Heritage

Parker - Hulme Murder Case

Source: "Murder without remorse," The Press (Weekend), 5 October 1991, p.5

Murder without remorse.

She was mad. She genuinely thought she was a philosopher. A new book on the case has rekindled interest in the sensational 1954 murder trial of Christchurch teenagers Pauline Parker and Juliet Hulme.

Neil Clarkson talks to the lawyer who helped defend one of the twisted sisters in crime. For the first time in days Brian McClelland's mind drifted from the brutal murder that had gripped the country. He stood with a fellow solicitor, Terrance Gresson, on the Lancaster Park embankment as a desperate Canterbury held Waikato to a 6-all draw; the challenger's Don Clark having a rare off-day with his goal-kicking.

Brian McClelland was reflective and somewhat down as the 1954 Ranfurly Shield match unfolded. He was certainly upset. Little more than an hour before he had listened to a Christchurch Supreme Court jury deliver it's verdict in the trial of teenagers Juliet Hulme and Pauline Parker.

It was a trial that grabbed international headlines, the story of two youngsters the Crown described as precocious and dirty-minded little girls who schemed to kill the mother of one them who threatened to separate them. It was gruesome in the extreme. The girls repeatedly bashing Honora Parker over the head with a brick in a stocking. Her battered body had been left lying on a tranquil path through Victoria Park, on the Port Hills. The Jury had rejected their defence of insanity and Mr Justice Francis Adams pitied the pair who showed no emotion.

Brian McClelland had wandered through to the cell where Juliet sat alone only minutes after the murder verdict was announced.

"Bambi," she asked using the nickname she had used for him since their earliest meetings, "Is that wig you're wearing really made of horse hair?" "Yes,'' he replied. A smile grew across the face of Juliet Hulme. "I thought it was. I had a bet with someone. I knew I was right".

Juliet Hulme always thought she was right. She was a schizophrenic displaying signs of exalted paranoia, according to the defence psychiatrist Dr Reginald Medlicott. London born Brian McClelland now aged 71 and a Queen's Counsel, has no doubt Juliet Hulme was schizophrenic.

"As a layman, I believe that was so because she was an extremely nice girl to meet - attractive and clever. She was fine as long as you didn't ask her about her own beliefs. She thought that she was a super person. "That was why we couldn't possibly call her to give evidence. She appeared completely arrogant and conceited, but she wasn't at all. It was just the way she was brought up." "Her family lived in this house, Ilam, which had a beautiful garden. They had servants. Goodness knows what they didn't have."

Pauline came from a totally different background. Juliet and Pauline went to school and became friends. "I always thought that Pauline got swept off her feet by their lifestyle."

Brian McClelland was junior defence counsel for Terence Gresson in defending Juliet Hulme. Much of the legwork in preparing her defence was his. "I read all the material. I interviewed her, Terence did too, but not nearly as much." "When the killing happened they had not called on Terence at all. They let Juliet be interviewed by Detective Archie Tait. She had made a statement admitting that she had taken part in the killing. We couldn't move a yard on the facts."

Juliet was in custody and we had trouble because Hilda Hulme, the mother was a Crown witness. She had to give evidence about what Juliet had done before she went up to the hills. But we wanted to see her because, of course, our defence was that she was insane." "We had to get the background from someone. The police did not want us to interview the mother at all.

He received from Hilda Hulme various material her daughter had written. Brian McClelland said Juliet did not keep a diary as far as he was aware, although the police long suspected there was one. He recalls the girls obvious excitement over a play outline written by Juliet. "They really believed that it was so brilliant that it would be filmed in Hollywood. They were going, over there to arrange all this. The whole thing was ridiculous."

Posing a bigger problem for the defence of Juliet Hulme was the diary of Pauline Parker. That, perhaps more than anything, lifted the murder trial from the macabre to the remarkable. Crown prosecutor Adam Brown repeatedly stung the defence with reference to the diary making much of several passages indicating some pleasure in planning Honora Parker's death. Parker wrote of their murder "We have worked it all out carefully and are both thrilled with the idea. Naturally we feel a trifle nervous but the anticipation is great.

"Parts of the diary quite clearly indicated that it was planned in some detail," says Brian McClelland. "I think the idea was worked out by Juliet but what Pauline wrote in her diary legally was not anything to with Juliet."

The mental state of Pauline Parker also posed problems for the defence. "I always thought that was our major difficulty,'' Brian McClelland recalls. The defence relied heavily on the evidence of a psychiatrist Dr Reginald Medlicott. He argued that Juliet's insanity affected Pauline in a folie a deux, or communicated insanity. But Crown counsel Brown, armed with an incriminating diary and three doctors waiting to rebut the evidence was not about to let the psychiatrist go lightly.

