Parker - Hulme Murder Case
Source: Clarkson, Neil. "Separation threat trigger for a brick attack." Press, 17 June 1989, p.23.
Separation threat trigger for a brick attack
Terribly beaten about the head Honora Parker lay on a tranquil tree-lined track through Victoria Park, on the Port Hills. Her daughter, Pauline Yvonne Parker, aged 16 and a close friend, Juliet Marion Hulme aged 15, ran for help on that sunny afternoon of Tuesday, June 22, 1954. It was quickly apparent that Mrs Parker had not died from a fall, as claimed by the girls. Within a day the girls had been arrested for murder - and little more than two months later, their trial, which attracted international headlines, began in the Supreme Court in Christchurch.
The trial focused on the girls' state of mind and on incredible diary entries which mockingly referred to their murderous plan as 'moider'.
The entries were said by defence lawyers to point to insanity. But the senior Crown counsel, Alan Brown, argued the entries showed the killing to be a "callously planned and pre-meditated murder committed by two highly intelligent but dirty-minded girls." Two nights before the killing, Pauline Parker wrote in her diary: "We discussed our plans for moidering (sic) mother and made them a little clearer. Peculiarly enough I have no qualms of conscience (or is it peculiar we are so mad?)"
And on the eve of the murder: "Deborah (her nickname for Hulme) rang and we decided to use a brick in a stocking rather than a sandbag. We discussed the moider fully. I feel very keyed up as if I was planning a surprise party. So the next time I write in the diary mother will be dead. How odd, yet how pleasing."
The murder was the culmination of a bizarre relationship which developed between the two girls, a relationship in which the pair delved for hours in a fantasy world and spent many hours writing novels they intended taking to the United States for publication. They became intensely devoted to each other - and in the words of Mr Brown: " Their main object in life was to be together, sharing each other's thoughts, secrets and plans; and if any person dared to part them then that person should be forcibly removed."
Juliet Hulme was the elder daughter of Dr Henry Rainsford Hulme, an eminent English physician who arrived with his family in 1948 to become the Rector of the University of Canterbury. Juliet, then aged nine, was not a well child, and when younger had been sent from England to the Bahamas to help her health. The wealthy Hulme family settled in a large Riccarton house called Ilam.
Juliet Hulme first met Pauline Parker in her first year at Christchurch Girls High School. Parker, too, had not been a strong child, having suffered osteomyelitis when aged five. The dead woman, Honora Parker, had lived for 20 years as the wife of Herbert Rieper, who managed a city fish shop. Few in Christchurch appeared to know the couple were unmarried. All knew the mother and daughter as Rieper.
The two families were happy with the girls' friendship at first. Juliet had found a close friend and Pauline seemed to enjoy the the companionship. Pauline visited Juliet Hulme at Ilam, sometimes for days a a time, and became entranced by the Hulmes' flamboyant lifestyle.
The girls kept much to themselves, writing tales in exercise books and making plans for their future together. Their relationship became more intense and the Crown argued that during the week-long trial that they may have indeed been lesbians. The families had, indeed, felt the girls' relationship was becoming worrying and tried to break it up. This was resented by the girls.
Early in 1954 Dr Hulme resigned and decided to return to England and take Juliet to South Africa on the way. Parker wanted to go with her. This, the Crown alleged when the trial opened late in August, was the motive behind the June 22 killing.
Mr Brown told the all-male jury: "Both girls were determined not to be parted and both girls knew that Mrs Parker would be the one to object to their going away together. They decided the best way to end Mrs Parker's objections was to kill her in such a manner that it would appear to be an accident."
the middle of 1953 the Hulmes had planned to visit England and it
was arranged that Juliet would stay with the Parker family. However,
before they left it was found that Juliet had tuberculosis. She
spent the three months in a Christchurch sanitarium while her parents
were away. She was visited frequently by Pauline Parker and her
mother. Juliet was allowed home on her parent's return but did not
start back at school.
To help Juliet's recovery Pauline, who left school the previous year to attend a commercial college, was invited to stay more frequently at Ilam. The relationship between the two then became a lot closer.
