brains where they were “goddesses reigning on high” yet occasionally the girls shoplifted when they were in the real world. The girls’ main object in life was to be together to share each other’s thoughts and activities, secrets and plans, and if anyone dared come between them that person should be forcibly removed.
Parker visited the Hulmes regularly and on occasions stayed for days at a time. At Dr Hulme’s place the girls wandered about together, keeping much to themselves, scribbled in exercise books effusions which they called novels, and spent a good deal of time in each other’s beds. Mrs. Hulme was pleased that the girls had become friends. She and Dr. Hulme believed Julie had “personality defects” before she formed her friendship with Parker. Still Mrs. Hulme noticed that her daughter enjoyed spending time in a fantasy world with Parker and resented being brought back into “the family circle.” At first the girls’ private writings were “extravagant” but as time went on suicide, bloodshed and murder entered into their “novels.” The girls wrote about a Temple of Minerva” in their notebooks. It was a reference to a secret haven in the Hulmes’ backyard. Inside the temple, the girls had buried a dead mouse and erected crosses. Along with the saints in their religion, the girls also worshipped gods.
Their parents found this disturbing and worried that their relationship might be sexual as indeed it was. One entry in Parker’s diary read: “we made love the way we thought saints would make love.” Homosexuality at the time was considered a serious mental illness, so both sets of parents attempted to prevent the girls from seeing each other. Later it would be proven that Parker made any erroneous and fantasy-based entries in her diary although the lesbian encounters were believed to be true.
In 1954, Hulme’s parents separated. She was devastated by the divorce. 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. Parker told her mother she wished to accompany Hulme, but Parker’s mother made it clear it would not be allowed. The girls were devastated. They formed a plan to murder Parker’s mother and leave the country for Hollywood or New York City, where they believed they would publish their writings and work in film.
Parker’s mother permitted her daughter to spend 10 days with Hulme. She was pleased that Juliet was going away because then the friendship would end. The two girls returned to the Parker household on the morning of the killing. When Mr. Rieper came home at lunch he stated they were laughing and joking.
On 22 June 1954, the body of Honorah Rieper was discovered in Victoria Park, in Christchurch, New Zealand. That morning Rieper and the two girls had tea at a tea kiosk, then the three had gone for a walk through Victoria Park. 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. The poor woman screamed in terror and pain but there was nowhere around to hear. Like most young killers, the girls had a weak alibi for the murder and hadn’t thought through a convincing story about Rieper’s mrder. After committing the murder 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 Rieper 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. In total there were 69 injuries to the woman’s face, head and hands. She lay on her back with her head facing downhill. A stream of blood had flowed from the woman’s head and had flowed down the hill. When Ritchie returned to the tea room he found Parker quite calm and Hulme highly agitated. Yet she didn’t seem to appreciate the full implication of their crime. Police soon discovered the murder weapon in the nearby woods. The girls’ story of Rieper’s accidental death quickly fell apart.
When police had interviewed Hulme she stated, “I knew this was the trip we had planned. I left home about 10:30 a.m. I had part of a brick which I wrapped in a newspaper. I had got it from near the garage. I gave it to Pauline. I know the brick was put into a stocking at the Rieper’s house. I did not put it there…I saw Pauline hit Mrs. Rieper with the brick in the stocking….I took the stocking and hit her, too. I was not quite sure what was going to happen when we went to Victoria Park. I thought we may have been able to frighten Mrs. Rieper with a brick and she would have given her consent for Pauline and me to stay. After the first blow was struck I knew it would be necessary for us to kill her. I was terrified and hysterical.”
The girls were arrested that evening at their respective homes.
The first onlookers were trying the doors of the Court at 8 a.m., and by 9 a.m. their number had grown to a couple of dozen, mostly women and two young men. To avoid sightseers the girls were brought to Court early, arriving a few minutes after 9 a.m., and the van was backed up against the doorway, through which the girls were taken into Court and upstairs to the cells. Gathered around the entrance to the public gallery, on the Armagh Street side of the Court, the sightseers missed the girls’ arrival altogether. When the doors of the gallery opened sixty people streamed into the three front rows. The gallery was not full. Three of the men called for jury service this week submitted written applications for exemption, two being granted.
Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity
Mr. Gresson, the girls’ lawyer, claimed the two girls were mentally ill as evidenced by the writings in the novels and Parker’s diary. He stated that the girls’ characters revealed symptoms “of the disease….These girls are mentally ill sick adolescents not brutal criminals…not criminally responsible for their actions.”
