This is The Evidence Locker.
Our cases have been researched using open source and archive materials. It deals with true crimes and real people. Each episode is produced with the utmost respect to the victims, their families and loved ones.
It was a late summer morning in August 2017 when a couple of friends went out on the Copenhagen Harbour in Denmark for a day of fishing.
They went toward Køge Bay, about 4 miles south of Copenhagen when they spotted something in the water. It was the tower of a submarine, with a man emerging from it. They called out to the man and asked if he was okay. The man said that he was, and that he had to fix something in his submarine. He disappeared for a short while, going back into the submarine, then he returned. As soon as he was on the tower again, he was forced to throw himself into the water - as the submarine began to sink.
The men on the fishing boat jumped into action and pulled the man out of the water.
The man was Peter Madsen – a well-known Danish inventor-slash-entrepreneur (or as he calls himself: an “inventrepreneur”) who was obsessed with rockets and building submarines. Journalists waited at Dragør Harbour as Madsen returned to dry land. He gave cameras a thumbs up and said he was sad his submarine sank, but he was happy to be OK.
But this occasion was far from happy. An ominous silence fell as he failed to mention the passenger who was with him on his submarine. Seventeen hours before, when Madsen set sail from Refshale Island, he was not alone. With him, was Swedish journalist Kim Wall about to start an interview with the eccentric Danish inventor.
But on Friday morning, August 11th 2017, Madsen’s midget submarine was at the bottom of the ocean and there was no sign of Kim Wall.
Kim Isabel Fredrika Wall was born in Trelleborg on the 23rd of March 1987. Trelleborg is Sweden’s southernmost city, about 45mins from Copenhagen in Denmark by train. Kim’s mother Ingrid was a journalist and her father, Joachim a photographer. She had a younger brother, Tom, and they grew up in a happy home. The family travelled together when Kim’s parents had assignments and Kim knew the world was a big place with countless stories. It was no surprise that Kim wanted to follow in her parents’ footsteps and become a multimedia journalist herself.
Kim received her bachelor’s degree from Sorbonne University in Paris and then the London School of Economics. She then went further and obtained a dual master’s degree in journalism and international relations from Columbia University in New York. She was intelligent and well-educated but didn’t feel the need to prove it. Her humility made her well-liked by everyone who met her.
At 30 years of age, Kim’s resume was impressive to say the least. She worked for the Delegation of the EU to India, a reporter for The Swedish Embassy in Australia and for South China Morning Post in Hong Kong. Her work was published in NY Times, Time Magazine, The Guardian, Vice and Slate – to mention a few.
She found stories in Uganda, Cuba and even North Korea and focussed on what she called “undercurrents of rebellion”. For instance, she would show young North Korean girls how to apply nail polish. Kim had a sensitive way of finding stories and listening to the people who told them. She was a keen photographer and her photos told as much of the story as her the words did.
Fellow journalists comment on her childlike curiosity in looking for stories, but there was so much more to Kim. She was bright and empathetic and when others might give up on a story, she would not. People felt comfortable talking to Kim, confiding in her. As a journalist she wasn’t only book-smart, but also had a charm about her, which put people at ease.
As a friend, Kim was the one who always knew where the best spots were to meet for a coffee or a drink. Because Kim travelled a lot, her family, friends and colleagues loved it when she would appear out of the blue, asking to meet for coffee. She regaled everyone with stories of her latest adventures and assignments.
In March 2016 Kim was awarded the Hansel Mieth Prize for Best Digital Reportage for “Exodus” – a multimedia report on climate change and nuclear weapons testing in the Marshall Islands. This article was published by the German newspaper, Süddeutsche Zeitung.
When working on this assignment, Kim said:
“This is exactly the kind of story I like to do – where I can combine on-the-ground journalism with a foreign policy perspective.”
Just before Christmas of 2015, during a time when Kim lived and worked in Copenhagen, she met a designer called Ole Stobbe. They were friends for a while, but once they realised they were in love, they were inseparable. They moved in together in Refshaleøen (or Refshale Island), a once-was shipyard and industrial area. Today it is a trendy community, popular with people working in the creative industry. Kim loved living in the Refshale Island area and jokingly referred to it as a ‘vegan squatter collective”.