As early as February of 1954 Pauline Parker's diary referred to the possibility of her mother dying.
February 13: " As usual I woke at 5 and managed to write a considerable amount. I felt depressed at the thought of the day. There seemed to be no possibility of mother relenting and allowing me to go out to Ilam. This afternoon mother told me I could not go out to Ilam again until I was eight stone and more cheerful. As I am now seven stone there is little hope…she is so unreasonable. Why could mother not die? Dozens of people are dying, thousands are dying every day. So why not mother and father too?"
April 28: "Anger against mother boiled up inside me. It is she who is one of the main obstacles in my path. Suddenly a means of ridding myself of the obstacle occurred to me."
April 29:" I did not tell Deborah (Juliet) of my plans for removing mother. The last fate I wish to meet is one in a Borstal. I am trying to think up some way…I do not want to go to too much trouble but I want it to appear either a natural or an accidental death."
June 19: "We practically finished our books today and our main like for the day was to moider mother. This notion is not a new one, but his time it is a definite plan which we intend to carry out. We have worked it all out and are both thrilled with the idea. Naturally we feel a trifle nervous but the anticipation is great."
Parker awoke on the morning of the killing and wrote: "I am writing a little of this up before the death. I felt very excited and the night-before-Christmassy last night. I did not have pleasant dreams, through. I am about to rise."
The departure of the Hulme family was by this time fixed for July 3. The girls planned to be well-disposed towards Mrs Parker for a few days, giving her the impression they has come to grips with being separated. The pair planned to persuade her to come with them on a farewell outing on the Port Hills. They would lure her to a secluded and steep part of the hillside and strike her on the head. When dead they would run for help, claiming Mrs Parker had been hurt in a fall.
On the evening of Sunday, June 20, Pauline Parker returned home and was particularly nice to her mother, helping her with the housework. Mrs Parker was delighted and readily agreed to the trip to Victoria Park. Before leaving, Juliet found a half-brick and, when she arrived at the Parker house, secretly gave it to Pauline.
had lunch with Pauline and her family, both girls appearing cheerful.
After lunch Mrs Parker and the two girls walked to the central city
and caught a bus to Cashmere before walking the final 1.5km to Victoria
Park. At about 2.35 pm they called at the park kiosk and had afternoon
tea. They then left and walked over a brow of a hill and down a
path into a plantation for what would the final few minutes of Mrs
The out-of-breath girls came running to the kiosk about 30 minutes later. Pauline Parker spoke first, blurting out: "Please help. Mother has fallen and hit her head on a rock and is covered in blood. I think she is dead." Kenneth Ritchie, the husband of the kiosk manageress, searched and found the body.
Mrs Parker's body presented a terrible sight to Sergeant R W Hope, who arrived to investigate. She lay some 350m from the kiosk along a pathway. Mrs Parker was on her back with her head which had been terribly battered, facing slightly downhill. A post-mortem revealed her skull had been smashed. There were about 45 injuries, mainly about the head and face. It had been a ferocious attack.
A blood-stained brick lay beside her head and on a nearby grassy bank lay a stocking with a foot missing and knot tied at the ankle.
Blood had run down the path and it was clear Mrs Parker had died where she lay. Detectives arrived and a search uncovered the blood-soaked foot of the stocking, matted with hair.
They photographed the scene and searched for further evidence. At 8 pm two detectives went to Ilam to interview the two girls, taken there by Dr Hulme. Pauline Parker, questioned first, said: "We were walking up the track having been to the bottom. I was leading and mother and Deborah were behind me. Mother suddenly slipped and fell. She twisted sideways and hit her head on a rock or something. She seemed to keep tossing up and down and hitting her head."
Asked about the bloody stocking, she appeared taken aback. "We didn't take mother's stockings off," she replied, before adding, "I was wearing sockettes. I had an old stocking in my bag. I used it to wipe up the blood." She would not be moved from the story.
Juliet Hulme, interviewed with her mother present, backed the story of Mrs Parker falling and hitting her head. Senior Detective Brown questioned Pauline Parker again making it clear the police did not believe her.
- Who assaulted your mother?
- I did.
- If you don't mind I won't answer that question.