"The Crown gave Medlicott a very rough passage," says Brian McClelland. "With the wind behind him from Adams (the judge), he made a mess of Medlicott." There is little doubt that Mr Justice Adams, a staunch religious man had little sympathy for the girls. "He was," said Brian McClelland, "an unsympathetic judge to put it mildly." "He had been Crown prosecutor in Dunedin for many years. He had written a book on criminal law. He was a clever man but absolutely as hard as nails.

Brian McClelland recalls the bombshell the judge dropped at the end of the defence evidence. Alan Brown was unwell and in the end just Brian McClelland and the junior prosecutor, Peter Mahon, a close friend, appeared before His Honour in chambers. He said that he was going to direct the jury that there was no evidence of insanity at all - that as matter of law the defence had not been made out. We hadn't got any other defence. Peter said to Adams that for the Crown they wanted it decided by the jury. Adams said that he did not mind what the Crown wanted. He was telling him that as a matter of law he was going to direct the jury accordingly.

I said that evidence had been given which if accepted by the jury would mean that Juliet was legally insane. "In the end the judge said that he would see us again in the morning before the counsel sat and in the meantime we could think it over. Peter and I then went to the law library and we sat up most of the night trying to see if this had ever been done."

They uncovered just one case in England in which a judge ruled out insanity on the basis that no medical evidence had been called. The next morning a reluctant Mr Justice Adams allowed the insanity question to the jury.

Brian McClelland never saw Juliet again after the trial. "Frankly I did not want to. There was nothing I could do. Juliet needed a doctor, not a lawyer. Juliet Hulme began her sentence interned "at Her Majesty's pleasure" - in Auckland's Mount Eden Prison. sewing mail bags.

"They just said she was sane. They wouldn't let her have a radio." "Was she happy?" ''She was mad. She used to write to me, saying "Isn't it funny the only men I have ever admired have been Italian." "She genuinely thought she was a philosopher, a genius."

Dr Medlicott, who has since died, kept in touch with the young women. Juliet Hulme was said to be working for a United States domestic airline and Pauline Parker had gone to work in a Catholic institution in New Zealand having failed in her bid to become a nun. "That is why I have always been reluctant to say anything about it'" - says Brian McClelland. "For all I know she may still be here. It's all a long time ago. I don't really believe she ever was mad. I hope she is leading a perfectly good life."

Hilda Hulme and her partner Walter Perry were said have gone to live in the Middle East after the trial. Life in New Zealand had little to offer them after the trial. Before leaving Hilda Hulme showed her appreciation of Brian McClelland's efforts during the trying months surrounding the trial by presenting him with a Parker pen. "She didn't see the funny side of it," he says.

The changing face of crime.

Brian McClelland has served the legal profession in Christchurch for the best part of 50 years, but admits he had no great romantic desire to study law. His four-year scholarship to Christ's College was coming to a close and Brian McClelland needed a job.

"I was originally sent down from school to Sims Cooper for a interview as a office boy for a meat firm. His first interview for a job in a law firm was Henry Cotterill. He kept me waiting for I don't know how long. Then he wouldn't take me on. He didn't know why I wanted to go to university to do law. He wanted me to wear a uniform. I couldn't leave the office to attend lectures at 5pm. I had to wait until the mail was ready. He couldn't understand why I had to go to university at all." Brian McClelland instead got a 15-shilling-a-week job with Harper Pascoe Bechanan and Upham attending law lectures in the morning and evenings.

Brian McClelland was about five when his family emigrated from Britain. He attended Elmwood School and in Standard Six sat examinations that won him scholarships to both St Andrew's College and Christ's College. He accepted the latter. His career has centred on court work representing many of the union members in civil accident claims before the no-fault Accident Compensation Act of 1972. Brian McClelland says the criminal side of court work has changed, with unarmed skilled criminals replaced by gangs and armed offenders. Now it's drugs and gangs he says.

That doesn't interest me greatly. He was advocate for the likes of "tank men" - skilled safe-blowers respected by the criminal world. He has been a fellow of Christ's College because he felt it was a way of repaying the school for the education it offered him. He was chairman of the scholarships and bursaries committee for years and a member of its Board of Governors for 25 years.

Retirement from law work remains well down the McClelland agenda. "I enjoy doing it. I don't work as hard as I did". The spread of files on his desk indicates otherwise. "I would hate to retire and do no court work."