trapped by the sub sicko
journalist Kim Wall’s pursuit of a great story had taken her on risky assignments in the past, but an evening ride on an inventor’s submarine so close to home, should not have been her last
What was Madsen’s reason for killing Kim Wall, and which version of Kim’s final hours aboard Madsen’s sub is true?
On 10 August 2017, aboard his crowd- funded, self- built midget submarine the UC3 Nautilus, 46- year- old
Danish inventor Peter Madsen went on the Internet. In the search bar he typed the words, “beheaded”, “girl” and “argony”. A link led Madsen to a video of a girl having her throat slit open – a search he would later deem “pure coincidence”. The prosecution attorney to Denmark’s most famous murder trial would deem this a sign of things to come. Only hours later Madsen was lying on the floor of his vessel as he sent a text message to his wife. It read, “I am on an adventure on Nautilus. All is well. Sailing in calm seas and moonlight. Not diving. Kisses and hugs to the cats.”
Barely centimetres away from him lay the body of a sweet Swedish redhead, an independent and determined freelance journalist who Madsen had killed only 20 minutes earlier in a “cynical and pre- planned sexual assault of a particularly brutal nature”. The victim, 30- year- old Kim Wall, had willingly climbed into Madsen’s sinking torture chamber only hours beforehand, determined to discuss his inspiring DIY rocket “space race”. But trapped metres below sea level, the perverted inventor knew no one would hear her screams as he butchered her in a re- enactment of the snuff porn he had devoured online only hours earlier.
10 August 2017 was, for Kim, a time to say goodbye to her Scandinavian life. A freelance reporter, she had been born in 1987 in the southern Swedish town of Trelleborg to parents Ingrid and Joachim. As a young woman she had attended school in the Skåne capital of Malmö, before receiving a bachelor’s degree in international relations at the London School of Economics. An intelligent and driven young woman, Kim Wall went on to receive a dual master’s degree in journalism and international relations at New York’s Columbia University.
Her work had, over the years, featured in newspapers such as British newspaper The Guardian and renowned US broadsheet The New York Times, as well as online and magazine outlets such as Vice, Slate and Time. Her stories focused on themes such as identity, gender or subculture, and often explored the realms of social justice and “the undercurrents of rebellion”. With still so much to achieve in her life, she and her partner, Danish designer Ole Stobbe, were leaving Denmark the following week for Beijing, China, and were throwing a party in Refshaleøen to bid farewell to their friends. It should have been the start of a new beginning for the journalist, but that fateful day was instead to be a tragic, final ending.
Hours before the party was due to start, Kim’s phone received a message from a man she had not expected to ever hear from – Danish entrepreneur and local celebrity Peter Madsen. The inventor had been thrust into the media limelight back in May 2008, following the launch of a submarine he had built himself and funded thanks to donations from the public. The sub, named after the fictional vessel in writer Jules Verne’s 1870 science fiction novel Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea, had gained incredible attention across the globe.
Soon after its launch came the announcement of Madsen’s next idea, a groundbreaking DIY rocket that was to be the first of its kind. The project, which had been the brainchild of
It should have been the start of a new beginning for the journalist, but that fateful day was instead to
be a tragic, final ending
Madsen and former NASA contractor Kristian von Bengtson, aspired to launch the world’s first DIY rocket as part of their newly co- founded and crowdfunded enterprise ‘ Copenhagen Suborbitals’. Their rocket workshop was set up in a derelict hangar close to Copenhagen harbour, but after relationships between the partners grew strained, Madsen set up his own rocket workshop, named ‘ Rocket Madsen Space Workshop’, in June 2014, just across the way from his original workspace. In March 2017 Kim had come across the inventor’s hangar and put out feelers to see whether Madsen would be willing to grant her an interview as part of a story she was writing about the rocket builders. She had heard nothing for months, until the day of her farewell party, when the submarine owner finally accepted her request and invited her to meet him at his workshop.
Kim was delighted at the idea that her story on Madsen’s ‘ space race’ might go ahead after all. That afternoon she met with Madsen, and over a cup of tea at his ‘ space lab’ the pair talked. With hindsight, this now appears to be nothing more than Madsen’s attempts to put his future victim at ease. Journalism can sometimes be a risky profession, especially for a woman, but for Kim the friendly chatter of Madsen clearly had the desired effect and, although she was a smart woman with great instincts, Madsen’s plan progressed smoothly. Kim accepted his invitation to board the vessel with him that evening for a journey around the harbour. Kim returned to her partner with exciting news about her voyage. She invited Ole to go with her. He later claimed he had been
on the verge of saying yes, but they had guests arriving soon and, feeling it was better that at least one of them was there to greet them, he told Kim to go alone.
Leaving the party on dry land, Kim stepped on board Nautilus at around 7pm. Passengers on board another vessel snapped a picture of Kim and Madsen some 90 minutes after they set sail. It was still light outside and Kim appeared to be enjoying her expedition around the waters. Hip to hip with Madsen in the sub’s conning tower, if she was nervous she didn’t show it: a broad smile spreads across her face as she looks out over the waters. It would turn out to be one of the last pictures of Kim ever taken.