It is also on Refshale Island where Peter Madsen’s Rocket Madsen Space Lab is located. The old assembly building of the shipyard was made into a workshop where rockets were built.
In the summer of 2017, life was as good as it could get for Kim. She was living with the love of her life in Copenhagen while establishing herself as a freelance journalist. Kim and Ole were about to start a new chapter of their lives together, in Beijing. With Madsen’s workshop in her backyard, she decided to pursue a story about Two Danish Space Programs – A Modern Space Race in Microscopic View for US online and printed magazine Wired.
She tried to convince 46-year-old Madsen to let her interview him – she tried to contact him a couple of times as early as March – but she couldn’t pin him down. The eccentric Madsen would have been the ideal subject for an interview. He had the ambition to be the first amateur space traveller to ride into space in a homemade rocket. But it was more than a far-fetched dream: Madsen was actively involved in designing and building the space craft. He was also a submarine enthusiast who had built three submarines in his own workshop in right there on Refshale Island.
Peter Madsen was born in 1971 to Annie and Carl Madsen. Carl was 30 years older than Annie and the marriage didn’t work out. The couple divorced when Peter was six years old and along with his half-siblings from his mom’s previous marriage, Peter lived with Annie. In his teens, he returned to his dad, who was a violent authoritarian. But father and son had one thing in common: an intense interest in rockets.
In high school, Peter Madsen was a bit of a nerd who didn’t have many – or any friends. But he didn’t seem to mind, he was obsessively designing and inventing his first rocket, which he launched when he was only 15 years old. He built the rocket in his father’s workshop. It was just over 3 ft (or one metre) tall and shot up to 330 ft (or 100m) before crashing. No one was harmed and Madsen couldn’t wait to start work on his next rocket.
When Madsen was 18, his father died. He had finished high school and started his journey of self-education. He was never formally trained but took courses in welding and engineering. He joined the Danish Amateur Rocket Club, but he was not overly popular within the club. Members would joke: “Saying his name would start the fire sprinkler system.”
Madsen completed construction on his first submarine, called UC1 Freya in 2002, followed by the UC2 Kara in 2005. Freya was eventually sunk as an artificial reef near Copenhagen and Kraka is living out her days on display in the Danish Museum of Science and Technology.
But as they say: third time’s a charm, and Madsen completed his third submarine, UC3 Nautilus in 2008. Crowdfunding injected 200 000 USD into the project which was to become the largest privately built submarine in the world.
At 60ft or 18m and weighing 40 tonnes, the diesel-electric powered Nautilus could go as deep as 1542ft (or 470m). The UC3 Nautilus could be crewed by up to eight people and moved at a speed of five to six knots. It could also be operated by a single person.
Nautilus was mainly taken out to sea for private use or in support of Madsen’s other projects. In 2010 the submarine pushed the launch platform Sputnik from Copenhagen to the launch site near Nexø, almost 130 nautical miles east.
Ubisoft game developers also spent some time aboard the Nautilus to find inspiration for the submarine computer game Silent Hunter 5: Battle of the Atlantic.
In 2011 Madsen married. His wife wants to remain anonymous and has distanced herself from Madsen. What is known, is that his wife worked in the film industry and sometimes helped in Madsen’s workshop. They had an open marriage: frequently engaging in sexual fetish parties. It was not uncommon for Madsen to have sex with other women aboard his submarine, the Nautilus.
In this time, Madsen’s attention had shifted focus to spaceflight. However, he was adamant to keep his submarine close. There were many ownership disputes between Madsen and the board of the Nautilus submarine association. Madsen sent text messages to members of the board saying:
"There is a curse on Nautilus. That curse is me. There will never be peace on Nautilus as long as I exist. You cannot lift that curse legally. Do not throw more blood into that boat.”
The association made the decision to transfer ownership to Madsen and stepped away from the inventor.
Madsen had a fair amount of press interest at this time. A documentary made for Austrian television features him as the mastermind behind Copenhagen Suborbitals. Journalist Thomas Djursing published a biography about the inventor in 2014. Madsen also wrote a blog about the development of his rockets for the Danish publication Ingeniøren or “The Engineer”.
