On June 22, 1954, Pauline Parker and Juliet Hulme brutally bludgeoned Parker's mother to death — because they thought she would ruin their friendship.
Pauline Parker and Juliet Hulme seemed like perfectly ordinary teenage girls. But on June 22, 1954, a day that would be remembered in New Zealand for decades to come, they viciously murdered Parker’s mother, Honorah Rieper. The two teenagers had become obsessed with each other and the fantasy world they’d created. And they believed that Rieper would be an obstacle in their perfect, shared future.
The scandalous trial that followed captivated New Zealanders, and the story was even turned into a feature film, Heavenly Creatures (1994), directed by Peter Jackson. So what exactly led to the infamous Parker-Hulme murder?
This is the full story, from how the girls first bonded, to how they planned what Parker called “The Day of the Happy Event,” to where they are now.
The Start Of A Fateful Friendship
On paper, Pauline Parker and Juliet Hulme could not have appeared to be more different. Parker — who went by the last name Rieper until the court determined that her parents were not married — had been born in New Zealand. Her father managed a fish shop and her mother ran a boarding house, according to the Huffington Post.
Hulme, on the other hand, had been born in England. She was the daughter of the celebrated physicist Dr. Henry Rainsford Hulme, who had helped build the first British hydrogen bomb. While Parker was small, surly, and dark-haired, Hulme was tall and attractive and spoke with an English accent.
The girls seemed to come from polar opposite worlds, but they quickly bonded when Hulme moved to Christchurch, New Zealand with her family. Both had struggled with their health (Parker with a bone condition called osteomyelitis and Hulme with tuberculosis), and they became friends while sitting out their physical education classes.
But Parker and Hulme’s friendship soon took a dark turn.
How Pauline Parker And Juliet Hulme’s Fantasy Life Led To Murder
Both Pauline Parker and Juliet Hulme had vivid imaginations. As they grew closer, they created a fantasy realm called “the Fourth World” and invented a religion in which they venerated certain celebrities like Mario Lanza as “saints,” according to an article that appeared in New Zealand Woman’s Weekly.
Together, the teens wrote stories set in the Fourth World and dreamed of one day publishing novels. Gradually, they became more and more immersed in their imaginary realm — and less tethered to reality.
At the same time, the two girls seemed to develop a deep obsession with each other. Though Parker spent a good deal of time at the Hulme house, the two girls became withdrawn when apart, and even physically ill.
Their families began to worry that they’d developed a lesbian relationship — an accusation later repeated at their murder trial. At the time, homosexuality was considered a sign of mental illness in New Zealand and was treated as a crime.
But in 1954, a solution to the girls’ obsessive behavior seemed to present itself. Hulme’s parents decided to get divorced and announced that Hulme would go to South Africa to stay with relatives. The Huffington Post reports that the Hulmes were open to Parker accompanying their daughter, but Parker felt that her mother, Honorah Rieper, would never allow it.
So 16-year-old Pauline Parker and 15-year-old Juliet Hulme hatched a plan to murder Rieper and make it look like an accident.
“Why could mother not die?” Pauline Parker mused in her diary, according to the New Zealand Herald. “Dozens of people are dying all the time, thousands, so why not mother, and father too.”
‘The Day Of The Happy Event’ And The Murder Of Honorah Rieper
On June 22, 1954, the day Pauline Parker described as “The Day of the Happy Event” in her diary, she and Juliet Hulme invited Honorah Rieper out for a walk. The three of them went to Victoria Park, where they enjoyed afternoon tea and then set out to wander the park.
Then, according to the New Zealand Herald, the girls led Rieper to a pink charm that they’d left on the path. When Rieper bent to pick it up, Parker began to bludgeon her with a brick encased in a stocking. The two girls took turns, eventually hitting Honorah more than 20 times.
With Rieper dead, the girls ran back to the kiosk where they’d had tea and screamed for help. Covered in blood, they told the kiosk owners that Rieper had fallen and hit her head.
