Murder

On June 22, 1954, the body of Honora Rieper was discovered in Victoria Park, in Christchurch, New Zealand. That morning Honora had gone for a walk through Victoria Park with her daughter Pauline Parker, and Pauline's best friend, Juliet Hulme. Approximately 420 feet down the path, in a wooded area of the park near a small wooden bridge, Hulme and Parker bludgeoned Honora Rieper to death with half a brick enclosed in an old stocking. After committing the carefully planned 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 in a horrified panic that Honora had fallen and hit her head. The body of Honora Rieper was found by Kenneth Ritchie where she had been killed by the girls. Major lacerations were found about Honora's head, neck, and face, with minor injuries to her fingers. Police soon discovered the murder weapon in the nearby woods. The girls' story of how Honora was killed by a slip and fall quickly fell apart.

Background

Before the trial began, it was discovered that Honora Rieper had never married Herbert Rieper, the man known as her husband. She and Pauline were therefore referred to by her maiden name, Parker, during the trial.

Parker came from a working-class background; while Juliet Hulme was the daughter of Dr. Henry Hulme, a distinguished 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 their relationship was sexual. Homosexuality at the time was seen as a serious mental illness, so both sets of parents attempted to prevent the girls from seeing each other.

In 1954, Hulme's parents separated; her father resigned from his position as rector of Canterbury College and planned to relocate to England. It was then decided that Hulme 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 that she wished to accompany Hulme, but Parker's mother made it clear to her that it would not be allowed. The girls then formed a plan to murder Parker's mother and leave the country for the United States, 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 August 30, 1954, and each of them spent five years in prison. They were released with the condition that they never contact each other again.

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, Oswald Mazengarb. After her release from prison, Juliet Hulme travelled to the United States and went on to have a successful career as a historical detective novelist under her new name, Anne Perry. She has been a Mormon since about 1968. She now lives in Scotland. Pauline moved to England and became a Roman Catholic.

In March 2006, Perry said that while her relationship with Pauline Parker was obsessive, they were not lesbians.