Dumoulin case: Romance ended in brutal killing

A YOUNG bride's honeymoon. It should be the most romantic, happy and exciting time in her life, wrapped in the loving arms of her new husband and enjoying a place they would always fondly remember.

Certainly 18-year-old Helga Konrad must have arrived in Edinburgh from Germany brimming with excitement. For by her side was Ernest Dumoulin, the 21-year-old she had met through a lonely hearts advert, the man who whisked her off her feet and who she yearned to spend the rest of her life with.

They had eloped after a whirlwind romance. And Scotland was where they were to seal their love, make their home and live long and happy lives together.

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That, at least, is what Helga believed would happen. Ernest, it turned out, had a dramatically different idea.

It was Friday, October 13, 1972 when the trusting, innocent Helga said "I do" in a registrar office service witnessed by Herbert Wood and his wife, the couple in charge of the Torphichen Street guest house where the young couple were staying.

It was a pleasant ceremony followed by coffee, a few celebratory drinks and then a meal at a restaurant in Shandwick Place. Helga spoke of her husband's plans to become a financial adviser, she would be his secretary and, having disagreed with her parents over the nuptials, she would not be returning home to Germany.

There was nothing – not even a mild lovers' tiff – to hint at what tragedy awaited.

It was the early hours of the next morning, not even 24 hours on from their romantic wedding ceremony, when a knock on the guesthouse front door roused Mr Wood from his bed.

There stood two grim-faced detectives and a dazed-looking Dumoulin, his right arm bandaged and his suit smeared with mud. But where was Helga?

Earlier, a seaman had been strolling along the foot of Salisbury Crags before something caught his eye. Horrified, he realised it was the corpse of a woman.

He found two police officers and told them of his grim discovery. Soon after, the officers found a dishevelled looking Dumoulin.

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The couple had gone for a romantic walk up the Crags, he explained. They wanted to watch the lights of the Capital, twinkling in the late summer evening, to cuddle, chat and enjoy each other's company.

But, he insisted, Helga had lost her footing and she plunged down the rocky crags to her death.

Dumoulin retired to his room in the guest house. Once, it had provided the couple with a wedding bed, now it was where he spent hours playing the same record over and over, the haunting theme of the Hollywood film, Love Story.

He said little about what tragedy had befallen the pretty teenage bride, other than to mutter: "Why don't people take my word for it?"

It was Monday when police came calling once more, this time taking Dumoulin with them.

They had their suspicions that Helga was no innocent victim of a horrific accident, but what motive anyone might have had to murder her, no-one really knew.

Mrs Woods seized the chance to clean the young German's room. There, she came across a letter to Dumoulin from an insurance company and a receipt.

It was a vital breakthrough. For it revealed details of a 412,000 insurance policy taken on Helga's life just days before she died.

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Dumoulin, it turned out, had obtained a car under false pretences while in Germany and sold it for 650. Nearly half of that – 250 – he had lodged in the Bank of Nova Scotia in Princes Street, obtaining 10,000 of credit in the process by claiming business interests in his native country.

He used that credit to take out a string of insurance policies to cover his young wife's life.

Incredibly, Dumoulin barely waited until his wife's body was cold before he approached the insurance company the morning after her fall to claim his monetary prize. When he was told they would not pay out because Helga had been "killed on a mountain", Dumoulin quizzed the firm's agent on whether the claim might be made public and whether the forms could be destroyed.

Police now had their motive.

They probed Dumoulin's background and uncovered details of an unsavoury past as a failed financial adviser turned conman who had snared his young bride after placing a lonely heart advert.

Certainly he must have been delighted when his advert was answered by such a lonely country girl from a rich family. Helga had lived a sheltered and hum-drum life, full of days spent feeding the animals on her parents' farm and constantly under the watchful gaze of her strict father, Helmut.

She was easy prey for the conniving Dumoulin.

His advert had appeared in a German newspaper on June 24, 1972. By July 14, Dumoulin had arrived at Helga's father's farm to ask for her hand in marriage – and be turned down.

"I told him he was crazy and went on feeding my animals," said Herr Konrad later.

He suggested they wait until Christmas. "I thought that to keep the peace it was better to be quiet. I tried very hard to postpone any wedding plans until I had established that Dumoulin would be in a position to support a wife."

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On September 15, Dumoulin arrived to collect Helga in his red Fiat. She jumped in, telling her father they would be no more than 15 minutes. It was the first step towards Edinburgh and the beginning of the end of her short life.

Of course, Dumoulin denied it all. He was charged with murder and appeared at the High Court in Edinburgh the following year, where he tried to convince the jury that it was Helga who had originally plotted to con an insurance company by faking his death.

He even tried to claim his teenage bride had tried to kill him and that by the grace of God he had been saved, while she had fallen.

But modern medical evidence uncovered his lies. Experts noted the lack of scrapes and bruises on Helga's body, suggesting she had not slipped at all, but had either jumped from the cliff or been pushed with considerable force.

And when Hambro Life Assurance confirmed that the life insurance policy he'd taken out in her name would have cost a massive 442 a month to maintain, the jury's minds were made up.

Ernest Dumoulin was found guilty of murdering his wife of only a few hours and was sentenced to life imprisonment.

Today, he has his freedom. On his release, he returned to his native Germany where he trained to be – of all things – a minister. Now 61, he regularly carries out wedding ceremonies.

His tragic victim Helga has never been forgotten.

A memorial seat sits in the shadow of Salisbury Crags, on it is a metal plate commemorating her short life: "In loving memory of our daughter, Helga Konrad, born 16.6.54, died 13.10.72. Buried at Schwerbach, Germany, only 300 yards from her parents' home."