For journalist Kim Wall, an interview with Madsen would be the best way to end her professional chapter in Copenhagen. But Kim and Ole were supposed to leave for Beijing by the 16th of August, so Kim had many things to do. Pinning down Peter Madsen for an interview wasn’t a priority anymore.
Thursday night August 10th was the night of Kim and Ole’s going away party, on Refshale Island, where they lived – just a short distance from Madsen’s workshop. Late in the afternoon, Kim received a text message from Peter Madsen stating he was ready to be interviewed. She went to his workshop which was near her home and started the interview. Madsen cut it short and said that they could finish their chat on that same evening on his homemade submarine. She could come over for a cup of tea at 7pm.
This was terribly bad timing and Kim wasn’t about to run out the door. She discussed the situation with her boyfriend and then decided she would leave the party to go and interview Madsen – she estimated the interview won’t take longer than 2 hours, then she would return to the party. On a whim, Kim asked her boyfriend, Ole, if he wanted to go with her. He was tempted to but decided to let her do her interview while he would stay behind with the ten guests and keep the party alive till she returned. Kim was a bit nervous about going under water in the homemade submarine, but she was looking forward to completing her interview with Peter Madsen.
Kim went down to the dock at Refshale harbour, where the submarine was moored and boarded the U3 Nautilus. Ole was tending a bonfire at their home when a friend told him to look: from where he was standing he could see Madsen’s submarine floating past on the harbour with Kim standing on the conning tower, waving goodbye. Ole and their friends took photos and waved back. On the photos, Kim was smiling and waving. Madsen was a man on a mission.
Later, Ole and his friends moved the going-away party to a bar. It wasn’t the same without Kim, but they knew she’d be back soon. Just then, Ole received a text message from Kim:
“I’m still alive by the way,” she wrote. “But going down now!”
“I love you!!!!!!”
A minute later, at 8:16pm – another text came through:
“He brought coffee and cookies tho.”
The last activity on Kim’s phone was noted as an internet search at 8:29pm. An hour later a cruise ship reported a submarine leaving Copenhagen Harbour to the Danish military. At 10:30pm, the submarine was sighted by Drøgden lighthouse near the bay of Amager, south of Copenhagen.
By this time, Kim was supposed to have been back at her and Ole’s party, but she was still at her interview with Peter Madsen. Just before midnight, a freight vessel spotted the Nautilus, but no lights were on.
A concerned Ole Stobbe tried to call Kim, but she didn’t answer her phone. She also didn’t respond to his text messages, which was very unusual for her. Had something gone wrong with the submarine? He couldn’t just sit around and wait, so he went to the old shipyard where Madsen’s workshop was, but it was in the dead of night and no one was there.
Friday morning at 02:30 am: Ole called the NAVY to report Kim and the Nautilus missing. By 03:30am Copenhagen Police were contacted, and a major search was initiated. Kim was never to be seen or heard from again.
The coastguard sent out an alarm that vessels in the area should report any sightings of Madsen’s submarine. Many hours passed until eventually, at 10am, the Nautilus was spotted in the water at Køge Bay, four miles south of Copenhagen. The coast guard established radio contact with Madsen, who said the submarine had technical problems, but that he was heading back to Copenhagen.
The NAVY was relieved that the submarine was found and that they had had contact with the inventor. Although the radio contact wasn’t very clear, Madsen didn’t raise alarm and the assumption was that the two passengers were alive and well and heading back to Copenhagen.
Shortly after the radio contact, a passing motorboat saw Madsen and his submarine. The men onboard the private boat helped Madsen as the submarine disappeared into the bowels of the ocean. One of the men on the boat, Kristian Isbak said:
“There was no panic at all. The man was absolutely calm.”
When Madsen arrived back on land, he spoke candidly to journalists at Dragør Bay:
"I'm fine, I'm a little sad about that, but okay."
“You're sorry about that?” the question came. To which he simply replied:
“Yes, obviously, because Nautilus has sunk.”
Madsen walked as he talked, explaining that he was on a submarine trip, but something went wrong with the ballast tank.
"It was not very serious until I tried to fix it. Then suddenly it became very serious. It took about 30 seconds for Nautilus to sink and I could not even close the doors.”