- When did you make up your mind to kill your mother?
- A few days ago.
- Did you tell anyone you were going to do it?
- No. My friend does not know anything about it. She was out of sight at the time. She had gone on ahead.
- What did your mother say?
- I would rather not answer that.
- How many times did you hit your mother?
- A good many times, I imagine.
- What did you use?
- A half-brick in a stocking. I took them with me for the purpose. I had the brick in my shoulder-bag. I wish to state that Juliet did not know of my intentions and she did not see me strike my mother. I took the chance to strike my mother while Juliet was away; I still do not wish to say why I killed my mother.
- Did you tell Juliet that you killed your mother?
knew nothing about it. As far as I know she believed what I told
her, although she may have guessed what had happened, but I doubt
it as we were both so shaken that it probably did not occur to
She went on to say: "As soon as I started to strike my mother I regretted it but could not stop then."
Pauline Parker was then taken to the Christchurch Police Station and charged with murder. A search was later made of her room and her 1954 diary was found. Juliet Hulme was questioned the following day, and made another statement, describing events leading up to the fatal walk. She went on: "We went to a spot well down one of the paths and Mrs Parker decided to come back. On the way back I was walking in front. I was expecting Mrs Parker to be attacked. I heard noises behind me. It was loud conversation in anger. I saw Mrs Parker in a sort of squatting position. They were quarreling. I went back. I saw Pauline hit Mrs Parker with the brick in the stocking. I took the stocking and hit her too. I was terrified. I thought that one of them had to die. I wanted to help Pauline. It was terrible. Mrs Parker moved convulsively. We both held her. She was still when we left her. The brick had come out of the stocking with the force of the blows. I cannot remember Mrs Parker saying anything distinctly. I was too frightened to listen."
Hulme went on: "After the first blow was struck I knew it would be necessary to kill her. I was terrified and hysterical."
The trial gripped Christchurch for 5 1/2 days. It began on Monday, August 23rd and ended on Saturday, August 28th. Terence Gresson and Brian McClelland defended Hulme; Dr Alec Haslam and Jim Wicks defended Parker. Peter Mahon appeared with Alan Brown for the Crown.
The defence did not dispute that Parker and Hulme carried out the killing. Part-way through the third day the defence opened, claiming the girls were insane at the time of Mrs Parker's death. Mr Gresson told jurors: "The Crown has seen fit to refer to the accused as ordinary dirty-minded little girls. Our evidence will show that they are nothing of the kind. The Crown's description is unfortunate and medically incorrect. They are mentally sick girls more to be pitied than to be blamed."
Central to the defence was a psychiatrist, Dr Reginald Medlicott, who interviewed both girls and read their writings, including Parker's 1953 and 1954 diaries.
"I consider they have paranoia of an exalted type and it is in the setting of a folie a deux," he told the court.
"It is a form of systemised delusional insanity. It can be of various types, the usual being the prosecutional type but the girls suffer from the exalted type. The French phrase folie a deux is used to describe a communicative insanity."
"Both are sensitive, self-contained, imaginative, selfish, - and showed inability to accept criticism. Their association, I consider, proved tragic for them. There is evidence that their friendship became a homosexual one. There is no proof there was a physical relationship, although there is a lot of suggestive evidence from the diary that this occurred. There is evidence that they had baths together and had frequent talks on sexual matters. That is not a healthy relationship in itself, but more important, it prevents the development of adult sexual relationships. I don't mean by that physical relationships, but attachment to people of the opposite sex. Homosexuality is frequently related to paranoia. When I first saw the two girls I knew that they were trying to prove themselves insane. In a very short time they had given me what they thought was proof of their insanity. This so-called proof consisted of compulsions, such as to thrust a hand into a fire but they never acted on them. They both said they were telepathic and got unusual communications - one to the other."
"They also said they had mood swings from exaltation to thoughts of suicide. I did not accept that and do not think they were convinced themselves. After a very short time with them I was definitely convinced they were insane. Their arrogance, like their conceit, was out of normal proportions. It was so severe I had to restrain myself. They consistently abused me. Parker told me I was an irritating fool and unpleasant to look at. Hulme pulled me over the coals for not talking sufficiently clearly."
