Life term sought for Danish submariner over dead journalist

Peter Madsen, the Danish self-taught inventor, charged with murdering and dismembering Swedish journalist Kim Wall, was arrested on August 11 after he was rescued at sea as his submarine sank -- intentionally downed, according to prosecutors

Copenhagen (AFP) – Danish prosecutors on Monday called for a life sentence for submarine builder Peter Madsen who is on trial for the gruesome murder of Swedish journalist Kim Wall aboard his vessel last year, mutilating her corpse and throwing her body parts in the sea. 

The verdict is expected on Wednesday at the earliest in the “bestial” case which stunned the nation, with a submarine as the crime scene and a well-known eccentric figure in Denmark in the dock for the murder of a 30-year-old freelance journalist who wanted to interview him for a story.  

Madsen, 47 — who is accused of premeditated murder, aggravated sexual assault and desecrating a corpse — has repeatedly changed his version of events since his arrest last August, a day after Wall boarded his submarine.

He has since admitted dismembering the body and tossing the parts into the sea — all of which were recovered — but denies killing Wall.

Prosecutor Jacob Buch-Jepsen’s final arguments, followed by defence lawyer Betina Hald Engmark’s pleading, conclude 11 days of hearings at the Copenhagen district court that unveiled Madsen’s macabre fantasies about violent sex and tortured, decapitated women. 

Madsen is a “perverse polymorph” with “psychopathic traits” who has a “high risk” of repeating offences, psychiatrists told the court.

He “tried to create the perfect crime,” the prosecutor said in his closing remarks, referring to a text message Madsen had sent his girlfriend shortly before. 

“There cannot be any doubt about guilt in this case,” Jepsen said.

Rejecting defence arguments of a lack of physical evidence against Madsen, the prosecutor urged the court members  — a professional judge and two jurors — to use “common sense” and find him guilty. 

The prosecution says Madsen tortured and murdered Wall as part of a sexual fantasy.

The court was shown some of Madsen’s more than 40 video clips, including animated and so-called snuff films of women being impaled, hanged and beheaded on his laptop.

– ‘Mechanical asphyxia’ –

Madsen 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 an autopsy report later revealed no blunt trauma to Wall’s skull, he said she died from toxic fumes that filled the vessel after a sudden drop in pressure while he was up on deck.

Under cross-examination, coroner Christina Jacobsen admitted she could not totally exclude the possibility of death by toxic fumes, because of the torso’s decomposed state after being submerged for 10 days.

Madsen 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 as he contemplated suicide.

A cyclist found Wall’s torso floating in Koge Bay, off Copenhagen, 10 days after her disappearance.

The rest of her remains were recovered over the course of the next few weeks from waters off the Danish capital.

An autopsy report said Wall most likely died after being strangled or having her throat slit, after being sexually abused.

Fourteen stab wounds and piercings were found in her genital area.

While the cause of death is not absolutely certain, Wall’s lungs have signs of “mechanical asphyxia” caused by suffocation or slitting of the throat. 

The court heard Madsen had brought a number of objects on board the submarine including a saw, plastic luggage strips and a very long, sharpened screwdriver.

– ‘Pure coincidence’-

Wall’s arms also had marks which matched straps found inside the submarine which were used to tie her up, the prosecution said. 

Several hours before Wall boarded the submarine on August 10, he Googled the words “beheaded girl agony” — something Madsen says was “pure coincidence”.

Madsen has insisted he stabbed Wall’s genital area to prevent gases from building up inside the body after death, which would have made it float to the water’s surface.

The inventor said he did not want her body found to spare her loved ones the details of a gruesome death by toxic fume inhalation.

He was arrested on August 11 after he was rescued at sea as his submarine sank — intentionally downed, according to prosecutors.

A submarine expert who inspected the Nautilus testified finding no soot in the vessel’s air filters, saying that would be the case if Madsen’s fumes scenario were true, although another expert called by the defence disagreed.