3.2.4 Hulme, Juliet Marion


Juliet Hulme was aged 15 years and eight months when she helped murder Honora Parker in June, 1954.

Juliet Marion Hulme was the firstborn child of Henry and Hilda Hulme, born on October 28, 1938 in Greenwich, on the South Bank of the River Thames, south-east of the City of London. At the time of her birth, her father had recently assumed the post of Chief Assistant at the Royal Observatory.

Juliet was an extremely bright and, by her own description, a mischievious and precocious child, but she was also a sickly one, suffering from several different, serious, respiratory ailments when young. In addition, she suffered severe psychological trauma during the London Blitz, when she was two. It was reported that she suffered from debilitating screaming nightmares for several weeks after this episode, perhaps for months, and on and off during her childhood. The birth of her brother Jonathon in March 1944, when she was five, was also a traumatic experience for Juliet because of her mother's serious post-partum complications and hospitalization. First, her mother was spirited away from home in the night, then hospitalized for an extended period with no visitors, then her father left her to go to America and she was sent away, alone, to the North of England (probably Liverpool). This was to be the first of many sudden and lengthy separations from her family, and there is considerable evidence that the accumulation of all her childhood separations from her family, and from her Mother in particular, had a profound effect on Juliet Hulme.

In the winter of 1944, when Juliet was six, she contracted bronchitis, which became severe pneumonia, and Juliet came close to death. It was reported that the physician called to the house to see Juliet told her mother he would be back the next morning to sign her death certificate. Juliet survived, but the episode had an extreme effect on Juliet and her family. She was withdrawn from school and remained sickly and largely sheltered and housebound for the next two years. In the mean time, the War ended and her father was promoted within the Admiralty to Director of Naval Operational Research, then becoming Scientific Advisor to the Air Ministry in 1946.

When she was eight, in late 1946, Juliet again contracted another serious case of pneumonia. After she had recovered, on the advice of a physician, Juliet was sent to the Bahamas to live with another family. She remained with them for 13 months, from the age of eight, until she was nine.

In late 1947, Dr Hulme was offered and accepted the position of Rector of Canterbury College in Christchurch, New Zealand. Juliet's parents then decided to send her to the Bay of Islands in the northern tip of the North Island of New Zealand, for the sake of her health. When she was about ten, Juliet apparently suffered another health crisis, and she was confined to a sanatorium. This crisis either precipitated or approximately coincided with the emigration of her family to New Zealand in mid October 1948. Pictures of Juliet from this time, just after the arrival of her family, show her to be a bright, serious and very pretty child, with a round face and a very direct gaze. Hilda Hulme testified that Juliet was clinging and hard to discipline when the family was reunited.

Juliet's reunion with her family in Christchurch was to be short-lived. Hilda Hulme testified that she and her husband soon became concerned with the state of Juliet's health and, in early 1949, Juliet was sent away to a private boarding school (possibly Queenswood) in Hastings, on the eastern coast of the North Island, on Hawke's Bay. Hilda Hulme also testified that Juliet was very unhappy there, and she returned to her family within the year. It is likely that Juliet was tutored privately for the remainder of the 1949 school year.

Early in 1950, Dr Hulme moved his family into the Ilam homestead, the official residence of the Rector, located on the grounds of the proposed new 'Ilam' site for Canterbury University College. The homestead was a grand colonial house, with spectacular gardens, built near a meandering confluence of the river Avon on the western outskirts of Christchurch. Nearby were horse paddocks, open grazing farmland, and the CUC's School of Fine Art, the only department to have moved to the Ilam site. Most students of the School were young women. Ilam was to become a busy centre of College social functions and, of a December, Dr Hulme would throw open the grounds to students studying for finals, bringing them lemonade on the lawns. Young Juliet was enrolled at Ilam School, an elementary and junior school virtually across the road from the homestead, and she apparently spent two happy years there. These two years spent close to her family were probably close to idyllic for Juliet, but they were a nightmare for Canterbury College and for Juliet's father. See

When it came time for Juliet to enter high school, in February 1952, she was apparently enrolled briefly at St Margaret's, a private Anglican girls' school north of Hagley Park in Christchurch. Hilda Hulme testified that Juliet was given intelligence tests at this time, scoring very high (actually, Juliet Hulme's IQ was measured, then, to be 170). On the basis of these tests, it was decided to place Juliet into a larger, public High School, Christchurch Girls' High School, since Juliet would be stimulated, intellectually, in a larger, busier environment. St Margaret's was 3 km from Ilam. CGHS was two blocks north of Dr Hulme's office at CUC, and Hilda Hulme was on the Board of Governors of CGHS. These may have also been factors in the decision. Juliet met Pauline Parker at CGHS. This is the beginning of the time period covered in "Heavenly Creatures."

Photos of Juliet taken in the gardens of Ilam at the age of twelve or thirteen (e.g. the "daffodils" photo) show her to be a 'sophisticated,' serious and slightly self-conscious girl, but happier than she appeared in her earlier photos, and apparently in good health. Her hair is short and sunbleached at the tips, so she must have spent a lot of active time, outdoors.

