Famous World Murder in NZ (Parker-Hulme) Pt 1 (Overview)

Peter Graham’s excellent 2011 book So Brilliantly Clever.

One of the most famous murders in the world, about which more books, articles, and films have been made, is the 1954 Parker-Hulme murder in Christchurch, New Zealand, 1954 of “Heavenly Creatures” fame . I am interested in it, because I live there, know all the places involved, and my mother may have been at the Port Hills Sanatorium at the same time as one of the killers, Juliet Hulme. My sisters went to the same school as both killers, and the parents of Parker lived in my neighbourhood. Bert Rieper (killer 1)’s father had a fish n chip shop and fishmongers in Sydenham. My twin sister had several Fish n Chip shops on that side of town and her ex-husband, my brother-in-law, a fishmongers in Sydenham.  Until the Feb 22, 2011 earthquake, we lived just over the spur from the murder scene.  This is my patch.

This killing is stranger than fiction. A book of the event was actually turned down by a publisher because it was so far-fetched, until it was pointed out it really happened.

I say “World Murder” because this event spanned several nations, incl: NZ, Australia, South Africa, the UK, America, the Bahamas;  is world famous due to Jacksons’ movie; and has a dedicated cyberspace following of numerous websites and blogs  covering all the details, people, and speculations over the case.

Two teenage girls in a lesbian relationship enwrapped in a fantasy world of their own creation, with massive superiority complexes, brutally murder one of their mothers in conservative post-war Christchurch.  But there the twists and turns did not end, and the saga has continued until the present day, almost 60 years later. One of the killers went on to be a hugely successful UK murder-mystery writer. Some of her fictional killings and characters resemble the events of her own real crime.

The killing is perhaps best known to modern inquirers as the 1994 Heavenly Creatures murder, filmed by Sir Peter Jackson (also of New Zealand) in which Kate Winslet found stardom.  It was Jackson’s first serious, and quality, movie (in my opinion).

A bizarre aspect of the murder was that almost all the protagonists changed their names.

  • Pauline Parker (killer 1), known as Yvonne, knew herself as Pauline Rieper and only learned her real name after her arrest. Can you imagine is she was convicted as a grim Rieper? She changed her name to Hilary Nathan after she was released.
  • The victim, Honorah Rieper was never actually married to her husband, Bill Rieper, so her real name was Parker. Her daughter Pauline was therefore arraigned under her mother’s revealed maiden name “Parker” not Rieper. Bert Rieper and his office colleague Honorah had run away together from the North Is. and lived a secret ‘married’ life in Christchurch.
  • Juliet Hulme (killer 2) changed her name to Anne Perry (among others) after she was released.
  • Her mother Hilda Hulme changed her name immediately after the conviction to that of her adulterous lover, Bill Perry, ironically Juliet Hulme’s later assumed name.
  • The girls had various fantasy names, including “De-borah,” many of which were masculine, such as “Paul.” They also lived within a complex code system of names and aliases attributed to various “saints,” basically teenage girl movie star heroes and literary figures.  Both girls were clever and good writers.


    Demeanor of Parker & Hulme DURING the trial, a few days after their brutal murdering. Photo: from wwweb. Another frame from this sequence of the Christchurch Star-Sun (pl 1 after p. 165 in Graham’s book) shows Juliet (right) laughing.

There are some other interesting facts in the case:

  • Justice Mahon of the AirNZ Antarctic Erebus Inquiry was a legal junior in the trial.
  • The chief prosecutor Alan Brown had a mental breakdown during the trial and went mental. He was often in tears in the court.
  • Both of Juliet Hulme’s parents (killer 2) [Hilda and Henry] immediately fled New Zealand, one before the trial was over, the other immediately afterward, abandoning Hulme to Mt Eden in New Zealand.  She had a life of continual abandonment by her parents, often in different countries.
  • Hulme’s father, Dr Henry Hulme, was a disaster as Rector of Canterbury University College, despite his brains. A brilliant physicist, he was a very bright academic who worked on the Manhatten Project developing the nuclear bomb. He also knew Ernest Lord Rutherford. He went on to have a bright career but remained socially odd throughout his life.
  • Henry fled with their young son, Jonty Hulme, who eventually ended up living in Scotland in the insular community clustered around (Juliet Hulme) Anne Perry’s successful publishing career. Hilda Hulme/Perry (now in her 80s) Juliet/Anne’s motheris also part of this group.
  • Rudy Gopas painted Hilda Hulme’s portrait but also painted a second secret portrait that showed her as he really saw her (calculating, selfish, cold, conniving).

The main point I want to make, is the psychopathic brutality and utter callousness of the killing of Honorah Rieper/Parker on that day in 1954, which was messy, extremely bloody, slow and unpleasant, and not really conveyed in the Jackson’s movie.  I will turn to that aspect in Pt. 2.

About coNZervative

A blog about politics, life, culture, literature, music and thought from Christchurch, New Zealand [NZ] (the home of 10,000 earthquakes since 4 Sept. 2010) built because of the bullying and cajoling of Liberal opinion-makers (journalism and Hollywood) against conservative-minded people who are as entitled to opinion and a perspective as anyone; and because Conservativism has served the world well. John Stringer is a New Zealander (Christchurch) in his 50s married to an American from Taco Bell; they have 5 adult children in 3 diff. countries. John is an ex-Anglican pastor, a teacher, published author (NZ), novelist (USA) and cartoonist (Aust, NZ), and has spent the last 25 years in NZ politics with the National party (he was a parliamentary candidate in 1999). There was a stint in London working for the British Conservative party as well, where he did media minding and campaign work with several Brit cabinet ministers, including Baroness Thatcher, Baroness Blatch, Michael Howard, Tom King, among others. He has an MA (classical studies, Victoria); is a graduate of the New York Film Academy; and has various awards for writing. His passions include British bulldogs, fly fishing, and history (Ancient and WWII). Winston Churchill was mainly a “Conservative” but also a “Liberal” MP between 1900-1964. A Member of Parliament for 64 years, he contested 21 parliamentary elections (for Oldham, Manchester North West, Dundee, and Epping/Woodford). Throughout his career Churchill stood for liberty. He believed in open debate and freedom of speech, and opposed any system or ideology that tried to dictate the way one should think. Churchill felt deeply that disagreements within the democratic system should not degenerate into personal animosities. RIDER: This site is not connected to nzconservative, a Catholic site, or NZ Conservative Party, although from time-to-time I share some of the views espoused by both groups and other sites I follow, as published; I am an independent thinker and blogger.
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6 Responses to Famous World Murder in NZ (Parker-Hulme) Pt 1 (Overview)

  1. coNZervative says:

    Reblogged this on coNZervative and commented:

    The Parker-Hulme Christchurch Killing (“Heavenly Creatures”). My thoughts and the history of this ghastly murder.

  2. Pingback: Stuff Review: Oblivion | coNZervative

  3. Pingback: Parker-Hulme Pt 2 (The Brutality of the Murder) | coNZervative

  4. Pingback: Parker-Hulme Pt 3 (What happened subsequently) | coNZervative

  5. Pingback: Parker & Hulme Pt 4 (Were/are Parker & Hulme monsters?) | coNZervative

  6. Pingback: Parker & Hulme Pt 5 (Review: Peter Graham’s 2011 Book) | coNZervative

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