A rescue worker found Madsen’s behaviour very odd. On the way to Dragør Island, Madsen wanted to know if the NAVY was able to track the submarine on its journey the night before. He was quite relaxed and only wanted to go home to be with his wife and cats.
Talking candidly to people around him, it soon became obvious that he did not say anything about Kim Wall. Police interviewed him straight away, asking about the journalist’s whereabouts. Madsen didn’t show much concern and said that he had dropped her off at the pier in Refshale Island at 10:30pm the night before. He then went out to sea again, alone.
Police did not believe him.
His story about technical problems on the Nautilus also did not sound right. Police were convinced that Madsen scuttled his own submarine. Madsen’s friends and colleagues found this hard to believe. Why would he deliberately sink the Nautilus – it was his pride and joy, the culmination of a life’s work? Police felt that something had happened to Kim aboard the vessel and that Madsen wanted to destroy the evidence.
Madsen’s co-workers were baffled about his behaviour the night before. The Nautilus was scheduled to be exhibited at Bornholm on Friday at 2pm. In a phone call to a colleague – at the time he was seen sailing out of the harbour with Kim, failed to mention that he was heading out on the submarine with a journalist. He simply said that the trip to Bornholm was off. He also informed the rest of his crew that the trip had been cancelled via text message. When crew members returned texts asking why it had been cancelled, Madsen didn’t reply.
The next contact Madsen’s made was at 11:25pm, a text message to his wife, which read:
"I'm on adventure with Nautilus, sailing in moonlight". The text also contained a "hug" to the couple's cats.
Kim’s boyfriend, family and friends did not know about Madsen’s behaviour at the time, but they were besides themselves with worry. Where was Kim? It was unlike her not to be in contact with any of them. Although they were hoping that she would be found alive and well, they knew something was terribly wrong.
Hope against hope, Kim’s circle of friends took to social media, asking anyone for information if they have seen the 30-year old journalist, wearing an orange turtleneck blouse, a black-and-white skirt, and white sneakers.
Less than 24 hours after the journalist sailed off with Peter Madsen, police announced that the owner Madsen, had been remanded for 24 days on a charge of ‘Negligent Manslaughter”. He was also charged with endangering others’ lives, because he was travelling dangerously close to other vessels without any lights on. Madsen denied murdering Kim and maintained that she left the vessel at Refshale Island on Thursday night. He said he had dropped her off at the dock when they were done with the interview.
However, no witnesses could place Madsen’s submarine at the dock where he claimed to have returned her before 10:30. A restaurant owner handed over his CCTV footage of the night but could not publicly disclose what he had seen – or rather what he didn’t see.
If Madsen did in fact return Kim to Refshale Island, why did Kim not join Ole and their friends at the party? Where did she go? What happened to her? The only person who could answer this, was already in police custody: Peter Madsen.
People close to Madsen, could not believe that he would ever harm anyone. Madsen’s biographer, Thomas Djursing, describes Peter Madsen as a nice and loving person with sound core values. He had fights with a lot of people in order to achieve success in his unconventional career, but there was nothing unstable or threatening about Madsen.
By Sunday, August 13th, police raised Madsen’s submarine from the ocean and brought it to land. Police technicians and forensic staff commenced their search, as Kim’s loved ones held their breaths.
Lead investigator Jens Moller Jensen addressed the press and said:
"The sub has been searched and there is nobody on board — neither dead nor alive".
Although Kim wasn’t found onboard the Nautilus, the search did yield some telling evidence. DNA confirmed that traces of blood and hair in the submarine’s bathroom and on Madsen’s clothes, face and arms belonged to Kim.
Technicians found Madsen’s computer contained disturbing footage: fetish videos of women being tortured, impaled, decapitated or burned. It looked like real-life events, as if someone was videotaping a murder in real time. The origin of the videos wasn’t clear, but police did conclude the videos were not made by Madsen. Madsen claimed that everyone who worked in his lab had access to his computer and that he wasn’t the one who was watching it.
The forensic team could not find Kim or Madsen’s cell phones anywhere on board the Nautilus or on Madsen’s person. They were forced to conclude that both phones were lying at the bottom of the Baltic.
