Given the nature of the events of 1954 this is a chilling account. Both families appear to be typical New Zealand families. The Hulmes are immigrants, English and part of the best society in Christchurch. The Riepers are working class and struggling with difficult family circumstances including a disabled daughter. The question of nurture versus nature underlies much of Peter’s examination. Both sets of parents were removed emotionally from their daughter’s lives.
The facts of the case are widely known. On the afternoon of June 22 1954 Juliet Hulme met her friend Pauline Rieper at the Rieper home. After serving the family lunch Pauline’s mother Honorah joined the girls for a bus ride in to the hills for an afternoon tea and then a walk in a lonely park. This is where the pre-planned, meant to look like an accident, killing occurred. From today’s perspective their disregard for consequences seems typical of the teenage mind. They appear to have no concept of the value of human life or the serious repercussions of the law.