7.9.5 Pauline Parker Found

Here are two stories which deal with the "discovery" of Pauline Parker early in 1997. Following them are some comments by members of the Heavenly Creatures Mailing List.

London Daily Mail, Jan. 6, 1997 (p. 17)

A woman who killed her mother in a crime that shocked the world has been living in an English village for more than 30 years.

Pauline Parker was one of two teenage friends sentenced to 5 years in jail for the murder in New Zealand, which was depicted in the 1995 film Heavenly Creatures, starring Kate Winslet and Melanie Lynskey.

She is now running a children's riding school at Hoo, near Rochester, Kent, under the name of Hilary Nathan.

In 1954, the then 16year old Parker smashed her mother's head with a brick, helped by 15yr old English girl Juliet Hulme, for trying to break up their friendship.

The court prosecutor called the crime a "coldly, callously-planned murder committed by two highly intelligent and sane but precocious and dirty-minded little girls."

When HC was released here two years ago, Scotland-based crime writer Anne Perry revealed she was Juliet Hulme - and attacked the NZ movie-makers for portraying the girls as lesbians. But the whereabouts of Pauline Parker following her release from prison remained a mystery. No one knew that she too, had moved to the other side of the world in an attempt to forget her past.

Villagers said yesterday that 58yr old Miss Nathan is a reclusive, devout woman who attends a local Roman Catholic church every day without fail. Diminutive and grey-haired, she does not own a tv, radio or oven and is said to live on a diet of sandwiches and currant buns.

Her Abbots Court Riding School boasts ten horses, including an Arab stallion, which are kept in makeshift stables in her tiny backyard and in a field nearby.

A villager said: "She is very eccentric and very much keeps herself to herself. She is very well spoken and appears very intelligent and well educated. But she is quite childish in a way. When she goes to the gymkhanas she takes part in events which children usually compete in, such as the sack race.

"One thing I have always found strange about her is that she will put down a pony without even thinking about it. She rang up the vet asking for a humane killer so she could do the job herself." Before retiring two years ago to run the riding school, Miss Nathan was deputy Headmistress at Abbey Court School for children with special needs in nearby Strood. There too, she was regarded as strange, often turning up for classes in wellies and battered black sunglasses.

A source close to Abbey Court said, "This I know will come as a shock to the whole school. Nobody knew anything about it.

"She was very much a loner but she was well liked and there were never any problems. But I did notice when school photographs were taken she used to hold herself back out of the picture."

Miss Nathan refused to answer questions at her ivy-covered semi-detached home yesterday.

But her sister Wendy, speaking from New Zealand, said, "She has led a good life and is very remorseful for what she's done. She committed the most terrible crime and has spent 40 years repaying it by keeping away from people and doing her own little thing." Wendy, a year older than Pauline, still finds it hard to explain why her sister and Juliet lured Mrs Honora Parker into a Christchurch park and took turns clubbing her to death.

"She has never spoken to me about the details of the way she took our mother's life. Well it was absolutely overboard, wasn't it? The story is: they met, they were ill-fated and they committed a dreadful crime."

There is only one outward clue to Miss Nathan's remorse - her name. In the Bible, Nathan is a prophet sent by God to make David, King of Israel, face up to a crime of murder.

Last night, Anne Perry said she had had no contact with her former friend over the past 40 years. Speaking from her home in Portmahomack, she said, "I'd no idea where she was living. I have not seen or heard from her in all these years. But I hope things go well for Pauline. That is my hope for everyone."

[N.B.: Gymkhanas are a very popular pastime here in England with young girls who have ponies. They are competitions in which horse and rider compete against others to show off their prowess in dressage, show-jumping etc with the aim of winning rosettes or cups. ]

The Express, Jan. 6 1997


Grey-haired schoolteacher unmasked 43 years after battering her mother in Heavenly Creatures murder

The missing link in one of the most enthralling murder trials of the post-war years was finally in place last night when retired grey-haired school-mistress Hilary Nathan was revealed as an infamous killer.

Pauline Parker took on a secret identity after serving a six year sentence for smashing her mother's skull with a brick wrapped in a stocking. The killing, in New Zealand in 1954, stunned the world because Parker was just 16 and her partner in crime schoolfriend Juliet Hulme, was a year younger. After the trial Hulme also assumed a new name, Anne Perry. She moved to Scotland and built a successful career as a crime writer.

Perry was unmasked in 1994 during the making of the film Heavenly Creatures, which portrays the murder. But all attempts to find Parker failed. Now she has been traced to a rundown cottage in a remote corner of a windswept farm near Strood, Kent, where she runs a children's riding school. Since assuming the name Hilary Nathan the spinster has become a devout Catholic and devoted her life to handicapped children.

