Whatever happened to Pauline Parker?
by Chris Cooke
NZ Woman's Weekly
After serving time for the savage murder of Pauline's mother, Pauline Parker and Juliet Hulme vanished and their new identities became
Pauline: sad and reclusive
As a young teenager, Pauline Parker and her inseparable friend, Juliet Hulme, lured Pauline's mother to a secluded
The savage murder of the
After the trial, the young girls served separate five-year prison sentences and, on their release, established new lives. Juliet Hulme's secret identity as crime novelist Anne Perry was discovered in 1994. A remorseful Perry said she had blocked out the events of the actual killing but could recall how she became involved –she helped Pauline kill her mother because she believed, if she didn't, she would have committed suicide. But the mystery of what happened to Pauline was still unsolved –until now.
Like Perry, parker chose
Wendy, just eleven months older than Hilary, says they were very close as children and were often mistaken as twins. Wendy says Hilary failed in a bid to become a nun but, now, "she is a nun in her way. She's living in solitude. She's deeply religious. She leads a very unusual existence. She hasn't got a TV or a radio, so would never have heard what Anne Perry had to say and she wouldn't care."
Hilary hasn't seen, and doesn't want to see, the movie, Heavenly Creatures, based on the Parker-Hulme murder. "She doesn't have any contact with the outside world –she's a reclusive, really. She's a devout Roman Catholic and spends much of her time in prayer."
After she was released, Hilary studied towards a BA at the
It's not clear why she chose the name Hilary Nathan but it's likely, as a devout Catholic, she picked it for its biblical significance. The Bible tells the story of David, the King of Israel, who committed adultery with a woman named Bathsheba. He had her husband murdered by placing him in the front row of a battle, then instructing the army to pull back. Nathan was a prophet sent by God to make David face up to his guilt. A Catholic priest said a person who chose the name Nathan would be indicating they had repented of their sins.
"She has led a good life and is very remorseful for what she's done, says Wendy. "She committed the most terrible crime and has spent 40 years repaying it by keeping away from people and doing her own little thing." Hilary travelled to
Wendy was just 17 years old when her sister murdered her mother. "I had to decide if I would hate her for the rest of my life because she took my mother away from me. It was the worst thing that could ever have happened to me. "Because we'd been so close growing up, I wrote to her and said, "I can't believe what's happened. I don't want to accept this." Hilary wrote back and said, "It just all got out of hand. I don't know what happened and I just want to keep in touch with you." Over the years, Wendy and Hilary have written regularly and she sends money for her nephews and pieces in
Although Pauline Parker's defence said she was insane at the time, Wendy says her sister understood what she was doing and intended to kill her mother. "But, looking back, she said it was something that grew and grew out of all proportion." Wendy believes Hilary didn't fully understand the finality of death. "After it happened, she was very sorry about it. It took her about five years to realise what she had done." Hilary has never spoken to her sister about the brutal way in which she took her mother's life. "Well, it was absolutely overboard, wasn't it? The story is they met; they were ill-fated and they went overboard and committed a dreadful crime they have paid for their whole lives."
Wendy believes her sister has never contacted Anne Perry although they both live in
How I found Pauline
Hilary Nathan was shocked when I knocked on her door and asked her if we could talk about the events of 1954. "I've never had another name –I'm sorry, you've got the wrong person," was her reaction when asked about her past as Pauline Parker. Her initial reluctance was no surprise, considering she had hidden her past for more than 40 years. She declined to talk but her close sister Wendy, back in
I became fascinated by the case after seeing Peter Jackson's 1994 movie, Heavenly Creatures. Like many journalists I began investigating what become of Pauline Parker after Juliet Hulme was revealed to be murder mystery writer, Anne Perry. There was considerable sympathy for Pauline and a strong reaction to Perry's suggestion that she only took part because feared Pauline would commit suicide. Former schoolmates remembered Juliet Hulme as a girl who didn't do anything she didn't want to. The international media camped outside two Catholic bookshops in
I gave the search away but decided to have another look at the case after watching the movie for a second time, earlier this year. I did more research into the facts of the case, including reading through the transcripts of the trial. The more I read, and the more people I spoke to, the more I felt that there was so much about the two girls that was, well…so normal. Seeing that Anne Perry was such a highly respected person in her community made it all the more intriguing for me. The girls were highly intelligent and shared so many dreams together, I felt sure Pauline's life would be similar to Anne's. That turned out to be right. Both women are devout Christians living in small, rural villages and have chosen not to marry.
