If you read the case study of this ghastly murder or watch Sir Peter Jackson’s film Heavenly Creatures or read Peter Graham’s excellent book, the Q. that stands out is why they did it?
My view is, that we had two psychopathic personalities that came together, fed each other’s ‘other world’ of self-centerdness and this led to the murder. In addition, I believe Juliet Hulme was, and still is, a fantasist and deeply narcissistic. There are people around like this (psychopathy is not rare in humans, it is a matter of degree and the restraints and balances in a person’s life, or belief systems that modify them). If the two girls had never met, it is unlikely anything like this would have occurred. The caustic inter-feeding of both personalities gave them a superiority complex, they developed like weeds inside a self-referencing bubble, and having psychopathic personalities, thought nothing of Honorah’s rights and person hood, simply a blockage to their desires. That is how psychopaths and sociopaths think.
Anyone looking at the Parker-Hulme murder sees evil. These girls became evil and were deeply selfish. They made choices, they are responsible. Equally intriguing to me, is that after they knew Juliet had killed someone they had known for years, Hulme’s mother Hilda and her adulterous live-in lover Bill Perry, did everything they could to get Juliet off. They lied, encouraged Juliet to lie, and burned evidence. Parker’s father Bert Rieper was more honourable, and is one of the great victims in this story, along with his pulverised de facto ‘wife.’
From Graham’s book, “Next day she (Pauline) talked with Juliet on the telephone for two hours and told her of her intention to murder her mother. ‘She is rather worried, wrote Pauline,‘but does not disagree violently.’ ”
Pauline had deep hatred for her mother, as some teenage girls do. Her mother Honorah was not a positive woman. Hatred, bitterness and anger festered in Pauline, and less so in Juliet with years of painful abandonment that she largely suppressed (but I’m sure there was rage deep down). Juliet was desperate to pretend she was loved and be the focus of attention (her need as a narcissist). This was very pronounced in her personality to a disturbing degree (she was very odd). These things, especially Parker’s anger, was the key that opened the door, Juliet followed. Later writers on the case, such as Leo Alexander, cited the “rapid perversion of the superego.”
“…religious-humane cultural superego common to civilisation was replaced by an exclusively tribal one in the Nazis case and by a narcissistic one in the girls case…”
Juliet was not worried about Honorah, but about getting caught or how it might affect her relationship with Pauline. She lived in her own perverted familial context which had helped blur the traditional boundaries of morality (a key restraint was gone). For that, her parents and Bill Perry are also responsible. It is significant that Juliet refused to see her mother after the conviction was brought down.
“On Sunday the girls had a heart-to-heart about whom they would allow to live if they could wipe out the rest of the world, made a list of names…”
They fed themselves with rape fantasies, experimented with each other as sexual surrogates (being celebrities with whom they had sex) and wrote erotic literature. They gave themselves over to sexual fantasies and to a large degree left this world. People were objects of contempt, unless they assisted their fantastic reality. Bill Perry, screwing her mother while living in her father’s house, was “brilliant,” because he gave Juliet money and supported her fantasies. He was also handsome and the girls prized beauty as superior. When crossed, they became angry beasts. You can see the anger and the contempt in their faces. These two girls were utterly wilful to a pronounced degree.
It was determined quite early that the girls were not insane or mad (although the girls had tried to feign that). The police officers and medical staff who talked to them, and many others, believed they were just evil “dirty-minded girls” as it was put in court.
It’s an interesting fact that school friends their own age, predicted the killers were Pauline and Juliet before they knew who had done it. There is something about the naivete of children that can cut straight to observable truths uncluttered by the culture of adulthood.
One of the best insights into Parker and Hulme was Dr Reg Medlicott who interviewed them at length more than once. He had considerable experience and said he had never come across a pair like Juliet Hulme and Pauline Parker. They haunted him for the rest of his life and he wrote a lot about the case in later years. Something touched him in the interviews.
“Their arrogance and conceit were ‘quite out of normal proportions.” They considered Medlicott an inferior (they were teenagers, he an esteemed psychiatrist) and were hostile and abusive as he kindly asked them questions. They could be venomous.
“There was persistent exaltation and…they would suddenly swing into fury…Their mood was grossly incongruous…they exalted over their crime…”
“They showed a conceit that was quite out of the world of normality.”
After the second prison visit, Medlicott called his colleague Christchurch psychiatrist David Livingstone. Ashen-faced, he asked for a large whiskey and told Livingstone he had never encountered such pure evil as those two girls.
Dr Francis Bennet was shocked that neither girls showed any remorse or contrition for the messy murder of Pauline’s mum which they justified and even exalted in, as a wonderful necessary act. Pauline was more concerned with any trouble she had caused the adulterous Hilda Hulme and Bill Perry or Mr Hulme and Jonty, rather than her mum, now a pulverised corpse.
In prison the girls were ugly towards their guards, dishing out viscous put downs. But as they spent more time apart, Juliet adapted and seemed to improve separate from Parker’s pathology (I believe her narcissism reemerged as the principal need in her psyche other than Parker’s murderous anger and bitterness). Parker seems to have gone inward and became a recluse no longer hitched to Hulme’s wagon of wonderfulness. Her much later murals are very revealing (Hulme/Perry exultant on a flying Pegasus, Parker/Nathan seeking to halter the horse and pull it down to earth where she is grounded).
They were monsters. Human ones. They were selfish, bitter, angry, narcissitic, conceitful, superior “dirty little girls.” Sexually promiscuous and contemptable. They lied, raged, were deceitful, planned everything well-ahead, all to serve a self-centered purpose. They manipulated eachother and everyone around them, covered up, back tracked. They showed no remorse, compassion or empathy (for Bert Rieper for example) and have never repented. At best, one has perhaps shown regret for the inconvenience it did to them. Parker has embraced Catholicism perhaps as an act of contrition, more likely a support mechanism for her own psychological welfare.
Juliet Hulme and Pauline Parker can be understood alongside Leopold and Loeb (1924), Myra Hindley and Ian Brady (1963-1965) the Moors murderers, and the Menendez brothers (1989) who also killed their parents. They are all cases of two psychopathic personalities meeting and feeding each other in to greater combined evil assisted by human emotional psychopathy fostered by circumstances and trauma in childhood. It remains a fascinating case that occurred right here in Christchurch, New Zealand.
Apart, and older, the two women are no threat to anyone, and should be left alone to live with their past and craft their own futures.