Honora Mary Parker was born in 1909 to Robert William Parker, a chartered accountant, and Amy Lilian Parker, in Birmingham, England. Birmingham is in the industrial Midlands of England, traditionally an economically depressed region of the country during this century, but Robert Parker's profession would have placed his family on the lower end of the working middle classes. In an interesting and, I think, very significant twist of fate, Honora Parker and Henry Hulme were born less than a year apart, not all that far from each other in the geography of their birthplaces and quite close in terms of the social stations of their families. It would have been inconceivable for Honora Parker not to be aware of these things even if she and Dr Hulme never broached the subjects and they may have been extremely important factors in determining Honora Parker's attitudes toward the Hulmes. It is hard to believe that Honora would not have dwelt upon the similarities in their beginnings in life and the huge disparities between her lot in life and Henry Hulme's. It is equally hard to believe, given her background, that Honora would not have taken considerable satisfaction in Dr Hulme's fall from grace and from the revelation of his 'tainted' family situation.
At the age of 18, in 1927, Honora Parker emigrated to New Zealand with her mother, Amy. The fate or circumstances of Honora's father aren't known.
Note: Andrew Conway has endeavoured to fill in the gaps in Honora's story with a personal research project. Click here for his diary detailing his search and revealing some key new facts. -AA
Honora settled in Raetihi, NZ, where she eventually met Herbert Rieper, fifteen years her senior and an accountant in the firm where Honora worked. This description of him makes Herbert Rieper sound like a reasonable approximation to Honora's father, of course. Something to ponder.
According to trial testimony, some time between 1929, when Honora was about 20 and under the age of majority, and 1931, Honora Parker and Herbert Rieper began their relationship and began living together as husband and wife. They were never married, a fact eventually known only to themselves and adults in their immediate families. See the section on Herbert Rieper (3.2.9) for more on this part of their lives.
By 1936, Honora Parker and Herbert Rieper had moved to Christchurch, NZ, living as husband and wife on Mathesons Road in the Phillipstown area of the city, described as "industrial" by Glamuzina and Laurie, but in many respects it seems to have become Honora and Herbert's 'neighbourhood'. Mathesons Road lies outside the eastern border of the old town, a couple of blocks north of Lancaster Park and the railway tracks. Hereford St, where Herbert Rieper managed Dennis Brothers' Fish Supply, was two blocks to the north. There was a Methodist Church one block north, on Cashel St and Bromley Methodist Cemetery lay a short distance farther east, across Linwood Park and Linwood Ave.
Honora's first child with Herbert was a boy, born a 'blue baby', in 1936, with cardio-pulmonary defects and he died almost immediately after birth. Their second child, Wendy Patricia Parker, was born in March 1937, when Honora was 28 and Herbert 42. Pauline Yvonne Parker was Honora's third child, born May 26, 1938, when Honora was 29. During WW II, Pauline had severe health problems which would have placed serious financial strain on the family. Nevertheless, in 1946, Honora Parker and Herbert Rieper purchased a house on 31 Gloucester St, about 3 km west of Mathesons Road, near Hagley Park in the old town and sited between Canterbury College and CGHS. The house was registered in Honora Parker's name as "the wife of Herbert Rieper." There may have been compelling legal reasons not to register the house in Herbert's name. The Riepers apparently had a family lawyer, Dr A Haslam. He would eventually defend Pauline Parker for the murder of her mother.
Honora and Herbert had a fourth child, Rosemary Parker, in March 1949, when Honora was 40 and Herbert was 54. Rosemary was born with Downs' Syndrome and her disability was severe enough for her to be institutionalized at the age of two or three by her parents. Rosemary was sent to Templeton Farm outside Christchurch, where she was visited regularly by her family and brought home for occasional visits, according to testimony. Pauline Parker was said to have been very fond of Rosemary. For more on Rosemary Parker and Templeton, see section 3.2.10 on people missing from the film.
Honora's mother, Amy, was a frequent guest at the Rieper house, though she apparently lived elsewhere in Christchurch. Herbert might have called her 'Mother Parker'. Pauline called her Nana Parker; 'Nan' or 'Nana' was and is a common term for grandmother in parts of England, especially among working- or lower-middle class people. The Hulmes probably would have used the term 'Gran' or 'Granny'.
Honora took in boarders at 31 Gloucester St and ran the house as a boarding house. Unfortunately, it isn't clear when Honora began taking in boarders, but it is actually possible that she began as late as January 1953, judging by some of Pauline Parker's diary entries. Pauline stated that her mother was going to take in 'Training School' boarders; these would have been Teachers' Training School pupils [maw] so Pauline may have had role models and an environment that was reasonably stimulating, intellectually, with these boarders. These are extremely important points, overlooked in all accounts I have seen. With their home so close to Canterbury College, it would also have been natural for the Riepers to take in College students, although College students did have the reputation of being rowdy.
Honora, Wendy and Herbert were contributing financially to the family during the time period seen in "Heavenly Creatures." Pauline was not, though there were apparently plans in the air for her to start pulling her weight in the family; Pauline was apparently due to start work the week of Juliet Hulme's planned departure.
Glamuzina and Laurie conclude, on the basis of diary entries largely referred to but not quoted, that there was considerable friction and conflict between Honora and Pauline Parker and that it was quite longstanding. They conclude that Honora may have slapped Pauline several times in one episode, but that Honora apparently did not indulge in "excessive corporal punishment" when it came to disciplining her daughter. Glamuzina and Laurie conclude that the mother-daughter dynamics and relationships in both the Rieper and the Hulme households were the most important co-factors in the "Parker Hulme" murder, the ones responsible for defining who was murderer and who was victim. The primary aggravating factors, they claim, were the circumstances and stresses brought about by the disintegration of the Hulme household.
Honora Mary Parker was 45 when she was murdered by her daughter, Pauline, and by her daughter's friend, Juliet Hulme, on Tuesday June 22, 1954. At the time of her murder, Honora Parker was described as a quite ordinary, greying, middle-aged woman with dentures, much like anyone's mother. Really, though, very little is known of Honora Parker; she died very much a plain, invisible woman who was transformed, almost immediately upon her tragic death, into things she probably had not been in life. These new and re-worked fragments of the real woman were trotted out and displayed and used by people with vested interests in the case, which makes re-constructing the real person difficult. On Thursday, June 24, 1954, Honora Parker's body was cremated, after funeral services were held at Bromley Methodist Cemetery, back in the old neighbourhood.