They still share a love of books. In the
Their dark friendship
Pauline and Juliet came from two very different family backgrounds in a city where social classes were quite distinct. Juliet Hulme, born in
Pauline and Juliet met in their first year at
She recalls Juliet "as a fish out of water but not in a humble way". She said Juliet was anti-authoritarian and once corrected a French teacher in class. "She had a very posh English accent and would hold her head high as she walked. I was with a group of girls clowning around in a locker room and she came up to us and said, 'Oh, you are all so very mid-Victorian'." The girls struck up an intimate friendship and Pauline spent increasingly more time at the Hulme's home, often staying weekends and school holidays.
The girls each chose new names - Pauline was Gina and Juliet, Deborah. Together, they created a rich fantasy world of their own, developing their increasing urge to write. They had their own fictional characters and, at night, would dress up and sneak out, acting them out until the small hours of the morning. Juliet's mother, Hilda Hulme, said during the trial her daughter had entered so completely into the characters it was difficult to make contact with her as Juliet.
The girls formed a strong bond that began to cause their parents concern. Pauline wrote of a bicycle ride in the country where they stopped in some bush, took off their outer clothes and ran through the bushes, ecstatically. They became conceited and arrogant, believing they were geniuses. Later, they decided it was something else that set them apart from the common masses. Pauline wrote, "We have an extra part of our brain which can appreciate the 4th World but, meanwhile, on two days a year, we may use the key to look into that beautiful world…"
As their relationship began to intensify, so did their writing. By the time they murdered Honora Parker, they completed six books between them, as well as plays, poetry and an opera. Spending more and more time together, their fictional family became entangled in escapades of highway robberies, bedroom scenes and violent death. Suddenly, the girls were torn apart when Juliet fell ill with tuberculosis, spending three months in a sanatorium. The two friends wrote continuously, each as characters in their stories. Apart, Pauline begun sneaking out at night to meet boys much older than herself. She was caught by her father in with one –an university student called Nicholas who boarding at their home.
As Juliet's time in the sanatorium came to an end, Nicholas was pushed aside. Pauline's entry on 28 October, 1953 (Juliet's birthday), read, "I told Nicholas I was no longer very much in love with him." Obsessed with their writing and their fantasy worlds of Volumnia and Borovnia, the girls built a temple where they held night-time ceremonies to honour their "Saints" - singers and actors they had chosen who represented their ideals. They gave them names like HE, HIM and IT. Their favourite, HE, was singer Mario Lanza.
The girls decided on a fantastic plan to go to
Pauline's relationship with her mother, already rocky after the affair with Nicholas, began to deteriorate further. Concerned at the intensity of the relationship, Pauline's mother asked Dr Hulme to visit to discuss how they could break it up. The pair sought a medical opinion and the doctor said he believed the relationship was homosexual –but it was a stage the girls would grow out of. Then came the devastating news: Juliet's father, Dr Henry Hulme, announced he was separating from Juliet's mother and taking Juliet and her brother Jonathan to
On 28 April, 1954, Pauline decided to kill her mother –the one person she believed stood in their way. She recorded the idea in her diary. "Anger against mother boiled up inside. Suddenly, a means of ridding myself of this obstacle occurred tome. If she were to die…" The next day, Pauline decided to make her mother's death look like an accident –the last thing she wanted was to go to prison. She wrote in her diary Juliet was "worried but does not disagree violently."
