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Crime

Danish inventor Peter Madsen sentenced to life in prison for killing journalist Kim Wall

Peter Madsen invited Swedish reporter onto his home-made submarine, where she was sexually assaulted, killed and dismembered

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 25 April, 2018, 7:54pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 25 April, 2018, 10:27pm

A Copenhagen court on Wednesday found Danish inventor Peter Madsen guilty of the premeditated murder and sexual assault of Swedish journalist Kim Wall on his home-made submarine last year, handing him a life sentence.

Judge Anette Burkoe said she and the two jurors agreed Wall’s death was murder, saying Madsen had not given “a trustworthy” explanation.

Madsen stood quietly listening as the judge read out the verdict.

He had admitted chopping up the 30-year-old’s body and throwing her remains overboard in waters off Copenhagen, but claimed her death was accidental.

The decision followed 11 days of hearings that revealed the inventor’s dark sexual fantasies involving beheaded and tortured women.

Prosecutors, who accuse the eccentric inventor of premeditated murder, aggravated sexual assault and desecrating a corpse, had called for a life sentence, which in Denmark averages around 16 years.

Prosecutor Jakob Buch-Jepsen said Madsen killed Wall, 30, as part of a macabre sexual fantasy and “tried to create the perfect crime”.

Madsen, however, said the freelancer who boarded his self-built submarine on August 10 to interview him died in an accident when the air pressure suddenly dropped and toxic fumes filled his vessel. 

“I’m really, really sorry for what happened,” he told the court after the two sides presented their closing arguments on Monday.

Described by psychiatrists as a “perverse polymorph” with “psychopathic traits” who runs a “high risk” of being a repeat offender, Madsen is a semi-celebrity in Denmark known for his ambitious development of rockets and amateur space travel. 

The 47-year-old described himself to friends as “a psychopath, but a loving one”.

One witness called by the defence told the court he was a “kind, empathetic, passionate man who was ready to listen”.

But Buch-Jepsen wrapped up his case by urging the court to use “common sense” and convict Madsen of premeditated murder.

Madsen “is a lie from A to Z”.

“It’s been shown by the psychiatric evaluation which says the accused is a pathological liar” and “a danger to others.”  

“He’ll do it again,” the psychiatric evaluation concluded. 

Throughout the trial, Madsen’s defence team has rejected witness testimony presented by the prosecution. Defence lawyer Betina Hald Engmark has seized on the lack of tangible evidence proving her client’s guilt.

“The prosecution has presented a very interesting story … but one devoid of any facts,” she stressed in her closing arguments.

Wall’s remains were retrieved from waters off Copenhagen in the weeks following her death.

The autopsy concluded she probably died of suffocation or a slit throat after she was sexually abused, but could not confirm the exact cause of death.

The coroner also found blood accumulation in her body that suggested her injuries were sustained while she was still alive, as well as a drop of her blood on Madsen’s clothes, which would indicate that her blood splattered – which only occurs before death. 

Fourteen stab wounds and piercings were observed in and around her genital area. 

The court was also shown videos and animated films found on the hard drive of Madsen’s computer, in which women were impaled, hanged and decapitated.

“It is not of a sexual nature. This is about strong emotions. I watch these videos to cry and to feel emotions,” he told the court.

Madsen has changed his version of events several times since his arrest the day after Wall boarded his submarine to interview him.

He initially claimed he had dropped Wall off on dry land in Copenhagen on the night of August 10, 2017, but he later changed his story, claiming that a heavy hatch door had fallen on her head and killed her. 

When the autopsy later revealed there was no blunt trauma to Wall’s skull, he said she died after a sudden drop in pressure caused toxic fumes to fill the vessel while he was up on deck.

He has admitted cutting off the journalist’s head, arms and legs, and stuffing the body parts into plastic bags weighed down with metal pipes before tossing them into the sea.

To support the charge of premeditated murder, the prosecution said Madsen had taken a number of unnecessary objects on board the submarine, including a saw, plastic luggage strips and a very long, sharpened screwdriver.

It also noted that on the night before Wall boarded his vessel, he googled “beheaded girl agony”, which Madsen said was a “pure coincidence”.

Wall worked as an editorial intern and reporter in Hong Kong for the South China Morning Post from June to September, 2013, covering news about China for the national desk.

She criss-crossed the globe in search of unique stories and later submitted articles about Chinese feminists rising up against US President Donald Trump’s “misogyny” and Cubans using hard drives to access foreign culture. 

Wall was remembered by her Post colleagues as cheerful, dedicated and daring. 

Additional reporting by Associated Press