Episode 572: Heavenly Creatures: The Parker-Hulme Murder



On the afternoon of June 22, 1954, Agnes Ritchie was preparing ice cream for two customers in her shop when two teenage girls, Pauline Parker and Juliet Hulme, burst through the front door, screaming for help and saying one of their mothers had been killed. Agnes and her husband followed the girls into the nearby wooded area, where they found the badly beaten and obviously dead body of Honorah Parker. The couple wasn’t able to get much out of either girl, only that the woman had slipped and hit her head, but their behavior was strange and something about the whole scene didn’t feel right.

Just two days later, Parker and Hulme were charged with the murder of Pauline’s mother, Honorah Parker. According to the prosecution, the girls had developed an intense bond and had created romantic fantasy in the months leading up to the murder that bordered on obsessiveness. In 1954, the girls’ relationship became threatened when Hulme’s parents divorced and began talking of relocating. Fearing they would be separated and never see one another again, Parker and Hulme killed Honorah, believing that her death would put an end to any plans to relocate.

The story of Honorah’s murder and the trial that followed quickly spread across New Zealand and Australia and eventually made its way around the globe. Among other things, the case challenged existing beliefs about young women and their capacity for violence, but just as important were the sensational and salacious mentions of insanity and homosexuality that were often more implied than explicitly stated.

Thank you to David White, of the Bring Me the Axe Podcast, for research :)


Brisbane Telegraph. 1954. "Conspired to Kill." Brisbane Telegraph, August 23: 1.

—. 1954. "Teenagers remanded, police blame girl's passion for horses." Brisbane Telegraph, June 24: 1.

Chun, Louise. 1995. "Slaughter by the innocents: The case of the schoolgirl killers shocked New Zealand." The Guardian, January 30.

Graham, Peter. 2011. So Brilliantly Clever: Parker, Hulme and the Murder that Shocked the World. Wellington, NZ: Awa Press.

Neustatter, Angela. 2003. "‘I was guilty. I did my time’: Anne Perry, the novelist whose past caught up with her." The Guardian, November 20.

Newcastle Sun. 1954. "Girls shrugged at charge of murder." Newcastle Sun, July 16: 1.

The Age. 1954. "Girls smile at N.Z. sentence." The Age , August 30: 1.

—. 1954. "Defence says N.Z. girls insane as mother killed." The Age, August 25: 9.

—. 1954. "Description of quarrel." The Age, July 17: 3.

—. 1954. "Doctor says both girls certifiable." The Age, August 27: 5.

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