Pauline was allowed to stay at the Hulme's home for two weeks before Juliet's departure. Defence psychiatrist Reginald Medlicott said, during this period, the violence in their writing increased to "a fantastic crescendo". Writing their novels and worshipping their "Saints" in the middle of the night, the girls would return to bed together to act out how they believed each of them made love. These diary entries for June 1954 were used in the trial to show the girls' relationship was homosexual: June 11: "…we acted out how each Saint would make love in bed, only doing the first seven as it was 7.30am by then. We felt very satisfied…" June 13: "We spent a hectic night going through he Saints. It was wonderful! Heavenly! Beautiful! And ours! We felt satisfied indeed. We have now learned the peace of the thing called bliss; the joy of the thing called sin."
Three days before the murder, the girls decided on a plan. Again, Pauline committed it to the diary on her bedside cabinet.
19 June: "…our main idea for the day was to moider Mother. …it's a definite plan we intend to carry out. We have worked it out carefully and are thrilled by the idea. Naturally, we feel a trifle nervous but the pleasure of anticipation is great.
21 June: "Deborah rang and 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."
22 June: "The day of the happy event." I am writing a bit of this on the morning of the death. I felt very excited and the-night-before-Christmassy last night. I didn't have pleasant dreams, though.
At 3.30pm that day, Pauline and Juliet carried out their plan. They failed in their attempt to make it look like an accident and clearly, by the number of blows, must have panicked when she didn't die after the first. Eventually, they both made full confessions, leaving their barristers with only one defence: not guilty by reason of insanity. The defence had to show the girls didn't know the nature or quality of the act they were committing or, if they did, they didn't know it was wrong.
Defence psychiatrists argued that the girls were delusional and paranoid - a symptom of their homosexuality. They set out to prove the girls suffered a kind of "communicated insanity" which made them insane in each other's presence. But it was a hopeless case. It was clear form the diary and their confessions the girls knew exactly what they were doing and that it broke the law. After her arrest, Juliet said, "I would have to be a absolute moron not to know murder was against the law."
Giving evidence for the crown, psychiatrist Kenneth Stallworthy dismissed any link between homosexuality and insanity. He believed their sexual encounters were just a normal phase of adolescence. Juliet also denied they had a sexual relationship, saying "How could we? We're both women."
The girls showed no remorse after their arrest and continued to believe they were beyond the laws of common men. A female constable who cared for them during the trial said, "They would act as if they were above all this."
The killing that was shocking, even today's standards, deeply disturbed conservative
The Parker-Hulme murder has been analysed and reanalysed ever since. People close to the case say many things about the girls appeared perfectly normal. In isolation, their arrogance and conceit towards adults is not so unusual in a teenager, nor the fact they wrote fantastic, violent stories. And it's not too unusual for children, at some stage in their lives, to wish their parents dead in anger. But when a brutal murder is carried out by an adult and there's a clear motive, the crime can be reconciled or explained and even a lesson learned. Here, it seems, there are no lessons to be learned, just sadness and bafflement.
And here is a picture of Hilary Nathan (haven't seen this pic before):
I am, by the way, a new member of this community. Hello, each and every one of you! I did not know anything about Juliet Hulme and Pauline Parker until I, by accident, stumbled upon an article about them on Crime Library a few weeks ago. I read the article and got an eerie, almost unreal feeling. I was, as I suppose everyone here is, fascinated by the girls' intense friendship and by the... series of events. To me, the whole thing was a horrible and heavenly combination of imaginativeness, rebelliousness, "evil"/violent stories and events, intelligence, love, honour, devotion, hatred, injustice, misantrophy, "typical adults", escapism, alienation, dangerous self-righteousness & elitism, complex feelings, secrets, spirituality, a strange mixture of nihilism and idealism... lot of things! I saw the movie one week ago and fell in love with it.