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Pauline Parker
(1938 - living) New Zealand

Pauline Parker



Pauline was the daughter Honora Parker and Herbert Rieper, who ran a fish-shop, and was legally married to another woman. Honora and Herbert had lived together for 23 years. Pauline was the second of three daughters. A firstborn son had died as a baby, and the third daughter had Down's Syndrome. Se had a relationship with Juliet Hulme, one year younger.

In June 22, 1954, Honora was found dead, badly beaten about the head. The girls' story, that the mother Pauline had fallen and repeatedly banged her head, soon fell apart; her injuries were too horrific. A bloodied half-brick and a lisle stocking were found nearby and quickly established as the murder weapon. Paulines diary was found immediately by the police and detailed their plans for the crime: Pauline and later Juliet Hulme were charged with murder.

But what had prompted Pauline and Juliet to kill Pauline's mother one fine winter afternoon in a popular hillside recreation area? The case brought together several disturbing elements - females who stepped outside the expected gender role by becoming perpetrators rather than victims of a violent crime, and the frightening prospect of young girl delinquents as killers.

Other entries in Pauline's diary suggested a sexual relationship between the girls, and this helped to establish the crime as one linking the twin spectres of lesbianism and murder. The two elements of Pauline's diary on which attention has focussed since selected entries were presented at the trial are the gangster-movie tone in which they planned the killing ("moider") and the sexual relations between the girls. A passage about the girls re-enacting lovemaking between famous (heterosexual) couples was a particular favourite of the tabloids.

Their friendship was passionate and mutual, but whether it can be called lesbian as we now understand the term is a matter of opinion. It was certainly depicted as lesbian in the courtroom by both the prosecution and the defence, and entered New Zealand mythology on homosexuality as a cautionary tale with which to warn women, and especially young girls, of the possible consequences of such "unnatural" relationships.

The trial was a cause celebre, crowds packing every session. The defence conceded the fact of the killing, but attempted to prove the girls "mad"; the prosecution that they were just "bad". Dr Medlicott diagnosed chronic delusional insanity - paranoia. Local psychiatrist Dr Maurice Bevan-Brown was to publish a paper (without ever having seen the girls) diagnosing "Pathological Character Trait". ("Homosexuality in late adolescence is always a sign of emotional immaturity," he wrote.) Dr Kenneth Stallworthy for the prosecution disputed that homosexuality and paranoia were closely related.

It took the jury less than three hours to find both girls guilty of murder. Since they were under 18, they could not be sentenced to death, so they were imprisoned "during Her Majesty's pleasure." Pauline served her time mainly at Arohata Women's prison near Wellington. Pauline had the company of other young offenders. Because of the high profile of the case and partly because of Juliet's social class, both girls were given excellent educational opportunities in prison.

They were released separately after five years, and apparently never saw each other again. Juliet immediately went overseas. Pauline remained on probation in New Zealand, not leaving the country until 1965.

Pauline ParkerPauline Parker run a children's riding school at Hoo, near Rochester, Kent, under the name of Hilary Nathan. She studied at Auckland University, graduating with a BA before training as a librarian and moving to Britain in 1965.

After she settled in Kent, she retrained as a teacher, and taught mentally handicapped children at Abbey Court special school in Strood until her retirement three years ago, by which time she had become deputy headmistress. She is a regular worshipper at English Martyrs' Roman Catholic Church in the town, where members of the congregation were astonished to learn of her past.

Pauline Parker left Kent and has lived in Burray on the Orkney Islands for many years, still calling herself Hilary Nathan and still keeping horses.


Source: Hugh Young and Alison J. Laurie - © 1995-2002 Queer History New Zealand - et alii

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