On Monday, reporters were allowed to hear Peter Madsen’s version of the events that led to the death of the journalist Kim Wall aboard crowdfunded submarine, the UC3 Nautilus. At a court hearing in Copenhagen, Madsen claimed that Wall was accidentally struck on the head by a heavy hatch and he maintains that he is innocent of manslaughter.
Since August 11th, Wall’s death has been shrouded in mystery and Copenhagen police have held details secret. Today, Madsen appeared at a pre-trial custody hearing to determine if he should remain imprisoned. The 46-year-old has been detained on suspicion of involuntary manslaughter for the last four weeks as more evidence has been collected. The Copenhagen City Council ruled that some of the day’s proceedings could be made public with the exception of the autopsy report.
A prosecutor read Madsen’s version of the events of August 10th out loud in the courtroom before the defense and prosecution asked him questions. Madsen denied the charges of manslaughter and mutilation of a dead body but admitted to “irregular conduct with a corpse” according to Swedish outlet The Local. According to his statement, Wall died around 10pm on August 10th when a hatch that weighs around 150 pounds fell on her head. From the statement:
It is necessary to go up on the bridge to steer the submarine. He [Madsen] lifted the hatch, and Kim was down inside the submarine, and they agreed that she should come up too. He suddenly slipped on the platform, and the hatch fell down and hit Kim.
“Kim was severely injured,” he told the court. “There was a pool of blood where she landed.” He claims that he found no pulse when he touched her neck. At this point, he says that he became suicidal and “thought a fitting end for Peter Madsen would be on board the Nautilus.” The timeline after this point is unclear, but Madsen did say that he went to sleep at one point.
He eventually decided that he should bury Wall at sea. “I didn’t want a dead body in my submarine,” he said and added, “in my shock, I thought it was the right thing to do.” Wall’s torso was found washed ashore but it was missing its head and limbs. Madsen categorically denied mutilating her body saying, “I put a rope around her feet to drag her out.” In the process, her socks and stockings came off. According to The Guardian, he said that he attached a metal weight around her waist and threw her overboard without looking.
Madsen said that he sailed to the Öresund intending to commit suicide but he changed his mind at the last minute. Instead, he deliberately sank the sub by opening its valves. According to Danish outlet DR, he said that he had nothing to hide, he simply didn’t feel that anyone would want to sail in the vessel again because “it had traces of Kim’s death in it.”
CBS News reports that the prosecution claimed Madsen keeps changing his story as more evidence is found. And indeed, after he was first rescued, Madsen claimed that he had dropped Wall on the shore of Copenhagen Bay the previous night. His claim that he has no idea why Wall’s torso was found without its head or limbs is especially perplexing. Police believe that a saw was used to cut up the body and they say that it had multiple stab wounds to prevent a buildup of air that might result in it floating to the top. Madsen denied having a saw onboard the vessel.
No motive for the intentional murder of Wall has been discussed, but prosecutors seem to be attempting to draw out some sort of sexual link. Statements were read from unidentified parties that described “Madsen’s alleged taste for violent pornography and sadomasochistic sex,” according to The Guardian. Madsen confirmed that he had previously had sex on the submarine but did not have a sexual relationship with Wall.
He has previously rejected a voluntary psychological examination, but the court ordered one today. “I find there is reasonable suspicion that the detainee is guilty of murder,” the judge announced. The charge would be significantly stronger than negligent manslaughter and he could face life in prison. For now, he’s been ordered to spend four more weeks in detention.
The story has been of particular fascination to the public in Denmark where Madsen is a cult figure of some fame. As a co-founder of the crowdfunded collective Copenhagen Suborbitals, he has made headlines in the past for his failed efforts to fly a human in a one-man rocket to suborbital space. The UC3 Nautilus submarine was a project that he began with the collective before they had a falling out and he subsequently took sole-ownership of the vessel years later.
Wall was a freelance journalist who was born in Sweden and lived a nomadic life covering stories around the world for outlets like The New York Times, The Guardian and The Atlantic. Her boyfriend told police that she was writing a feature on Madsen and the last time he saw her was when she boarded the Nautilus. Madsen claimed in court on Monday that August 10th was the first time he met her.
His attorney reportedly told the court, “If my client had called the authorities immediately, we [would] not be sitting here today. He should have done that.”