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Danish police add charges in Wall murder case

August 24, 2017

Police added the charge of abuse of a corpse against Peter Madsen after Wall's torso washed ashore in Copenhagen. The involuntary manslaughter charge will be upgraded to manslaughter, which in Denmark is equal to murder.

Divers walking coming out of the water in Copenhagen
Image: Reuters/Scanpix/M. Sylvest

Danish police have added the charge of abuse of a corpse against Peter Madsen, the man suspected of the brutal murder of Swedish journalist Kim Wall aboard his handmade submarine in the waters off Copenhagen.

They are also seeking to upgrade the involuntary manslaughter charge to manslaughter, which in Denmark is the equivalent of murder. The heightened charges come after police positively identified a headless torso that washed ashore this week as that of Wall.

Madsen, 46, is being held in pre-trial detention until September 5. But given the new evidence and the growing charges police will seek to extend Madsen's stay behind bars when it comes up for review next month, according to spokesman Jakob Buch-Jepsen.

"We maintain the [manslaughter] charge that we've had all the time, but now we would like the court to change the basis for the custody to manslaughter from involuntary manslaughter," he said.

Police have formally identified Wall's dismembered body and said it appeared that efforts had been made to remove gas and air from inside her body to prevent it from floating to the surface.

In addition, they said the torso had been weighted down with metal in a further attempt to keep it on the seabed. But those efforts failed as her torso washed ashore earlier this week - the gruesome discovery made by a passing cyclist. 

Wall, 30, was researching a story on Madsen - a self-taught engineer and eccentric character who built his own submarine and dreamed of building rockets for outer space. She was last seen getting into Madsen's 56-foot-long (17-meter) underwater vessel on the evening of August 10.

The UC3 Nautilus, built by Danish inventor Peter Madsen, afloat in the sea.
The UC3 Nautilus, built by Danish inventor Peter MadsenImage: Reuters/P. Thompsen

Shifting stories

When Wall did not return from her interview, her boyfriend reported her missing and police launched a search. A few hours later they found Madsen, who appeared to have deliberately sunk his own submarine and was rescued by a passing boat.

He initially claimed he dropped Wall off at a dock the night before but subsequently changed his story, saying she died aboard his submarine and he buried her body at sea. He denies killing her.

Police still do not know the cause of Wall's death, and divers are searching for more body parts as well as her clothing.

Authorities also said they want Madsen to undergo a psychiatric evaluation.

Madsen has been described as fanatical and foul-tempered with a reputation for histrionics throughout a career that has been punctuated by stories of professional fallouts and mood swings, angering many along the way.

He is said to be a man of few material possessions who has, at times, lived on his submarine, and is reportedly married.

Wall was a freelance journalist who split her time between New York and China. She contributed to the New York Times and The Guardian and was an alumnus of the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism.

"She gave voice to the weak, to the vulnerable and marginalized people," Wall's mother, Ingrid, wrote in a Facebook post on Wednesday. "That voice would have been needed much, much longer. But now that will not be so."

bik/sms (Reuters, AFP, AP, dpa)