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Danish Court Sentences Inventor To Life For Woman's Murder In 'Submarine Case'

The submarine UC3 Nautilus of Danish inventor Peter Madsen sits in Copenhagen, Denmark. A court has sentenced Madsen to life in prison over the murder of journalist Kim Wall inside the craft.
Dorothee Thiesing

A Copenhagen court has sentenced eccentric inventor Peter Madsen to life in prison over the murder of Kim Wall, a journalist who was killed after joining Madsen on his submarine last August. Parts of Wall's body were recovered after Madsen claimed he "buried her at sea."

The case has captivated Denmark and drawn international headlines, with its shocking and gruesome details, and Madsen's wildly shifting explanations for what happened.

The submarine had left a dock in Copenhagen's harbor on Aug. 10, 2017. But one day later, the sub sank. Madsen was rescued; he initially told police he had let Wall off of the sub after just a few hours. But it was also noted that he had fresh scratches on both arms. No sign of Wall was found until some of her remains washed ashore. After the submarine was recovered and brought on land, blood in the craft was matched to Wall's DNA.

The discovery of Wall's body prompted Madsen to say that a horrible accident killed Wall — but Danish authorities were skeptical of that story.

Madsen claimed that after the Swedish journalist accompanied him on the UC3 Nautilus for a planned profile, she "died when a heavy hatch escaped his grip and fell shut on her head," as NPR's Colin Dwyer reported.

But, as reporter Sidsel Overgaard notes for NPR:

"When Wall's head was found without signs of impact, Madsen changed his story again to say that she had been asphyxiated by toxic fumes after being trapped in the submarine's hold. He said he'd had to dismember her body in order to get it above deck.

"Prosecutors have said they do not know exactly how Wall did die, but that the murder seemed to be premeditated judging from the range of unusual instruments found on board. Much of the case against Madsen was built on his untrustworthiness, a psychological evaluation that found him narcissistic and lacking in empathy, and torture videos found on his computer."

Madsen later admitted to dismembering Wall's body, reportedly after investigators found those grisly videos on his computer.

In January, prosecutors in Copenhagen announced that in addition to a homicide charge, Madsen would face accusations that included "indecent handling of a corpse, and other sexual relations than intercourse with the female Swedish journalist, Kim Wall."

Wall's death brought an outpouring of tributes and mourning for the 30-year-old journalist, who had published her work in outlets such as The New York Times, The Guardian, Harper's Magazine and The Atlantic.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.
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