Kim’s boyfriend received a text from her shortly after she left, saying, “I’m still alive btw. But going down now!” She signed off what would be her final message to the outside world: “I love you”.
Inside a hold on board his vessel Madsen had stored a number of concerning items that would prove fundamental to the prosecution’s case months later: a saw, sharpened screwdrivers, straps, pipes and a video camera.
Down The Hatch
On land, the farewell party carried on in the absence of its second guest of honour, but after the crowds had dispersed and the festivities had wound to a close, Kim’s partner grew increasingly concerned. Midnight had passed and still there was no sign of Kim. The couple were due to attend a wedding in the morning, and it seemed strange that she would still be out at this time. After a search around the island on his bike, Ole called the police at 1.45am. Half an hour later he called the navy. Kim had boarded Madsen’s submarine more than seven hours ago and it was clear something was wrong.
The search for Kim was frantic and strange in equal parts. The submarine was sighted off the coast at around midnight before it disappeared again. The following morning, at 11am according to a local news report, a man who was out on
his boat helping with the search for the missing vessel saw Madsen in the submarine tower out on the water. Madsen descended down the hatch, and then re- emerged as the submarine began to sink. He swam to safety and was picked up by a nearby motorboat.
Reporters had flocked to the shoreline, desperate to find out about the missing person report that had prompted a huge search for Nautilus. Madsen, once returned to shore, told them that while he was sad his sub had sunk, he was unharmed and everything was fine.
When questioned about the whereabouts of his passenger, Madsen feigned ignorance, claiming that three and a half hours after she had boarded the midget vessel, he had dropped her off on the tip of Refshaleøen island at 11.30pm. He insisted that he hadn’t seen her since. Already details in Madsen’s story weren’t adding up. Her boyfriend and friends knew that she had been excited about the party and going to China, and found it perplexing that she would fail to return home. They weren’t the only ones to doubt Madsen’s story. Copenhagen police arrested Madsen on suspicion of involuntary manslaughter and accused him of “having killed in an unknown way and in an unknown place Kim Isabel Fredrika Wall of Sweden, sometime after Thursday 5pm.”
Appearing in court the following day, Madsen’s story changed. This time he claimed there had been a “terrible accident” on board Nautilus. He said Kim had hit her head on the submarine’s 70- kilogram hatch and died. Panicking, he had pulled her body out of the submarine using a rope and dumped her body somewhere off Køge Bay.
On 21 August, 11 days after she was last seen, Danish police were alerted to a grim discovery that had been made by a cyclist riding close to where the submarine had sank: a headless, limbless torso.
The following day DNA tests confirmed the worst – it was Kim. Madsen’s charge was upped to manslaughter. A month later deep- sea divers discovered the five remaining components of Kim’s body, bundled into plastic bags and weighed down in the water by metal scraps. Madsen stuck to the story that he had dumped her body at sea fully intact. Police had reason to believe otherwise: divers had found a
According to the allegations, Madsen had bound, beaten and stabbed Kim before killing her by choking or
cutting her throat
saw they thought could have been used to dismember the journalist. Moreover, Madsen’s personal computer hard drive was full of videos showing women being strangled, tortured and decapitated. An inspection of Kim’s body showed that it had been cut into six pieces, but also that the skull showed no signs of trauma, which went directly against Madsen’s story that a heavy blow to the skull had killed her. Kim had also been stabbed a dozen times in the vagina. It was a grim discovery that hinted at the possibility of sinister and twisted motives for murder.
Then, on 30 October, came Madsen’s third and final version of the events that occurred on board Nautilus. He now claimed that Kim had accidentally died of carbon monoxide poisoning and that he had indeed dismembered her body before throwing her overboard. A statement, released in January 2018 by the courts, said that Madsen had been indicted for homicide that “took place with prior planning and preparation”. A method of murder was not initially offered, but it was revealed that police had also charged him with “sexual relations other than intercourse of a particularly dangerous nature, as well as for dismemberment”. According to the allegations against the Danish prisoner, Madsen had bound, beaten and stabbed Kim before killing her by choking or cutting her throat.
The Mind Of A
Awaiting trial for murder, Madsen sat behind bars with limited access to anything other than paper and a pencil. Meanwhile, across the globe Kim’s name was becoming frequently used in discussions about how an intrepid reporter could meet such a grisly demise. Those who knew Kim when she was alive knew that she was driven by her enthusiasm for independent journalism and her passion to give the world a closer look at the areas frequently glossed over by mainstream media. The irony that she had been murdered in her hometown – one of the world’s safest and most equalitydriven regions – was almost too much to bear.