A week after Kim’s disappearance, her loved ones had to prepare for the worst and face the grim reality that Kim was no longer alive. Kim’s closest friends drove to see the Wall family in Kim’s hometown of Trelleborg. They shared stories about Kim, laughed and cried and could not accept that they would never see Kim again.
Worst case scenario confirmed
Then Monday rolled around and brought closure to the question that has been haunting everyone who loved Kim. But nothing could have prepared them: their worst nightmare was to become a reality when a cyclist on Amager Island saw a suspicious bag on the beach and alerted authorities. Inside was the headless torso of a woman with no arms and no legs.
DNA from Kim’s hairbrush and toothbrush matched DNA obtained from the torso. The worst was confirmed: Kim was no longer alive.
At a press conference in Copenhagen, lead investigator Jens Møller Jensen addressed the public. He explained that there was a piece of metal strapped to Kim’s torso to weight it down. There were multiple stab wounds, inflicted with a sharp object like a screwdriver. This was done to prevent air and gas building up inside the body and causing it to float to the surface. The disposal of the torso was a deliberate act and desperate measures were taken to prevent it from being found.
Faced with Kim’s partial body as evidence against him, Madsen changed his story about what happened to Kim aboard the Nautilus on the night of August 10th. He claimed there was an accident onboard the Nautilus which caused Kim Wall’s death and that he buried her at sea. He said he was holding the 115lbs or 70kg door hatch while Kim was climbing down from the conning tower into the hold of the submarine. As he was holding the hatch, he stumbled and it onto Kim’s head, killing her instantly. In a panic, he threw her body overboard. Her whole body was still intact and fully dressed when he buried her, according to Madsen. He offered no explanation for why her head and limbs were severed.
Again – police did not believe Madsen entirely. If Kim had died because of an accident – why did Madsen not alert authorities? Someone dismembered her body – and the only other person on the submarine was Peter Madsen. Two weeks after Kim’s murder, Madsen was charged with mutilation of a corpse.
Then tips came into police headquarters that there may be hidden cavities or compartments in Madsen’s submarine that police missed in their initial search of the vessel. Forensic technicians searched the Nautilus one more time but did not find any new evidence.
Police were determined to find more evidence relating to Kim’s murder. Danish and Swedish authorities worked together and used divers, sonar equipment and helicopters to search Køge Bay and the surrounding area where Madsen caused the Nautilus to sink.
On October 6th – two months after Kim was last seen – police divers found two plastic bags. Inside the first bag they found an orange turtleneck blouse, a black-and-white skirt, and white sneakers – the outfit Kim was wearing when she was last seen alive. They also found blue and orange nylon straps inside one of the bags, which matched straps found onboard the Nautilus.
The divers’ search of the area intensified. Lead Investigator Jensen confirmed their findings at a press conference the following day:
“Yesterday morning we found a bag within which we found Kim Wall's clothes, underwear, stockings, and shoes. In the same bag laid a knife, and there were some lead pipes to weight the bag down… Around dinnertime we found one leg, and then another leg. And then we found a head."
Kim’s head was double-bagged and weighted down with multiple pieces of metal. A forensic dentist confirmed that the head belonged to Kim. Kim’s family and friends looked on in horror as the news unfolded. The trauma and shock of each discovery will haunt them forever.
A post mortem examination commenced on the body parts. But it was a difficult task, the torso was found a significant time before the rest of the limbs. The legs and head were in the water for two months, meaning crucial evidence could have been lost. They were still missing her arms.
The results of the autopsy would tell even more of Kim’s terrifying last moments. She had been stabbed a total of 15 times, of which the majority if the wounds were inflicted around her genitals. The level of blood accumulation proved that the wounds were inflicted either while she was still alive or shortly after her death. Traces of Madsen’s DNA were found on the victim’s body, proving that he had made physical contact with her prior to or right after her death.
In direct contradiction of Madsen’s story about the door hatch that fell onto the victim’s skull, the coroner found no signs of fracture or violence. Madsen’s version of events was simply not true. Kim Wall did not die as a result of the hatch door crushing her head.
Because of the dismemberment and decapitation, the coroner could however not determine a definitive cause of death. The best assumption would be that she died due to strangulation or to her throat being cut.