"After I had physically examined Parker she shouted out, "I hope you break your flaming neck." In the diaries you can cover Parker's condition over the last 18 months"
In June of 1953 Parker recorded that the Christian religion had become too much of a farce and she and Hulme had decided to introduce one of their own.
"The whole thing rises to a fantastic crescendo. It would be difficult for anyone to read the 1954 diary and not feel that rising tension and exaltation. As the diary goes on evil becomes more and more important and one gets the feeling that they ultimately become helplessly under it's sway.
"By June, 1954, both accused were grossly insane, I would say."
Dr Francis Bennett was also being called for the defence, being a doctor with considerable experience of psychiatric cases. Dr Bennett saw both girls within days of their arrest and also read their writings.
He told the Court: "There came the threat of separation. Anything that threatens the paranoiac makes him dangerous. They thought by removing Pauline's mother the way would be clear. This idea was stupid but they have steadily maintained it was justified. Neither will admit contrition or regret. Parker assured me she regretted the trouble she had brought on the Hulme household but she had no regrets about her mother. Parker told me she would still feel justified today in killing her mother, if she was a threat to their being together. Juliet Hulme was more outspoken. She not only considers the murder justified but also that other murders might be justified if there was a threat to the association of the two accused."
Pauline Parker, he said, had been warm and expansive to her mother the day before the murder.
"Pauline washed her hair and was in bed by nine and the next day she bashed her mother's head in with a brick. That is the core of their insanity. The happy harmony on Monday and the blood and slaughter on Tuesday. It was treacherous, cruel and filthy. It was a thousand miles from sanity."
"The pair were insane at the time of the killing", he said. "They are still not sane. In my opinion they will never be sane."
The Crown called three psychiatrists to rebut the findings of Drs Medlicott and Bennett. All said they had interviewed the two and found them sane.
Dr Kenneth Stallworthy, who was the senior medical officer at Avondale Medical hospital, in Auckland, told jurors: "In all my experience and reading I have no knowledge of two insane persons combining to commit a crime. I consider them sane medically because I did not consider either certifiable and I consider them sane in the legal sense."
He went on: "A diary entry says 'I have no definite plans yet. The last fate I wish to met is one in a Borstal.' To my mind that is a clear indication Pauline knew she was breaking the law and running the risk of punishment by putting her plan into action. Another entry says 'Peculiarly enough I have no qualms of conscience.' That is a clear indication she knew what she was doing was wrong and should have qualms of conscience."
Hulme had told him: "You'd have to be a absolute moron not to know murder was against the law."
James Saville, a medical officer at Sunnyside Hospital, said he
had no knowledge of two insane persons conspiring to commit a crime
and had read of only one instance. He said he did not consider the
pair legally insane, not did he consider them certifiable. The Sunnyside
Hospital superintendent, Dr James Hunter, put forward the same view.
The girls showed little emotion as the unpleasant evidence unfolded before them in the packed courtroom. They grimaced when anything was said that which disturbed their vanity. Often, they would bow their head while sexual matters were discussed.
One newspaper reported Hulme as being outwardly angry as evidence of Parker's affair with a boy, Nicholas, unfolded.
The trial, ironically, marked the girls' last time together. Their permanent separation was inevitable.
The jury returned its guilty verdict on Saturday, after a retirement of two hours and 15 minutes. Hulme and Parker were too young to hang. Mr Justice Adams jailed the pair at Her Majesty's pleasure - an indefinite term of detention. They were sent to Mount Eden Prison but were kept apart. Neither was given psychiatric treatment, the prison authorities apparently pointing to jury's verdict that the pair were not insane.
Both were released before 1960.
The publicity the case received, both nationally and internationally made life as Pauline Yvonne Parker and Juliet Marion Hulme a grim prospect.
The rest is rumour; perhaps legend. Some say the pair left prison with new names, new identities.
Pauline Parker is known to have turned to Catholicism and tried unsuccessfully to become a nun. She is still understood to be working in New Zealand at a Catholic institution doing office work or similar duties. Juliet Hulme was last reported to be married and working in the United States as an air hostess.