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The Body in the Woodchipper: The Chilling Case of Helle Crafts

The Disturbing Murder of Helle Crafts and the Woodchipper Evidence

By Sally APublished 14 days ago 6 min read

The small town of Charlottenlund, just above Copenhagen, Denmark, was once a peaceful place. However, it became the starting point of one of the most chilling murder cases involving a woodchipper. This is the story of Helle Crafts, a vibrant woman whose life was tragically cut short by her husband, Richard Crafts, in a gruesome crime that shocked the world.

Early Life of Helle Crafts

Helle Crafts was born on July 7, 1947, in Charlottenlund, Denmark, to her parents Elizabeth and Ebe Nielsen. She was a bright, outgoing, and intelligent child who excelled in languages. Helle could speak English and French fluently, and she had a good understanding of German, Swedish, and Norwegian. Her small-town upbringing felt restrictive for someone with such a vibrant personality and a thirst for adventure.

Helle became an exchange student and moved to the UK for university. Afterward, she continued her travels, moving to Paris to work as an au pair. Eventually, she returned to Denmark to study at the University of Copenhagen, where she trained to be a French interpreter. However, her restless spirit soon drove her to seek new opportunities.

Meeting Richard Crafts

In May 1969, Helle, then 22 years old, attended a training course in Miami with other flight crew members. It was here that she met Richard Crafts, a man in his early 30s who led a bachelor lifestyle. Richard, originally from New York, came from a wealthy family and had a privileged upbringing. Despite his background, Richard had a troubled history, including a failed university stint and a brief career in the Marines.

The two hit it off quickly, and Richard found himself captivated by Helle's charm and intelligence. Despite his reputation as a player who avoided commitment, he pursued a relationship with her. Their relationship was tumultuous, with Richard frequently vacillating between wanting commitment and reverting to his bachelor ways.

A Troubled Marriage

After six years of an on-again, off-again relationship, Helle fell pregnant with Richard's child. This prompted Richard to commit to her, and they married later that year, settling in Connecticut. The couple had three children and seemed to lead a happy family life. However, cracks soon began to show.

Richard's behavior became increasingly abusive. He emotionally and physically abused Helle, leaving her with visible bruises that she explained away to friends and neighbors. Richard would often shout at her, call her derogatory names, and demean her, making her feel worthless. He controlled every aspect of her life, including their finances. Despite earning twice as much as Helle, Richard made her pay for the mortgage and household expenses while he spent his substantial income on luxuries, including a second apartment in New York.

Suspicions of an Affair

Helle's suspicions about Richard's fidelity began to grow over time. He would frequently leave the house without explanation, claiming to be on long-haul flights or business trips, but his absences were often unaccounted for. Richard's second apartment in New York also raised red flags for Helle. The secrecy surrounding his trips to the city, coupled with his dismissive attitude toward their family, fueled her doubts.

Richard's erratic behavior and sudden disappearances made Helle increasingly uneasy. She found herself questioning his late-night phone calls and the unfamiliar female voices she occasionally heard in the background. Helle decided it was time to seek professional help to confirm her suspicions.

The Private Investigator's Findings

At the suggestion of her divorce lawyer, Helle hired a private investigator named Keith Mayer. Mayer began his surveillance of Richard, closely monitoring his movements and documenting any suspicious activity. It didn't take long for Mayer to gather incriminating evidence.

One day, Mayer followed Richard to an apartment in New York. Richard entered the building and, after some time, emerged with a woman. Mayer discreetly took photographs of the couple, capturing clear evidence of Richard's infidelity. The woman in the photographs was the same person Helle had suspected all along.

When Mayer presented the evidence to Helle, she was devastated but not surprised. The photographs confirmed her worst fears and provided the concrete proof she needed to confront Richard. Armed with this evidence, Helle felt a newfound sense of resolve to end the toxic relationship.

The Disappearance of Helle Crafts

On November 15, 1986, Helle left for a long-distance trip to Hamburg. She confided in her colleagues about her fears regarding her increasingly abusive husband. Upon her return on November 18, she was dropped off at her home around 7 p.m., dreading another confrontation with Richard.

That night, Richard woke the live-in nanny, Marie, at 3:35 a.m., claiming a power outage and insisting they all go to his sister's house. Marie noticed Helle was missing but didn't press the issue. Over the next few days, Richard's explanations for Helle's absence grew increasingly suspicious. He first claimed she had flown to Denmark to care for her ill mother, then later suggested she might be in Paris with a friend.

The Investigation Begins

Helle's co-workers and friends became increasingly concerned when she failed to show up for work. Her friend Anna, noticing Helle's car parked at JFK airport despite her supposed travel, became suspicious and contacted the police. Meanwhile, Richard's behavior aroused further suspicion. He had replaced the carpet in the master bedroom, claiming he had spilled kerosene, and had purchased new bedding shortly after Helle's disappearance.

Police obtained a search warrant for the Crafts' home and found a blood-stained mattress in the master bedroom. The blood was later confirmed to be human and matched Helle's blood type. Additionally, a snowplow driver named Joey reported seeing a man using a woodchipper near a lake during a snowstorm around the time Helle disappeared.

Joey's Chilling Encounter

Joey, a snowplow driver, usually worked night shifts around a local lake to ensure it was safe for pedestrians. On the night of Helle's disappearance, Joey was working his usual shift. Around 4 a.m., in the midst of a snowstorm, Joey saw something highly unusual. He spotted a man in a bright orange parka using a woodchipper by the lake. The sight was odd, given the time and the weather conditions. Who in their right mind would be using a woodchipper at 4 a.m. in the middle of a snowstorm?

This strange sighting stuck with Joey, and when he later heard about Helle's disappearance, he realized its significance and reported it to the police.

The Chilling Discovery

Police searched the area near the lake and found wood chippings, scraps of blue material, and pieces of paper addressed to Helle Crafts. They also discovered 2,660 bleached human hairs, a human tooth, a dental crown, pieces of human skull, and small bone fragments. The most horrifying find was the tip of a human finger with red nail polish, matching the nail polish found in Helle's bathroom.

Investigators also found the engine of a chainsaw in the lake. Despite attempts to remove the serial number, forensic experts were able to trace it back to Richard Crafts. This, combined with the other evidence, led to Richard's arrest on January 13, 1987.

The Trial and Conviction

Richard Crafts' trial began over a year later. He maintained his innocence, but the evidence against him was overwhelming. The prosecution argued that Richard had premeditated the murder, citing his purchase of a woodchipper, freezer, and the reinforced pickup truck days before Helle's disappearance.

Police theorized that Richard killed Helle with a police flashlight, dismembered her body, and froze the parts in the chest freezer. He then used the woodchipper to dispose of her remains by spraying them into the lake.

After a lengthy deliberation, Richard was found guilty of murder, making it one of the first convictions without a body. He was sentenced to 50 years in prison.


The tragic case of Helle Crafts and her gruesome murder serves as a stark reminder of the potential for domestic violence to escalate into unspeakable crimes. Richard Crafts' calculated and brutal actions shocked the world and highlighted the importance of taking threats of domestic abuse seriously. Despite the conviction, the story of Helle Crafts remains a chilling example of the darkest depths of human behavior.


About the Creator

Sally A

Animal lover 🐾 | Health enthusiast 💪 | Self-development junkie 🌱 | Beauty explorer 💄 | True crimes & mystery enthusiast 🕵️‍♀️ | Let's journey together! 💫

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