Madsen’s internet searches for pornographic material in the days leading up to Kim’s murder, included three keywords “throat”, “girl” and “pain”. There was some sexual satisfaction in seeing women tortured and murdered.
The case against Madsen was getting stronger every day. Both Danish and Swedish authorities were not going to stop looking until every last piece of the puzzle was found. About a week after Kim’s head and legs were found, divers found a saw in the water of Køge Bay, in the vicinity where Madsen caused his submarine to sink.
As the walls were closing in on Peter Madsen, he had some explaining to do. At the end of October, he changed his original story about how Kim died. He claimed that Kim died of carbon monoxide poisoning inside the submarine when he was outside, up on deck. Because of a vacuum effect, he could not open the door to save her. By the time he managed to open the door, it was too late. His efforts to carry her body up the conning tower and throw her overboard failed – he was not strong enough. That is when he decided to dismember her body and dispose of it piece by piece.
When interviewed by a psychiatrist, Madsen reportedly explained what he was thinking as he removed Kim’s limbs from her body:
“What do you do when you have a big problem? You divide it into something smaller… A dead body does not deserve any special respect.”
Again, police were sceptical about his explanation. Madsen had admitted to dismembering Kim’s body, but there were too many signs of torture on Kim’s body to believe that she died because of carbon monoxide poisoning. And further: NAVY experts who examined the submarine could not detect any carbon monoxide or traces of any other poisonous gasses in the Nautilus. Technical experts also confirmed that the submarine was deliberately sunk.
During the last week of November police divers found a severed left arm, attached to a metal pipe underwater in Køge Bay. The metal was similar to the metal found attached to Kim’s other body parts. A couple of day s later, Kim’s right arm was found: again weighted down with a piece of metal. Both arms were found less than a mile, about one kilometre, from where her head and legs were found.
Memorials were held around the world to remember Kim Wall. On the beach near her home in Trelleborg white stones were laid out in the shape of a large love heart, the name ‘Kim’ inside. Family and friends gathered on the same beach in an emotional candlelight vigil to say goodbye one last time.
In New York fellow students and friends gathered at the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism to remember Kim. Her parents, lecturers and friends paid tribute in a touching ceremony, followed by a candlelight vigil. Kim’s friends in London too celebrated her life at a memorial service at the Swedish Church in London.
In Beijing a group of about 35 friends gathered in a memorial service for Kim. During the candlelight vigil they spoke about their favourite memories of Kim. Friends mourning her in the place where her life was supposed to lead her on a great adventure, but she never did make it to Beijing.
As Kim’s family prepared for the first Christmas without her, police and prosecution were working around the clock to make sure the evidence against their main and only suspect would stack up in court.
On January 16th 2018, Peter Madsen was formally charged with murder, dismemberment and indecent handling of a corpse. Additional charges included having sexual relations of a particularly dangerous nature.
Madsen maintained that Kim’s death was an accident and vehemently denied any sexual relations with the victim. The only thing he admitted to was dismembering and disposing of her body in a state of panic. Being found guilty of mutilation of a corpse would mean a much shorter prison sentence than a guilty verdict for murder.
With Madsen in prison all his visits and letters to the outside world were monitored. The prosecution was concerned that his psychological evaluation found that he was manipulative, and they did not want to take the chance that he would influence possible witnesses. A psychiatric report concluded that Madsen was “intelligent with psychopathic tendencies – he has no empathy or feelings of guilt.” The evaluation also found him to be: “[a] narcissistic psychopath, lacking in empathy but [that he is] not psychotic or delusional.”
Swedish criminologist, Leif G W Persson, commented on Madsen’s behaviour. He believed Madsen had planned the whole crime carefully. The submarine was a very safe and isolated crime scene. No-one would hear Kim’s screams for help. There would also not be witnesses to see him disposing of her body and the evidence. However, blinded by the desire for torture and murder, Madsen never thought the plan through: what would he do once he was back in civilization? And that was his downfall, the arrogance to think people would believe his initial story, that Kim disappeared after he dropped her off late on Thursday night.
Journalists flocked to Copenhagen in March to report on the case that sent shockwaves through the media community. This was personal. The court opened an extra room with a video link of the proceedings to accommodate the 115 reporters from 15 countries covering the trial.
