June 22, 1954
Christchurch, New Zealand
Friends Pauline Rieper (16) and Juliet Hulme (15) beat Rieper’s mother to death after the girls’ parents tried to separate them

Rieper (pictured, left) and Hulme (right) had bonded over childhood ailments, Rieper having osteomyelitis and Hulme tuberculosis. As the two became closer, they would sneak out to act out characters in fantasy stories of their own creation. The girls’ parents became increasingly concerned their relationship was becoming sexual and, as homosexuality was seen as a mental condition at the time, were kept from seeing each other. (Hulme has revealed as an adult that while her relationship with Rieper was obsssive, the two were not lesbians.)

Eventually Hulme was to be sent to South Africa for her health, with their parents appreciating the large distance between the two. Rieper begged her mother to allow her to move to South Africa as well, but was denied. The girls decided to murder Rieper’s mother, Honorah, and run away to either New York City or Hollywood to sell their stories.

On June 22, the girls lured Honorah to a secluded area of a park and bludgeoned her with part of a brick in a stocking. They then reported her death to the owners of a tea shop, claiming Honorah had fallen and hit her head. It was quickly noticed Honorah had major lacerations to her head, face, and neck along with minor injuries to her fingers. The discarded murder weapon was also quickly recovered and the girls’ plot immediately unraveled.

As both girls were minors at the time of the murder, they were sentenced to 5 years in prison instead of given the death penalty. Hulme changed her name to Anne Perry and has since become a successful historical detective novelist. Rieper moved to England, has expressed deep remorse for her mother’s murder, and refuses to give interviews regarding the murder.

Peter Jackson’s Heavenly Creatures is based on the case.

Article from The Age, Melbourne, August 26, 1954

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