But it soon became clear that something far more sinister had happened. A detective later testified that Parker’s mother “had been attacked with an animal ferocity seldom seen in the most brutal murders,” and police found the bloodied brick nearby.
Pauline Parker and Juliet Hulme were arrested and charged with Honorah Rieper’s murder. Before long, their trial would captivate New Zealanders across the country.
The Trial Of Pauline Parker And Juliet Hulme
As word of Pauline Parker and Juliet Hulme’s crime spread, New Zealanders everywhere reacted with shock. The girls were young, the murder they’d perpetrated was brutal, and their trial was packed with sensational claims.
The prosecution got their hands on Parker’s diary, which contained details about Parker and Hulme’s plans to kill Parker’s mother. New Zealand’s Woman Weekly reports that a few days before the murder, Parker had described how “thrilled” she and Hulme were by the plan. “Naturally we feel a trifle nervous but the pleasure of anticipation is great,” Parker wrote.
Two days later, she added: “We decided to use a rock in a stocking, rather than a sandbag. We discussed the moider. I feel keyed up, as if I were planning a surprise party.”
Meanwhile, the defense argued that the two girls had been caught up in a folie à deux, or shared delusional disorder, hoping to prove that Parker and Hulme had been insane when they killed Honorah Rieper.
“The problem was they’d both confessed to it, and the only defense we had was insanity, but how could we find the two of them insane?” The defense counsel Brian McClelland said, according to SyFy. “And then this chap, Reginald Medlicott comes along with this wonderful idea that they could have folie à deux, so we went with that.”
The trial also featured allegations that Parker and Hulme were in a lesbian relationship, something both later denied. Since homosexuality was then illegal in New Zealand, speculation about their sexuality only added to the trial’s drama.
But in the end, the trial of Pauline Parker and Juliet Hulme came to a predictable conclusion.
On Aug. 28, 1954, both girls were found guilty of murder. They were sentenced to “detention during Her Majesty’s pleasure,” a sentence for a convicted person under the age of 18 in which they are detained for an indeterminate amount of time based on the discretion of a judge. They each ended up serving five years in separate prisons.
So what happened to Pauline Parker and Juliet Hulme after their release?
The Divergent Paths Of The Murderous Best Friends
In the decades since their release from prison, Pauline Parker and Juliet Hulme both established new — and totally separate — lives. Though it has been erroneously reported that they were forbidden from contacting each other, it seems that Parker and Hulme naturally drifted apart.
Parker, who changed her name to Hilary Nathan, has lived a reclusive life in the United Kingdom. She became devoutly Catholic and has spent her days teaching children to ride horses. Her sister, Wendy, told New Zealand Women’s Weekly that Nathan has no “contact with the outside world” and deeply regrets killing her mother.
Juliet Hulme, on the other hand, grew up to live out a dream that she and her childhood friend had once envisioned. After the 1994 release of Heavenly Creatures, Peter Jackson’s film about the Parker-Hulme murder, journalists tracked Hulme down and shockingly discovered that she had become a best-selling murder mystery writer named Anne Perry.
When asked about the crimes of her childhood, Perry said that she doesn’t spend much time thinking about what she and Pauline Parker did.
“I would just torment myself and that wouldn’t help anyone,” she said, according to the New Zealand Herald. In the end, she said, Honorah Rieper was “somebody I barely knew.” Anne Perry died in April 2023 at the age of 84.
But the crime that Pauline Parker and Juliet Hulme committed remains infamous in New Zealand and beyond. Not only was their murder of Pauline’s mother a heinous act, but it also raised unsettling questions about the dark side of imagination and close friendships.
After reading about the shocking case of Pauline Parker and Juliet Hulme, read about the killing spree of the Boston Strangler. Then, find out about the mystery behind the unsolved murder of fitness instructor Missy Bevers.