Last year, I wrote a blog about The Face of a Stranger by historical detective fiction writer Anne Perry. This time, I’m featuring Anne Perry as a crime fiction author.
BIRTH AND EARLY CHILDHOOD
Anne Perry was born as Juliet Marion Hulme on 28 October 1938 in London. She is the daughter of physicist Dr. Henry Rainsford Hulme. At age 8, she had tuberculosis and sent to the Bahamas and South Africa to recuperate. At age 13, she rejoined her family in New Zealand when her father took a position in one of the universities there.
MEET PAULINE PARKER
It was in Christchurch, New Zealand where she met Pauline Parker. Like Juliet, Pauline also had an ailment: osteomyelitis. Both teens bonded over their illness. Together they spent their time fantasizing and acting out the stories they invented.
People thought that they’re having a lesbian relationship (which Anne Perry denied). This was the 50’s when people view homosexuality as a mental illness. Their parents tried to prevent them from seeing each other ever since.
Juliet’s parents separated and she will return to South Africa to live with relatives.
Pauline told her mother that she wanted to go with Juliet. Her mother did not allow her. “We would have taken her with us,” Anne Perry said in an interview. “But her mother wouldn’t permit her to go. And, as I understand it, she felt her mother was the only one stopping her from leaving a situation she felt intolerable.” So both teens then plotted to kill Pauline’s mother so she could go.
On 22 June 1954, the girls and Pauline’s mother, Honora Rieper, went for a walk in Victoria Park. On an isolated path Juliet dropped an ornamental stone so that Rieper would lean over to retrieve it. Pauline had planned to hit her mother with half a brick wrapped in a stocking. The girls presumed that one blow would kill her but it took more than twenty.
The two girls fled, covered in blood, and went back to the tea kiosk where they had eaten a few minutes before. Agnes and Kenneth Ritchie, owners of the tea shop, met them. The girls told the couple that Honora had fallen and hit her head. Kenneth Ritchie found her body. Honor suffered major lacerations on her head, neck, and face. Her fingers showed signs of injuries. Police found the murder weapon in the nearby woods.
This information and Pauline’s diary, the girls’ alibi about Honora’s accident fell apart.
Pauline (age 16) and Juliet (age 15) stood trial in Christchurch. The court found them guilty on 29 August 1954. Since they were too young for the death penalty under New Zealand law, they were convicted, sentenced, and detained at the discretion of the Minister of Justice. They were released separately five years later. Some sources say they were released on condition that they never contact each other again.
Inspired by the case, Angela Carter wrote an unproduced screenplay called The Christchurch Murder. Carter’s screenplay influenced the 1994 Peter Jackson film Heavenly Creatures which starred Kate Winslet in her first starring role as Juliet Hulme.
After the film’s release, it was revealed that Anne Perry was the real Juliet Hulme. I saw this film sometime 2000-2001.
After her release from prison, she returned to England and became a flight attendant. She also lived in the United States. She then later settled in the Scottish village of Portmahomack with her mother.
Hulme took the name Anne Perry, using her stepfather’s surname. Her first novel under this name, The Cater Street Hangman, was published in 1979. Her works generally fall into historical murder mysteries and detective fiction. By 2003 she had published 47 novels, and several collections of short stories.
In one of her interviews, Anne Perry said, “I’ve done my best to put it out of my mind. Once you have admitted that you are at fault, have said ‘I’m sorry, I’m utterly, totally sorry’ and paid your price, then you have to put it behind you. You’ve got to let it go.“
As for Pauline Parker, she spent some time in New Zealand under close surveillance. She then left for England in 1997. As a Roman Catholic, she expressed strong remorse for having killed her mother. For many years she refused to give interviews about the murder.