Danish submariner sent down for life for murder of journalist Kim Wall

Killer inventor lured scribe aboard crowdfunded vessel

The Danish submarine innovator who murdered journalist Kim Wall has been handed a life sentence by a Copenhagen court.

Peter Madsen was pronounced guilty and sentenced today by judge Anette Burkoe at the end of his 12-day trial for murder. Madsen had given the Copenhagen City Court three separate explanations of how Wall died last August, changing the story as time went on.

"It is the court's assessment that the defendant killed Kim Wall," Burkoe told the packed courtroom. She and two jurors unanimously found him guilty, in accordance with Danish law. In addition to murder, Madsen was also found guilty of mutilating a corpse and sexual assault.

Madsen, 47, reportedly did not react as the verdict was read out. In Denmark a life sentence puts a crim behind bars for a minimum of 12 years, after which point they can appeal for their release. If their request is refused, they stay in the cooler. Prosecutors had previously called for a "safe custody" sentence, meaning indefinite imprisonment.

Wall had boarded the crowdfunded submarine last summer as part of an article she was preparing about Madsen, who enjoyed some public recognition in Denmark for his exploits with the privately built UC-3 Nautilus, as well as his plans to build a functional space rocket. The submarine sank on 11 August and Madsen was rescued by the Danish Navy. He blamed the boat's sinking on a ballast tank problem and claimed he had dropped Wall off ashore before the sinking.

An accomplished freelance journalist, Wall had written for a number of prominent newspapers and magazines around the world and had travelled the globe in pursuit of her trade. Madsen lured her aboard the Nautilus with the promise of an interview that would have been syndicated worldwide.

Prosecutors said that after killing the journalist, Madsen sank his boat deliberately to hide traces of his crime. Nonetheless, the submarine was recovered from the seabed and examined, revealing traces of her blood inside it. Wall's dismembered torso later washed up ashore, while police divers found her head and limbs on the sea floor in weighted-down sacks. Madsen then admitted he had dismembered her dead body, changing his story to say she died aboard the Nautilus of carbon monoxide poisoning following problems with the boat's exhaust and that he had buried her at sea, not wanting a dead body aboard the submarine.

Later, Madsen swerved again, claiming that a hatch fumble led to the 150lb lump of metal hitting Wall on the head by accident. Her recovered head showed no signs of such an impact – but her torso had been stabbed 15 times.

"We are talking about a cynical and planned sexual assault and brutal murder of a random woman, who in connection with her journalistic work had accepted an offer to go sailing in the defendant's submarine," Burkoe told the court.

A detailed examination of the submarine by the Danish Navy revealed no trace of exhaust gas in air trapped aboard the boat when it sank, or soot from exhaust in the sub's air filters.

Prosecutors have previously called for the Nautilus to be scrapped, in accordance with the Wall family's wishes.

Madsen's lawyer, Betina Hald Engmark, told the court she would appeal on his behalf against the verdict. The submariner will remain behind bars during his appeal. ®

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