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Journalist 'killed by submarine hatch door'

September 6, 2017

A court has heard testimony from the man charged with killing Swedish journalist Kim Wall on his homemade submarine. The grisly case gained global attention after her headless torso turned up days after she went missing.

Kopenhagen UC3 Nautilus Mutmaßlich letztes Bild Kim Wall
Image: Reuters/P. Thompsen

Submarine owner Peter Madsen told a court in Copenhagen on Tuesday that journalist Kim Wall was accidently hit on the head by a 70-kilogram (154 pound) hatch as she made her way from the conning tower, a small watertight compartment from where the underwater vessel is piloted.

During his four-hour appearance, the Danish inventor said the pair had just finished a short dive in his 17-meter (56-foot) submarine last month when he climbed out of the tower, followed by Wall. But he slipped and lost his grip on the door, which fell on her head, killing her instantly and causing her to bleed from the head, the court heard.

"I saw a closed hatch. I heard a bump. I didn't hear a scream," he told the court, saying he found no pulse when he checked her body.

Headless torso discovered

Police found Wall's body, with her head, arms and legs deliberately cut off, in waters around Copenhagen on August 21. A piece of metal was attached to her torso. 

Ten days earlier, the foreign correspondent had been reported missing after visiting Madsen on his sub for an interview.

In his account to the court, Madsen said after the accident, he threw Wall overboard in a panic, insisting that the body was intact when she hit the water. The 46-year-old was rescued on August 11 from waters between Denmark and Sweden shortly before his submarine sank.

Danish inventor Peter Madsen
If prosecutors get their way, charges against Danish inventor Peter Madsen could be upgrade to murderImage: picture alliance/Scanpix Denmark/U. Weng

Madsen was then asked why he didn't report the death, and replied: "I knew the world I lived in... had died. There was nothing left for me."

The Danish inventor's court testimony differs from his original account to police, whom he told Wall had died after an "accident" on board the UC3 Nautilus sub he built, and that he had buried her at sea.

Request to upgrade charges

Prosecutor Jakob Buch-Jepsen accused Madsen of "having killed Kim Wall in an undetermined fashion, then he dismembered the body, he cut the torso and tied pipes to it with the intention of sinking it to the seabed."

He called on the court to upgrade the charges of negligent manslaughter and desecration of a corpse to murder.

Swedish journalist Kim Wall
Freelance journalist Kim Wall had reported for the Guardian, the New York Times and Time magazineImage: picture-alliance/dpa/AP/Tom Wall

Madsen insisted his relationship with Wall was purely professional and that while in shock, he planned his own suicide following her death. He denied all accusations of sexual assault before being questioned by the prosecutor on his sexual preferences, to ascertain any interest in sadomasochism, and whether he had had sex with Wall or others on the sub.

The submarine builder was ordered to remain in pre-trial detention until October 3 and was ordered to undergo a psychiatric assessment as requested by the prosecution.

If found guilty of the current charges, he could face between five years and life in prison.

mm/bw (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)