During the 12-day trial Madsen was to face two judges and two jurors. The public had been following this story from the start. It seemed like a slam dunk: Peter Madsen was guilty of the murder of Kim Wall. But one thing that Prosecution had to prove in trial, was motive. Did Kim perhaps unearth something that would threaten to expose Rocket-Madsen in some way? Or was the motive sexual? The crime seemed so unmotivated and brutal that people wanted to know why it had happened – they needed an explanation.
Prosecutor Jakob Buch-Jepsen presented Madsen as a man desperate to commit the murder after the cancellation of a rocket launch on August 8th. The launch had to be cancelled because the rocket wasn’t ready. Madsen was angry and frustrated, and his mind was in a dark place.
In the days leading up to Thursday the 10th of August, Madsen texted three other women to invite them onto the Nautilus with him. All three declined.
One woman testified that she had met Madsen on the dock at Refshale Island way back in in May 2017. After a short conversation she and her friend received a tour of the sub. She was surprised when she received a text from Madsen on August 8, inviting her to go out on the Nautilus. Fortunately for her – she said no.
Another witness told the court that she was initially invited onto the submarine along with her boyfriend and children, but the next time she’d heard from Madsen, he asked her to come alone. She also said no.
A third woman claimed that she had found it odd for Madsen to invite her to join him on the submarine, because they did not know each other very well and hadn’t been in contact for months prior to his invitation.
A female friend of Madsen also testified that Madsen had spoken to her about murder and how he would have liked to become more dangerous.
Prosecutor Jakob Buch-Jepsen argued:
“[The murder] was not premeditated against Kim Wall, but against the next woman who wanted to go along with him on the submarine.”
Madsen’s defence attorney stated that what happened to Kim Wall was tragic, but there was no evidence proving it was anything other than an accident. There was a lot of speculation, but concrete evidence is lacking. The interview was not diarised, it happened on the spur of the moment. Madsen did not plan out this crime, what happened was an accident.
On the stand: Madsen once again denied killing Kim:
“What I will tell you today is a grim story that I did not want to tell anyone, ever.”
He explained why he had changed his story so many times: he claimed that he wanted to spare Kim’s loved ones from hearing the brutal truth. He retold the version of events as he confessed in October – two months after Kim’s death.
According to Madsen, Kim died due to carbon monoxide poisoning while she was inside the submarine and he was up on deck. It was a malfunction of valves that caused exhaust fumes to enter the hold below where Kim was trapped, waiting for her host. Madsen thought it would have been better for her family to think that she had died quickly due to a blow to the head by a hatch, rather than an experiencing a slow and excruciating death due to inhalation of fumes.
He continued his version of events, saying that Kim was trapped inside the submarine while he went up on deck. He could not open the hatches and heard her cries for help. It took about 15 minutes before the submarine’s engines shut down and he was able to open the hatch door. It was just after 11pm when he opened it and saw Kim’s lifeless body lying on the ground. Shocked and panicked, the inventor went to lie down beside her, contemplating what to do next. He even thought about committing suicide. Then he decided, the only decent thing to do is to throw her body overboard and give her a proper sea burial. He denied any sexual interaction with Kim whatsoever.
After a two-week hiatus, Madsen took the stand again. He claimed that he had never been violent to any human or any dead body. However, he was forced to admit to stabbing her after prosecution showed evidence of knife wounds on Kim’s body parts. According to Madsen, dismembering Kim was the only way to get her body overboard. He confessed to using a sharpened screwdriver to make holes in her torso to ensure decomposing gasses could escape and that her body would sink to the bottom of the ocean. When questioned about the stab wounds in the victim’s genital area, Madsen said it wasn’t sexually motivated.
Madsen’s testimony was contradicted by the forensic pathologist’s report that did not find any traces of carbon monoxide poisoning on Kim’s body. Also: if the valves had indeed been faulty, as Madsen claimed, then the submarine would have become very hot, very quickly. There were no signs of heat impact on Kim’s body.
Signs of violence on her torso indicated that she was tortured while she was still alive or shortly after her death. The wounds made by the screwdriver were superficial, which means they weren’t deep enough for gasses to escape the body as Madsen claimed. The motivation for inflicting the wounds could only be for torture.
