Appeal verdict of Danish inventor who killed journalist postponed after judge collapses
Peter Madsen was given life sentence for murdering then chopping up ex-SCMP reporter Kim Wall, but his lawyer insists the punishment is ‘disproportionate’
A Danish court on Friday postponed its verdict on an appeal by Peter Madsen, who is trying to get a reduced sentence for the 2017 murder of a Swedish journalist on board his home-made submarine, after a judge collapsed in the courtroom.
The lay judge, one of two serving along with three professional judges, fell ill soon after the prosecutor began presenting his final arguments in the Copenhagen appeal court.
The judge, whose identity was not disclosed, was treated by paramedics and whisked away by ambulance. The court said later his life was not in danger.
The court had been due to present its verdict on Madsen’s sentence later on Friday. Proceedings were cancelled for the day and it was not immediately known when the trial would resume.
Madsen, 47, appealed his life sentence but not the guilty verdict handed down by the Copenhagen District Court on April 25 for the murder of 30-year-old Swedish journalist Kim Wall, chopping up her corpse and throwing her body parts into the sea last year.
He claims her death was an accident.
In the appeals trial, which opened on September 5, Madsen’s lawyer Betina Hald Engmark argued the life sentence was “disproportionate”.
In Danish jurisprudence, life sentences are rarely handed down for a single killing. In the past 10 years, only three people have received such sentences.
Prosecutor Kristian Kirk meanwhile insisted the sentence was justified, given the grisly nature of the murder and Madsen’s meticulous planning.
“We are talking about exceptional brutality,” Kirk told the court before the proceedings were suspended. “This was not a spontaneous act. It had been planned for a while and the only thing that was missing was a victim.”
In the lower court trial, it emerged that Madsen had contacted several women to invite them out on his submarine before he finally called Wall.
On August 10, 2017, the award-winning reporter boarded the submarine with the eccentric and self-taught engineer – a minor celebrity in Denmark – to interview him for an article she was writing.
Wall’s boyfriend reported her missing when she failed to return home that night.
Her dismembered body parts were found on the seabed, weighed down in plastic bags.
Madsen changed his version of events several times, but ultimately told the lower court that Wall died when the air pressure suddenly dropped and toxic fumes filled his vessel while he was up on deck.
An autopsy report concluded that she probably died as a result of suffocation or having her throat slit, but the decomposed state of her body meant examiners could not determine an exact cause of death.
Fourteen stab wounds and piercings were also found in and around her genital area.
Madsen had argued that he stabbed her because he wanted to prevent gases from building up inside her torso that would prevent it from sinking to the seabed.
Psychiatrists who evaluated Madsen – who described himself to friends as “a psychopath, but a loving one” – found him to be “a pathological liar” who poses “a danger to others” and who was likely to be a repeat offender.
The grisly case made headlines worldwide, all the more shocking as it took place in one of the safest countries in the world.
A life sentence in Denmark averages around 16 years. Only 25 inmates in Denmark are currently serving life sentences.
After 12 years behind bars, an inmate with a life sentence can ask to be paroled, but the justice system can decide to keep them behind bars as long as they are considered a danger to society.
Wall worked as an editorial intern and reporter in Hong Kong for the South China Morning Post from June to September in 2013, covering news about China for the national desk. Her work also appeared in The Guardian and The New York Times.