Kim Wall: What we know about Danish submarine death

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Kim Wall on board Peter Madsen's submarine in Copenhagen harbour on 10 August 2017Image source, Peter Thompson/AFP/Getty Images
Image caption,
Kim Wall was last seen in the conning tower of Peter Madsen's submarine on the evening of 10 August

Kim Wall was an established, freelance journalist who had travelled the world from her home in Sweden.

She had been chasing an interview with Danish inventor Peter Madsen for several months and had little hesitation in taking up his invitation for a trip on his homemade submarine off Copenhagen on a sunny evening last summer.

It was 19:00 on 10 August when she boarded the UC3 Nautilus and in the final photos taken from a passing ship some 90 minutes later she was smiling and looked relaxed in the sub's conning tower.

She was about to move to Beijing in China with her Danish partner, Ole, and this was to be her final story before leaving. The 40-tonne submarine that the inventor had built in 2008 was, after all, not far from Ole's flat in Refshaleoen, a harbour area of the capital.

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Kim Wall's death - what we know so far

Peter Madsen was a "semi-celebrity" in Denmark. And it was not his submarine that Ms Wall was interested in, but his ambition to build a rocket to launch into space.

Kim Wall, 30, had previously reported from North Korea, the South Pacific, Uganda and Haiti, writing for the New York Times, the Guardian, Vice and the South China Morning Post. This would be a relatively straightforward piece, even if it did mean missing the couple's going-away party.

"I'm still alive btw," she texted her partner. "But I'm going down now. I love you! He brought coffee and cookies tho."

It was the last message she sent from the vessel. Ole repeatedly texted back and raised the alarm after midnight.

Her mutilated torso was discovered on a beach by a passing cyclist on 21 August. Her head, legs and clothing were found by police divers on 6 October.

What happened to Kim Wall?

What happened that night in the Oresund strait between Denmark and Sweden became an international cause celebre, with Peter Madsen ultimately going on trial and being convicted of premeditated murder and aggravated sexual assault.

Although his sub was sighted by a merchant ship to the north-west of the Oresund bridge at about midnight, it had no satellite tracking and authorities were unable to contact Peter Madsen until the morning.

It was finally spotted from a lighthouse at 10:30 on 11 August. A rescue helicopter radioed Madsen and then looked on as the submarine sank within 30 seconds. Madsen was pulled to safety by four people out fishing and taken to the port of Dragor, where he was met by a group of reporters and described the final moments of the sub, blaming its sinking on the ballast tank.

Police would later say "the sinking of the submarine was allegedly a consequence of a deliberate act".

There was no sign of Kim Wall. It took almost a fortnight for the journalist's death to be confirmed.

Police said a torso found by a cyclist on the shore of Klydesoen to the south of Copenhagen was hers and that her arms, legs and head had been "removed as a result of deliberate cutting".

Several weeks later, police divers found the rest of her remains about 1km (0.6 miles) from where her torso had been discovered, in Koge Bay. Police said they were in bags that had been weighed down with car pipes and metal pieces.

What did Peter Madsen say about that night?

It was on 11 August that Peter Madsen gave his first of three versions of what happened to her. It was these shifting and unconvincing explanations that helped convict him.

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Mr Madsen was filmed by a Danish TV crew as he was escorted by police after his rescue

Madsen said he had dropped her off at about 22:30 the night before near the Halvandet restaurant on the northern tip of Refshaleoen and had not seen her since. Restaurant owner Bo Petersen said the area was well covered by CCTV and he handed the video footage to police.

After a judicial hearing on 12 August, police revealed Peter Madsen had given them a new account of events, which finally emerged on 21 August. Madsen had told them there had been a "terrible accident" on board. Ms Wall had been accidentally hit on the head by the submarine's 70kg (150lb) hatch. He had then dumped her body somewhere in Koge Bay, about 50km (30 miles) south of Copenhagen.

Image source, EPA
Image caption,
Ms Wall's blood was found in the submarine

Peter Madsen has been in police custody ever since 12 August. His lawyer Betina Hald Engmark said at the time that her client was relieved to have been able to shed more light on what had happened but it was not an admission of wrongdoing.

Then, on 30 October, police said the inventor had changed his story and told them she died on board of carbon monoxide poisoning while he was up on deck. He also admitted dismembering her body, which he had previously denied.

This was similar to the account he gave his trial in March 2018.

The air pressure on board the submarine had suddenly plummeted while he was on the deck, he explained, and Kim Wall was in the engine room. The sub had filled with exhaust fumes and he had been unable to get back in.

"When I finally manage to open the hatch, a warm cloud hits my face. I find her lifeless on the floor, and I squat next to her and try to wake her up, slapping her cheeks," he said.

After trying for almost an hour to push her body out of the submarine, he said he mutilated her.

Image source, AFP/Ritzau Scanpix
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Peter Madsen, drawn here in a court sketch, has maintained that Kim Wall died in an accident on board the submarine

Peter Madsen always denied murder and aggravated sexual assault, but admitted dismembering Kim Wall's body and disposing of it at sea. He told his trial he had hidden the truth out of respect for the victim's family.

What do prosecutors say happened?

Prosecutors rejected Peter Madsen's account, describing it as a lie aimed at saving his skin. His defence lawyer argued their story was not backed up by real evidence.

Image source, PETER THOMPSON
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This is the last known picture of the sub taken before Kim Wall's disappearance at 20:30 on 10 August

The prosecution painted a picture of a man who enjoyed watching videos of women being killed or tortured which were found on his workshop computer. Peter Madsen had watched a beheading video shortly before he had taken Kim Wall out in the submarine, they said. It had been found by police on a back-up profile of his iPhone.

During the trial, prosecutor Jakob Buch-Jepsen said it was unclear how Kim Wall had died, but it was clearly intentional and with a sexual motive. Madsen had already asked other women to join him on the sub that week but no-one else had come, it was said.

The prosecution argued that a screwdriver, a saw, and metal piping were taken on board the submarine by Madsen for the first time on 10 August as part of a premeditated murder plan to stab his victim, mutilate her and then dispose of her body.

A scientist from the Danish Technological Institute told the court that Peter Madsen's argument that Kim Wall died of exhaust fumes was possible, but only if the temperature on board had risen very high.

A police witness told the court there had been no sign of exhaust fumes.

Madsen was given a life sentence and told by the judge that Kim Wall's murder was cynical and planned.