Wednesday 15 August 2018

Submarine ‘murder’ accused ‘has psychopathic tendencies’, court told

Peter Madsen denies murder but acknowledges dismembering journalist Kim Wall’s body.

Members of the media queue up in front of the courthouse (Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau via AP)
Members of the media queue up in front of the courthouse (Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau via AP)

By Jan M. Olsen

The Danish inventor accused of torturing and killing Swedish journalist Kim Wall during a private submarine trip before dismembering her body is an intelligent man “with psychopathic tendencies”, a prosecutor said as the murder trial opened.

Peter Madsen, 47, was standing trial on Thursday at Copenhagen City Court accused of torturing Ms Wall, 30, before he either cut her throat or strangled her on his submarine in August.

The inventor is charged with murder, dismemberment and indecent handling of a corpse for the way he disposed of Ms Wall’s body.

He denies murder, but has admitted to dismembering her body before he “buried her at sea”.

Ms Wall, a freelance journalist who wrote for The New York Times, The Guardian and other publications, embarked on Madsen’s submarine on August 10 to interview him.

Her remains were found in plastic bags on the Baltic Sea bed weeks later, and her torso was found stabbed multiple times.

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Drawing by Anne Gyrite Schutt shows accused Peter Madsen, left, and the prosecutor Jakob Buch-Jepsen (Ritzau Scanpix/AP)

Prosecutor Jakob Buch-Jepsen started the 12-day trial by reading out the charges, describing in detail how Ms Wall’s body parts were found on the ocean bed.

He said a psychiatric report has concluded that Madsen has “no empathy or feelings of guilt”.

Madsen, wearing glasses, a dark shirt and jeans, listened quietly with his fists closed.

Ms Wall’s parents were also present at the trial.

Giving evidence, Madsen repeated his claim that Ms Wall died accidentally inside the UC3 Nautilus while he was on deck.

He said Ms Wall “had a wonderful evening until it ended in an accident”, but denied that any sexual activity had taken place between them.

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The submarine UC3 Nautilus of Danish inventor Peter Madsen in Copenhagen, Denmark (Dorothee Thiesing/AP)

Madsen had offered shifting explanations for Wall’s death prior to the trial.

He initially told authorities he had dropped Ms Wall off on an Copenhagen island several hours into their submarine trip.

Then he said that Ms Wall died accidentally inside the submarine when a hatch fell and hit her on the head.

On Thursday, he claimed there was a sudden pressure problem in the submarine.

“I could not open the hatches. I heard Kim, it was not good,” he said.

  • Where - Copenhagen City Court
  • When - March 8-April 25. The date for the verdict is unknown
  • Purported crime scene - The 33-ton, 60ft (18m) Nautilus submarine sailing off Copenhagen
  • Purported time of crime - Overnight between August 10 and August 11 2017
  • Charges - Murder, dismemberment and indecent handling of a corpse, as well as having sexual relations of a 'particularly dangerous nature'. Sailing dangerously, forcing one ship to change its course and sailing close to another ship
  • Sentence - Prosecutors will urge that Madsen be sentenced to life in prison or be locked up in a secure mental facility, if deemed necessary by psychiatrists, for as long as he is considered sick and a danger to others

The prosecution claims Ms Wall’s murder was premeditated because Madsen brought along tools he normally did not take when sailing.

Mr Buch-Jepsen said the cause of Ms Wall’s death has yet not been established.

But he said Ms Wall’s blood was found on Madsen’s nose and his bodysuit, and he also said that detectives found violent videos and texts about killing women on Madsen’s laptop and an external hard drive.

Members of the court were shown a drawing of the multiple stabs to Ms Wall’s torso.

An audio file of a radio exchange between Madsen and maritime officials from August 11, the day after Madsen and Ms Wall embarked on their submarine trip, was also played.

In the recording, Madsen said he had let Ms Wall off on an island, and that there were no injured persons aboard but only technical problems.

The 33-ton, nearly 18-meter-long submarine sank south of Copenhagen shortly after being spotted afloat.

Madsen reported “man overboard” over the radio and was then picked up alone.

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Defence lawyer Betina Hald Engmark arrives at the courthouse (Mads Claus Rasmussen/AP)

Ms Wall, who had previously reported on topics including tourism in post-earthquake Haiti, studied at Paris’ Sorbonne university, the London School of Economics and Columbia University in New York.

Caterina Clerici, a friend from Colombia, said Ms Wall had “a soft spot for misfits, for places and people that did not conform”.

Madsen was a co-founder of Copenhagen Suborbitals, a private aerospace consortium to develop and construct manned spacecraft.

In 2011, it launched a homemade nine-metre rocket five miles into the sky over the Baltic Sea, a step toward its unrealized goal of launching a person into space.

In an interview with Danish weekly Soendagsavisen in 2014, Madsen said he one day “hoped to have a criminal career”, adding he did not want to rob a bank because “no one must be hurt”.

Police believe Madsen sank the submarine on purpose, and later found videos of women being tortured and killed on his personal computer in his hangar.

He did not make the videos himself, investigators said.

The trial at Copenhagen’s City Court ends on April 25.

Press Association

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