Parker, 57, was freed from prison after serving six years of her sentence. She studied at Auckland University, graduating with a BA before training as a librarian and moving to Britain in 1965. She settled in Kent, 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.

"It's so difficult to believe," said one woman who did not wish to be named. "She seems like such a good woman. This is a terrible shock to us all."

Parker's 3 bedroom cottage is sparsely furnished. She has no radio or television, but there are many reminders of the children she has devoted her adult life to - her living room is full of dolls and a large rocking horse stands inside the front door.

Each weekend half a dozen young girls from the village muck out the stables behind the cottage where Parker keeps her ponies. A small, sprightly woman, she showed little surprise yeasterday when she was confronted as she fed and groomed her ponies. "I have absolutely no comment to make," she said.

According to her sister Wendy, Parker is living the life she always dreamed of as a girl. Wendy said at her home in New Zealand: "In general she has led a law-abiding life, and now deeply regrets what happened all those years ago. The crime she committed was terrible, but she has been paying her debt to society for 40yrs by keeping away from other people and getting on with her own life."

Parker took five years to realise the enormity of her crime, said Wendy, but now is so repentant she spends most of her time praying. Her next door neighbour, Joyce Hookins, said, She is very quiet and always very business-like in her dealings with people around here. But she has always seemed very nice, and she clearly loves children. She has never said anything to us about her past. We didn't even know she was from New Zealand."

In the film, which will be shown on Sky Movies tomorrow, Parker, was played by Melanie Lynskey and the part of Hulme was taken by Kate Winslet. It shows the girls luring Parker's mother Honora to a park overlooking Christchurch, where they took turns clubbing her to death.

There were allegations, never proved, that the two girls were lesbian lovers. The murder trial in August 1954 was reported world-wide, getting front page coverage in the Daily Express. The case shook the conservative, English-style society in NZ. The prosecutor called it "a coldly, callously planned murder committed by two highly intelligent and sound but precocious and dirty-minded little girls".

Such was the publicity surrounding the story that on the second day of the trial in Christchurch, women were trampled in the stampede to get seats in the courthouse. At the time the girls never denied the crime and did little to hide their guilt. Defence lawyers argued they were insane and not responisible for their actions.

The film HC tries to explain the crime as the result of an abnormally intense friendship. On its release in Britain Hulme denied the portrayal of the two girls as being psychologically deviant or lesbian. Police were baffled about the motive for the murder. One theory is that the teenagers were angry that Parker's mother was refusing to allow her to join Hulme, who was moving to South Africa with her family.

The film makers drew heavily on diaries which Parker kept before the murder, in which she described herself as an outcast at school and misunderstood at home. Hulme also turned to religion after her release from prison, becoming a member of the Mormon church before turning her hand to crime writing. She has had much success with her Victorian mystery books, which feature Police Superintendent Pitt and Inspector Monk, in the United States where three million copies are in print. A sense of persecution emerges in most of her work in which she frequently attempts to distinguish between right and wrong. Hulme said in 1995 she was disappointed the story had surfaced again. For both Parker and Hulme it is a story which will without doubt return to haunt them for many more years.

The pair have never been in contact since their release from prison. Hulme was not aware that Parker was also living in the UK and when The Express broke the news to her last night she was taken aback. "I had no idea where Pauline was living," said Hulme. "I have not seen or heard from her in all these years."

Speaking from her luxurious home, a converted farm building at Portmahomack, Easter Ross, in the Scottish Highlands, she said she had no plans to contact her.

Reaction from the HC Mailing List

I have to say my immediate reaction to this was to be utterly appalled. I am sure most of us would agree that this was the worst possible thing that could have happened. Having said that of course one must admit to be being overwhelmed with curiosity: what on earth will she SAY?


The discovery of Parker has been the lead item on both national TV channels here in NZ over the last few days. Most of it was heartbreaking - I was simultaneously fascinated and appalled. The camera shots they broadcast (on TV3) of Parker were taken with a hidden camera while the journalist pretended to be on her property for a completely different purpose. The following day, the TV1 reporter interviewed locals in Parker's home village who said they were surprised by her hitherto unknown past, but they would rally round and give her what ever support she needed. Unspoken was the thought that they would also protect her from the media...

Everyone who has worked on the P? story over the past few years have said many times how easy it would be to find her - but they choose not to. But there were obviously people out there who were lacking enough in scruples to do it anyway. I really wish they hadn't. I feel as sad for her now she's been dragged to the light as I did when her on-screen counterpart screamed for her loss at the end of the film ...


Fact is, we should all, simply from being interested, share the blame for her being forced to relive a painful experience. I can only hope that no longer having to live in secret and finding support instead of condemnation might actually help her get a sense of closure.