Two years later, after contracting tuberculosis and being subjected to a period of quarantine and isolation in Cashmere Sanatorium, an experience which had a profound effect on her, Juliet helped Pauline Parker kill Honora Parker.

Initially, Juliet denied involvement in the crime, probably according to prearrangement with Pauline. However, she changed her mind and made full, detailed statements to police, which were entered into evidence during the trial. See 7.5.7. It is Juliet's statements which have provided most information about the murder itself. Juliet was subjected to a battery of physical and psychological testing in the six weeks between the murder and the trial.

Photographs of Juliet at the time of her trial show her to have grown into a slim, poised and very attractive young woman, now with shoulder-length, darker hair. Press reports commented extensively on her striking appearance and her bearing and her behaviour during the hearing and the first days of her trial; some called it arrogant, others refined, others remorseless. During the final day of her trial, however, during the summing up and sentencing, Juliet Hulme sat with her fingers plugging her ears and her gaze downcast. She was convicted of murder and sentenced to an indefinite period of incarceration, During Her Majesty's Pleasure.

The sentencing of Juliet Hulme, the events which occurred during her incarceration and the terms and conditions of her eventual release are all quite complex issues, dealt with at some length in Glamuzina and Laurie's book. Only a brief outline will be presented here.

Many factors went into the sentencing and decisions were made all the way up to the level of Secretary of Justice and the Minister of Justice. Juliet benefitted from a recent change in the law which forbade capital punishment for persons under 18 years of age convicted of capital crimes (this was the first case, though the law was 3 years old), and incarceration "During Her Majesty's Pleasure" for an indefinite duration was automatically prescribed. This sentence ensured that periodic review would be made of her "progress toward rehabilitation" and it also allowed for highly conditional terms of release. This was an era of quite sweeping reform and change in the NZ system of justice and there was an official emphasis on rehabilitation and re-integration into society, especially where young offenders were concerned.

The public, however, was outraged by the crime and, perhaps to an even greater degree, by what was perceived to be unrepentent attitudes and callous behaviour on the part of the two girls in the time between their arrest and their conviction. The public was demanding harsh and vengeful punishment and sentencing became very much a political issue in this climate. Juliet and Pauline were sentenced to separate terms of incarceration specifically because it was perceived that absolute separation would be the most severe punishment for them, not because of psychiatric arguments voiced during the trial. They were not permitted any form of communication whatsoever, again to maximize their punishment. Juliet Hulme was perceived by the public to have been the dominant and willful 'ringleader' and it was decided to give her the harshest treatment possible, at least on paper--largely, it would seem, to appease the public's thirst for vengeance.

Juliet was transferred to Mount Eden prison, a tough, primitive, high-security facility described as medieval in construction and atmosphere, containing both male and female inmates in separate wings and the site of capital punishment in New Zealand. She served out the bulk of her sentence at Mt Eden and there were several hangings in the central yard while she was there. She was placed in solitary confinement for the first three months of her sentence, emerging "remorseful" according to newspaper reports. During her time in prison, she was not visited by any family member and their correspondence with her was described as very infrequent. In a very real sense, Juliet Hulme faced her punishment for her crime almost completely alone. It appears to have been a galvanizing experience for her.

Although conditions for Juliet Hulme in prison were grim and harsh, she was nonetheless afforded special privileges and her conditions also improved greatly as time went by and the public attended to other things. The Howard League for Penal Reform intervened on Juliet's behalf early in her incarceration and this kindness seems to have made a lasting impression on her (see 7.11). During her sentence she continued her studies at the Advanced level, taking Italian, English and Mathematics, her father's specialty, and she passed University Entrance. Juliet was also tutored on occasion by academics and former colleagues of her father's. She was permitted to correspond with people outside the prison, though all mail was screened and censored and recorded. She was permitted visitors if they had legitimate ties and they obtained the special permission required for each visit, and there were some visits by former classmates and family friends, for example. Apparently she was also permitted to take some meals with the Warden and his family. Overall, both Juliet and Pauline were treated during their incarceration in a "strongly paternalistic way" according to Glamuzina and Laurie. The Minister of Justice received regular reports on their progress. Juliet was eventually transferred to Arohata Borstal, Wellington, near the end of her sentence.

Late in 1959, soon after her twenty-first birthday, Juliet Hulme was released secretly from prison (a public announcement was made two weeks later) and given an anonymous new identity. The terms of her release were that she would leave the country and she would have no contact with Pauline Parker, though these conditions were not made public at the time of her release, for some reason, and the public was led to believe that Juliet's release was final and unconditional. In fact, if she had broken any of the conditions of her release, Juliet would have been subject to re-imprisonment according to the terms of release "During Her Majesty's Pleasure." Juliet Hulme ceased to exist at that time. See the biography on Anne Perry later in Section 3.

Back Forward