After Murdering Friend's Mom at 15, She Became a Crime Novelist

Anne Perry dead at 84
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 13, 2023 12:47 AM CDT
Teenage Murderess Turned Crime Novelist Dead at 84
Stock photo   (Getty Images / BrianAJackson)

When she was 15, Juliet Hulme helped her best friend murder the other girl's mother. By the time she died at age 84 on Monday, she was Anne Perry, award-winning and best-selling author of dozens of crime novels. The New York Times traces her troubled and fascinating life: Born in London, she was sent to live with a foster family in the Bahamas at age 8, for health reasons, after developing tuberculosis. She reunited with her family, by then living in New Zealand, at age 13, and met Pauline Parker, developing a relationship she later described as obsessive, but not romantic or sexual. When Hulme's parents decided to divorce and send their teenage daughter to South Africa to live with an aunt, Hulme wanted Parker to come along, but Parker's mother, who wanted to see their intense friendship end, refused, the Los Angeles Times reports.

The girls decided to murder Honorah Parker to avoid being separated, the Guardian reports. They beat her to death using a stocking-wrapped brick, and a sensational trial followed; they spent five years imprisoned and, upon their release, were ordered never to see each other again lest they return to prison for life. They also took on new identities, and Hulme became Perry—the surname of the man her mother married after divorcing her father. She started writing under that name, publishing her first novel in 1979 and going on to author multiple crime series, including a Victorian detective series and a series about a female English detective. Her past remained a secret until 1994, when Peter Jackson's Heavenly Creatures was released—the film was based on the grisly murder, and starred Kate Winslet as Hulme. A journalist figured out the connection.

While Perry initially slammed Jackson and Fran Walsh, who co-wrote the screenplay with him, as "idiotic movie-makers” whose movie painted a “grotesque and distorted portrait" of her, she later recanted. She also acknowledged her guilt publicly, saying she was concerned if she didn't agree to the murder plan Parker might have taken her own life, but sometimes wondered how she should be judged. "Why can’t I be judged for who I am now, not what I was then?" she asked in one interview. And in a documentary made about her, she noted, "It’s in the end, Who am I? Am I somebody that can be trusted? Am I someone that is compassionate, gentle, patient, strong? ... If you’re that kind of person—if you’ve done something bad in the past, you’ve obviously changed. It’s who you are when time’s up that matters.” (More obituary stories.)

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