Peter Madsen sentences to life for murdering journalist Kim Wall

Danish inventor Peter Madsen was handed down a life sentence, which typically lasts 16 years in Denmark, for the premeditated murder and sexual assault of the Swedish journalist last year

Kim Wall
Kim Wall

Danish inventor and engineer, Peter Madsen has been sentences to life in prison for the premeditated murder and sexual assault of the Swedish journalist Kim Wall in August last year.

Prosecutors said Madsen had planned to kill Wall, 30, either by suffocating her or cutting her throat.

Her dismembered remains were found by Danish police at sea on 21 August last year, 11 days after she interviewed him on board his homemade vessel.

Madsen, 47, was sentenced on Wednesday at a court in Copenhagen.

Judge Anette Burkø and two jurors found Peter Madsen, 47, guilty of all three of the main charges of premeditated murder, aggravated sexual assault and desecrating a corpse.

“The court has been unanimous in coming to this result,” Burkø said. “This is a cynical and pre-planned sexual assault of a particularly brutal nature on a random women who, in connection with her journalistic work, accepted an invitation for a sailing trip on the accused’s submarine.”

Peter Madsen
Peter Madsen

The 47-year-old sat motionless with his eyes closed and his head bowed as the verdict was delivered, a contrast to his behaviour in the trial, when he had looked constantly around the courtroom.

Over the course of the 11-day trial, spread over seven weeks, prosecutors presented their case in often horrific detail. They called for a life sentence, which in Denmark averages around 16 years and is very rarely handed down for the murder of a single person.

In his final arguments on Monday, prosecutor Jakob Buch-Jepsen argued that Madsen had tortured and then murdered Wall to fulfill his violent sexual fantasies, in a case “so terrible and disgusting that you as a prosecutor have no words to describe it”.

He called on Burkø and the two lay jurors to disregard Madsen’s own account, saying he had changed his story so many times that credibility was “not only low, it is non-existent”.

During the trial, the court heard from two women to whom Madsen had confessed that he might be a psychopath, a judgment backed up by a forensic psychiatric report which described Madsen as a “perverse polymorph” with “psychopathic traits”.

When he was arrested he had flecks of Wall’s blood on his nostrils, scratches on his forearms, and traces of semen in his underpants.

This was the last photograph of Kim Wall on Peter Madsen's submarine
This was the last photograph of Kim Wall on Peter Madsen's submarine

What happened?

Wall went missing after boarding Madsen's homemade submarine while she was researching a story about Madsen’s venture. She was last seen on the evening of 10 August as she departed with him on his self-built 40-tonne submarine, UC3 Nautilus, into waters off Copenhagen.

Her boyfriend raised the alarm the next day when she did not return from the trip. Madsen was rescued at sea after his submarine sank the same day. Police believe he deliberately scuttled the vessel.

Wall's mutilated torso was spotted by a passing cyclist on 21 August but her head, legs and clothing, placed in weighted-down bags, were not discovered by police divers until 6 October.

After his arrest, Madsen gave differing accounts of what had happened on board his submarine.

The court heard how the injuries inflicted on Wall reflected the content of more than 40 violent video clips found on Madsen’s laptop.

Wall was 30 when she died. The journalist had reported from all over the world for Time magazine, the New York Times, and the Guardian, among others. Her boyfriend told the court that she was “incredibly ambitious” and “amazingly curious”.

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