Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Wood Chipper Murder Case


Helle Crafts, victim
Helle Crafts, victim

Helle Lorck Nielson was an only child, born in Denmark on July 7, 1947. She spent her childhood in a small village north of Denmark. Helle was a vibrant, outgoing child who enjoyed school, one of the few students who actually liked attending class. With her happy disposition, she made friends easily and continued to be well liked into adulthood. Helle had an inborn ability to understand and learn languages quickly. During her teen years, she learned French and English and was also able to understand German, Norwegian and Swedish.

Helle attended college in England and later worked as an au pair in France. By the time she was 20, Helle was a beautiful young woman. Her high cheekbones, long blonde hair, trim figure and a warm, engaging smile turned the heads of men whenever she entered a room. While Helle was living in France she got a job as a stewardess with Capital Airways. She flew to Africa many times out of Brussels or Frankfurt and enjoyed the thrill of discovering new places.

Pan American airlines logo
Pan American airlines
logo (AP)

When she heard that Pan Am Airways was looking for stewardesses in the Copenhagen area, she applied for the job. Helle was one of eight candidates selected out of a group of 200 and was sent to Miami for her training courses. Since she had prior experience in the field, it was easy for her to finish first in her class. During the time she stayed in Miami she lived in a small motel near the airport. It was neat and comfortable, and usually populated by airline employees, stewardesses and pilots. Living under the same roof with male co-workers, stewardesses often had romantic liaisons. "She didn't tell you intimate things about men she saw," said one friend, "She was far too cautious to have been promiscuous, but she had a few lovers." Single stewardesses liked the airline pilots both as future mates or just for a good time while they were on a layover.

On May 24, 1969, while Helle was waiting at the motel for a flight, she met Richard Crafts, who was 31 at the time, and her life would never be the same.

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