Madsen’s much- awaited 12- day trial commenced on 8 March 2018, heard by Copenhagen City Court Judge Anette Burkø and two jurors. In his opening statement, prosecutor
Jakob Buch- Jepsen detailed how Kim’s severed limbs had been found on a southern shoreline in Copenhagen, and that her death had been a premeditated attack by a man psychiatrists regarded as “having no empathy or feelings of guilt”. The prosecution, it had been revealed back in January, were seeking life imprisonment for Madsen with a secondary claim for safe custody, meaning that the court could keep Madsen in prison for as long as he was deemed a threat and a danger to the public. Madsen’s defence lawyer, Betina Hald Engmark, argued that while Madsen admitted to dismembering the journalist on his submarine, there was no proof that her client had murdered Kim.
On the first day of his trial, Madsen took the stand for over two hours, wearing glasses, a dark shirt and jeans, to give his version of events. He told the court he had lied on previous occasions to spare her friends and family the details of how she had died, following a “wonderful evening” that ended in a “horrible accident”. According to the defendant, his female passenger had died a slow and painful death thanks to a combination of exhaust gas and a fall in cabin pressure while he was on deck. He claimed that he had tried to open the hatches but couldn’t, and when he finally could, Kim’s body was lying lifeless on the floor. He had tried to resuscitate her but finally gave up. Madsen, who tried to insist that the dismemberment of Kim was not attributable to any kind of sexual fantasy and was carried out to make it easier to remove the body from the submarine, became irritable when Buch- Jepsen suggested that Madsen had sexually interfered with the body. When he was asked about semen stains found in his underwear, Madsen answered back, “It’s not strange given I am such a promiscuous person.”
Forensic experts and pathologists testified in court, citing that no evidence of gas poisoning was found in Kim’s lungs or heart tissue. The second day of the trial saw no signs of the prosecution’s fierce questioning of the defendant abating, as Madsen was put on the stand again to give an explanation
regarding the dismemberment of Kim, which he had said took place after toxic gases suffocated her. He admitted he had dismembered the journalist in the bathroom but offered little more insight. “I have said what I have to say about this. I was in an insane situation and used what was around,” he told the court. “I put some punctures in the body parts because I didn’t want them to be inflated by gases,” Madsen went on to admit. “There is nothing sexual in the fact that the stab holes were in her vagina. I understand why you might think there was, but there was nothing sexual in it for me.”
The prosecution’s claims hinged quite heavily on the findings on Madsen’s iPhone profile. The phone itself was never found and nor was Kim’s, and Danish police assumed they had likely been tossed overboard.
However, they were still able to recover online data from them. Madsen’s search history showed his proclivity for snuff porn and violence towards women.
His top three porn search words were
“throat” “girl” and “pain”. Danish tabloid
The Copenhagen Post commented in their trial report how “his preferred method of torture, it would appear, includes a woman being mistreated with a knife, fire or a spear”. The judges and jurors also saw a film, recovered from Madsen’s computer, showing a woman having her throat slit. It was similar to the one Madsen watched just hours before Kim boarded his vessel. Too horrific to be shown publicly, the rest of the court could only listen to the gory sounds from the video. When asked why he watched an animated video showing a similar thing, Madsen began to compare it to watching films like Seven and Kill Bill. Psychological evaluations conducted in the run- up to his trial described Madsen as a “polymorphic pervert”. The psychologists who evaluated Madsen came to the conclusion that he was a “highly untrustworthy” and emotionally impaired manipulator with narcissistic tendencies, and that he had a lack of empathy or a conscience. Madsen’s defence team countered, arguing that the prosecution could not prove exactly how Kim Wall had died, and therefore they were missing a crucial component in their arguments and the case against their client.
During the fourth day of the trial, on what should have been Kim’s 31st birthday, witnesses came forward, many choosing to give evidence behind a screen. A female witness claimed that, although she had not had a physical relationship with Madsen, their conversations focused on sex and, more importantly, the role of pain and death in sexual arousal. They discussed the most pleasurable way to die, snuff movies, the ability to be a caring father and a “loving psychopath” and increasingly wilder fantasies. At one point Madsen suggested she could photograph an orgy he had planned. The prosecution also read evidence to the
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The submarine sinks in Køge Bay. Locals rescue Madsen from the water and take him to Dragør Harbour. Madsen claims that technical problems caused the sub to sink but that no one was harmed. Kim is nowhere to be found. Kim boards Madsen’s famous private...
Deputy Assistant Commissioner Jens Moeller announced tha t ing Madsen admitted to dismember and Kim’s body, after her headless 11 punctured tor so w ashed ashore days after she disa ppeared top While searching the shorelines and waters where Kim was...
Peter Madsen, seen here alongside his homemade sub , had searc hed “metal pipe” 220 times on his computer , looking for the metal tha t w ould ev entually be used to w eigh do wn Kim’ s sev ered limbs in plastic ba gs discarded in the sea Right...
across 30- year- old Kim had reported Cuba the w orld, visiting places lik e and North K orea. She sur veyed and post- war tour ism in Sr i Lanka it w as explored v oodoo in Haiti, but ine a “quic k tr ip” in Madsen’ s submar that cost her her lif...
Right The 22- year- old Tokyo- born student vanished when travelling in Scandinavia and Germany more than 30 years ago