Gresson used psychiatrist Dr Medlicott as an expert witness. Medlicott statements included that when he interviewed them the girls “exulted over their crime” and showed no reasonable emotional appreciation of their situation. Both girls had had a difficult adolescence and their association proved tragic for them. There was no proof it was a physical relationship, but “there is a lot of suggestion in their diaries that a physical relationship occurred.” Pauline’s young sister was an imbecile, and her baby sister died shortly after birth. Both girls were sensitive, selfish, and imaginative, and showed an inability to tolerate criticism. It seemed clear that they always wrote to each other as imaginary characters.
Dr. Francis O. Bennett, another expert witness for the defence, were not sane then, are not sane now and never will be sane.” He claimed that:
- At one stage the girls wrote out the Ten Commandments and set out to see how many they could break. They claimed Pauline had broken 10 and Juliet only nine.
- In my opinion they are both folie a deux homosexual paranoics of the elated type.
- They are definitely certifiable.
- They knew they were killing a woman, who she was and the nature of their act. They did not think their act was wrong.
- They knew it was against the laws of the country but they had a loyalty to their delusion.
However writings in Parker’s diary included entries such as: “Anger against mother is boiling inside of me as she is the main obstacle in my path. Suddenly the means of ridding myself of the obstacle occurs to me…I wish to make it appear accidental….We have worked it out together and both are thrilled with the idea. Naturally we are a trifle nervous but the pleasure of anticipation is great….We decided to use a rock in a stocking rather than a sandbag…I feel very keyed up as if I was planning a surprise party…the happy event is to take place tomorrow afternoon.”
The writings were very lucid for a supposedly “insane” girl and the jury rejected the plea of not guilty.
After two hours’ (stet) retirement the jury at Christchurch found Pauline Yvonne Parker and Juliet Marion Hulme Guilty of the murder of Pauline’s mother, Mrs. Honora Mary Parker. Mr. Justice Adams sentenced the girls to be detained during her(sic) Majesty’s pleasure. Under New Zealand law this was the sentence passed on persons under 18 years of age who were convicted of an offence punishable with death.
In summing up the Judge said that two doctors expressed the opinion that the accused were insane and three doctors had sworn that they were sane. To some extent, in some way their minds were abnormal. Did it amount to disease of the mind? “All the doctors have sworn the accused did know the nature and quality of their act. As I have understood the case, that has not been disputed.” Both knew the act was wrong and contrary to the moral code of the community.
The judge stated that Mrs. Parker’s murder was “a premeditated murder conducted by two dirty-minded little girls…. The girls coldly and calculatingly desired to kill Mrs. Parker and they decided on a farewell outing to the Hills at Victoria Park.
After serving their sentences, both girls left New Zealand and changed their names.
Eventually Hulme established herself as a successful fiction writer, using the pseudonym Anne Perry. She is no longer the pretty-faced little girl then later young woman she was during the murder trial. Of her time in prison Hulme stated “I was allowed out to work then put straight in after work. I don’t know what it was for but anyway it was rough and at that time I finally got down on my knees and said okay it was me, I did it. It was wrong. I’m sorry. And then began to heal.”
She stated, “when I was 15 I committed a crime as an accessory I was involved. I helped someone kill a person…I felt I had no time to find a better solution. She told me that if I let she would take her own life and I believed her.”
Her brother Johnson stated, “At the time it happened I was 10 years old. But I got to know what had happened. Then I’ve had to work it out and come to terms with it.”
Parker has maintained a life of obscurity, under the name Hilary Nathan. She is a weathered-looking elderly woman. After her release, Pauline completed a Bachelors degree and trained as a librarian. She moved to England where she ran a riding school. After she was ‘outed’, she refused to speak to media, and moved to Orkney in remote Scotland. Perry also lives in Scotland. To this day, Parker refuses to speak to media and lives as a virtual recluse, devoted to her Catholic faith. Her sister Wendy said that “Hilary is very remorseful, and is continuing her penance by keeping away from people.”
In 1994, Kate Winslet and Melanie Lynskey starred in a movie about the crime titled Heavenly Creatures. A 2011 documentary titled Reflections of the Past directed by Alexander Roman was also made about the crime. A number of non-fiction accounts of the crime have also been published.