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London-born crime author Anne Perry, who was jailed as a teenager for murdering her friend’s mother with a brick, died in Los Angeles on April 10. She was 84.
The writer served five years in prison from the age of 15 for bludgeoning Honorah Mary Parker to death.
The death, at a hospital, was confirmed by her literary agent Meg Davis. Ms. Perry’s health had declined since she had a heart attack in December, Ms. Davis said.
Ms. Perry, a prolific writer who sold more than 26 million books worldwide, had already become well established as a novelist when her sinister past was exposed in 1994, just before the release of Peter Jackson’s film “Heavenly Creatures.”
The movie, based on a chilling matricide in New Zealand some four decades earlier in which a Christchurch woman was bludgeoned to death in a park by her daughter and Ms. Perry — then 15 years old and known as Juliet Hulme — rekindled media interest in the case. The author, who had relocated years earlier to Scotland and changed her name, was tracked down by journalists.
Ms. Perry’s character in the film, played by Kate Winslet, strikes up an intense relationship with her best friend, Pauline Parker, that Juliet’s parents view as “unwholesome.” When Juliet’s parents split and make plans to send her to South Africa, the girls concoct a plan to murder Pauline’s mother — who apparently objected to her joining Juliet abroad.
The murder took place in Christchurch, New Zealand, in 1954, and was plotted by Perry and her friend Pauline Parker, the victim’s daughter.
The details were later discovered in journals found by police.
Honorah Mary Parker died after being hit with a brick about 20 times. When the case went to trial, a court heard the two girls had plotted the murder in an attempt to avoid being separated when 16-year-old Perry’s parents were planning to send her abroad.
The girls wanted Parker to join Perry as she went to live with relatives in South Africa, and thought Parker’s mother would try to stand in the way of their plan.
As both were aged under 18 at the time they killed Parker’s mother, the girls were too young for the death penalty, and were sent to prison instead.
Juliet Marion Hulme was born on Oct. 28, 1938, in London, the eldest of two children of Henry Rainsford Hulme, a prominent British nuclear scientist, and Hilda Marion Hulme, a marriage counselor. Ms. Perry was a sickly child, who at the age of 8 was sent to live with a foster family in the Bahamas to recuperate following bouts of pneumonia and tuberculosis. She was later moved to a private island off the coast of New Zealand. In 1948, her father took up an appointment as rector of Canterbury University College, in the South Island city of Christchurch — where Ms. Perry struck up her ill-fated friendship with Parker, who was 16 at the time of her mother’s murder.
In a 2006 interview with the Times of London, Ms. Perry said she made a “profoundly wrong decision” to participate in the murder, adding that she feared at the time that her friend would take her own life if she didn’t. Prosecutors treated Ms. Perry as the antagonist, according to Drayton. The pair were separated — with Parker serving her five-year sentence in a women’s borstal — and never again made contact.
After she was released from prison, Perry left New Zealand to return to the UK, and worked briefly as a flight attendant.
Ms. Perry began drafting her first novels in her 20s in England — as she bounced around a range of jobs including as an air hostess, limousine dispatcher and insurance underwriter. Her first novel, “The Cater Street Hangman,” was published in 1979. She published dozens of novels and novellas throughout her career, regularly appearing on bestseller lists around the world.
Her next novel, “The Traitor Among Us,” which features a female English spy, is set to be published in September. Ms. Perry never married. Her survivors include a brother, Jonathan Hulme. She later became a Mormon and settled in Portmahomack, a small Scottish village.
Her first novel, The Cater Street Hangman, was published in 1979. She went on to write a string of novels across multiple series, which collectively sold 25 million copies around the world,when The Times of London named its 100 Masters of Crime of the past century, there she was on the list alongside Agatha Christie, Raymond Chandler, Dashiel Hammett and Arthur Conan Doyle.