What lies beneath
Journalist Kim Wall became her own biggest story
When it launched in May 2008, it was the largest privately built submarine in the world.
The 60ft UC3 Nautilus was built over a three-year period by Danish inventor Peter Madsen and a group of volunteers.
It was a triumph that made eccentric Peter, 47, famous – and he relished it.
From being a teen, Peter had always dreamed big.
He was a skilled engineer who loved to build rockets, but his greatest success was the Nautilus.
Many in Denmark believe Peter was a great mind, who was friendly and likeable.
But former girlfriends said he was promiscuous and had a dark side. He watched violent pornography and was fascinated by erotic asphyxiation.
All the while, Peter courted the world’s press which fuelled his vanity.
Kim Wall was a Swedish journalist who was set to move to China with her boyfriend.
Kim, 30, had been trying to interview Peter for months and he’d finally agreed to speak to her on August 10, 2017.
Kim was so keen to profile Peter that she left her own leaving party to visit Peter on his sub in Copenhagen harbour. It was typical of Kim to go out of her way to get the big story.
She’d travelled the world to highlight gender issues and expose social injustice.
That day, Kim left her party and headed to meet Peter.
She messaged her boyfriend during the evening.
I’m still alive btw, one read. But going down now! I love you!
There were even photographs taken as she stood in the tower of the sub with Peter as they sailed away. When the messages stopped and Kim didn’t return home, Kim’s boyfriend reported her missing.
Police tried to find the sub, but it didn’t have a satellite tracking system. But Peter was about to contact police himself.
The day after Kim went missing, Peter called for help from the Copenhagen Harbour.
The 33-ton Nautilus had sunk and Peter was rescued, unharmed.
He blamed technical problems, but he’d scuttled the vessel himself. What was he trying to hide? Peter said he’d dropped Kim off on an island after a few hours into the trip. But investigators found blood on the sub, and on Peter’s clothes.
Days later, Kim’s headless, limbless torso He’d built the submarine from scratch Kim sailing away with her killer
What was he trying to hide?
was washed up on the shore in a plastic bag.
Later, divers would find her limbs and head weighed down in the waters. Suddenly Peter changed his story. He claimed Kim died after she was hit over the head when the hatch door slammed shut.
He said he’d panicked and was trying to protect her family from the details of her death.
When Peter was told there was no such injuries found on Kim’s skull, he changed his story again.
This time there was a fault in the sub, flooding it with exhaust fumes.
Kim had been inside, but it caused a vacuum effect that stopped him from being able to open the hatch door, and she’d died.
The coroner found no such fumes in her lungs.
Detectives found Peter’s cold and emotionless accounts disturbing.
Even if Kim had died in an accident, why dismember her body and cast her into the sea?
Investigators discovered that Peter had searched ‘beheaded girl agony’ hours before Kim had arrived to interview him and had watched a video of a girl having her throat slit.
Peter had tried to invite other women aboard – they’d refused. Sadly, Kim had been the one to accept his offer.
The case drew attention from around the world and was compared to the popular Nordic crime dramas.
But for Kim’s family, the comparison was hurtful.
Kim wasn’t a fictional character and her death was brutally real.
At the 2017 trial, the verdict was reached by a judge and two jurors.
Peter pleaded not guilty to premediated murder but admitted to desecrating a corpse.
He returned to the
explanation that he’d lost grip of a 150lb hatch while giving Kim a tour of the sub,
crushing her head. Peter told prosecutors that
he’d then panicked and chopped Kim up to give her a ‘burial at sea’. ‘In the shock I was in, it was the right thing to do,’ he told the court. ‘What do you do when you have a large problem? You make it smaller.’ His defence pointed out that due to the decomposition of the body parts in the water, it was impossible to say exactly how
Kim had died. Peter didn’t deny mutilating
the body, throwing it in the sea and lying to police, but there was no proof of an actual murder. In contrast, the prosecution
said that Peter had planned Kim’s murder, motivated by violent sexual fantasies. Before Kim stepped onto the
submarine, he’d brought a knife, sharpened screwdriver and straps on board. He’d even brought on board
pipes that were used to weigh her body parts down.
They alleged that Peter had brutally sexually assaulted her, killed her, then dismembered her to cover his tracks.
It was difficult for her loved ones to hear .
There were two dozen stab wounds to her genitals – fuelling the claim it was a sexually motivated kill.
But Peter said they were randomly inflicted.
‘I pierced certain parts of her body because I did not want them to be inflated by gas,’ he said. ‘There was nothing erotic in those blows.’
Experts couldn’t say exactly what the cause of death was, but that her airway had been cut off so she’d
either been strangled, had her throat cut, or she’d drowned.
Some of her wounds had occurred before she’d died.
Just what horror had Kim been through in her final moments?
In April this year, Peter Madsen was found guilty of murder, sexual assault and desecrating a corpse. The decision was unanimous. ‘There is clear evidence that the accused has shown an interest in killing and dismembering people,’ the judge said, referring to Peter’s sordid internet history. Peter was sentenced to life in prison without the chance of parole. Peter was quiet and has since appealed his sentence.
While he remains in the spotlight, Kim’s loved ones continue to honour her memory with a fund set up in her name to help fulfil the dreams of other passionate journalists like her.
Kim was always looking to find a story – never knowing that one day, it would be her own death that would be making the headlines.
He cut off her hair and limbs
Kim was a talented journalist
Divers searched for body parts