Madsen’s lawyer said the theory that Kim was tied up and tortured was not based on fact, it was merely Prosecution’s horror fantasy, portrayed to put Madsen in a bad light.
Prosecution hit back by lining up the videos found on Madsen’s computer to show them in court. There were so many videos on the hard drive, folders were created to store them in categories named ‘beheaded’, ‘hung’ or ‘hidden’. Due to the sheer volume of violent footage, the judge asked Prosecution to limit it. In the early hours of August 10th, the day Madsen met Kim Wall, he watched a fetish video with the decapitation of a woman. Madsen’s defence explained that the videos were made by a renowned Russian animation artist. Madsen said when he watched the videos he felt sorry for the victims. He denied finding inspiration from the videos.
The prosecution felt strongly that this murder was pre-meditated and planned out. An intern who cleaned the submarine before Madsen and Kim Wall set out on their fateful journey testified that the items used to dismember Kim’s body were not on the submarine when he had cleaned it on Thursday afternoon August 10th. There was no saw, no screwdriver, green hose or any metal pipes aboard the Nautilus. The intern said he would definitely have noticed these items as there was no use for them on the submarine. These items were not there. And Madsen’s feeble claim that he took the items aboard, planning to build shelves in the submarine, did not sound plausible.
The grim picture of what actually happened to Kim on the night of August 10th was painted in court: Madsen lured Kim onto his submarine under the premise of completing the interview they had started in the afternoon. Once she agreed to meet him, he took a number of items from his warehouse to the submarine: a saw, a screwdriver, a hosepipe and some metal pipes. As they sailed out of the harbour waving and chatting, Madsen notified his crew that all plans for the next day were cancelled. Kim sent a couple of texts to her boyfriend as she settled in for some coffee and biscuits before re-starting her interview with the infamous Rocket Madsen. What happened next, only Peter Madsen and Kim Wall would know, but it ended with Kim tied up with her own stockings while Madsen used a 20inch or 50cm screwdriver to torture her. How she died is not 100% certain, but evidence is leaning towards her throat being cut. Madsen then proceeded to dismember Kim’s body with the saw he brought onto the submarine. He attached body parts to metal pipes and along with other evidence stuffed everything into plastic bags. Then he climbed up the conning tower and threw the plastic bags overboard, one by one. When it was all done, he devised his plan to sink the submarine, in the hope to destroy any remaining evidence.
In Peter Madsen’s mind, he could have committed the perfect crime. After his rescue, the story would have played out like this: he dropped Kim Wall off at the harbour of Refshale Island on Thursday night 10 August after the interview, she then disappeared, unbeknownst to him. And that would have been the end of it, had Kim’s remains never washed up. He would have been innocent and also seen as ‘victim’ of his sunken submarine, lucky to be alive.
But that is not how it went. In the end the evidence against him, was enough for Peter Madsen to be found guilty of premeditated killing (equivalent to murder), sexual assault of a particularly dangerous nature, mutilation of a corpse and violation of safety rules at sea. He received a life sentence. The decision was unanimous, and the maximum sentence was given. This is rare in Denmark, even for murder cases. A life sentence in Denmark means that Madsen could be considered for release in as little as 12 years.
When Peter Madsen had the opportunity to address Kim Wall’s parents, he said:
“All I want to say is that I'm really sorry for what has happened.”
Madsen’s submarine, the UC3 Nautilus was ordered to be seized by authorities and destroyed.
Madsen appealed the life sentence but did not attempt to overturn the murder conviction. His lawyer made it clear that Madsen had not confessed to murdering Kim Wall, he simply wanted the case to be over with.
The court ruled that Kim’s Danish boyfriend Ole Stubbe, as Kim’s live-in partner at the time of her death, will receive 120,000 Kroner (about 19,700 US Dollar) in compensation. However, this can only be claimed once the case has run its course through the Court of Appeals.
After the trial, Special Prosecutor Jakob Buch-Jepsen admitted that this case crept under his skin. He said that this was:
“…a case so heinous and repulsive, that as a prosecutor it renders you speechless.”
Kim’s closest friends have commented on how Kim was portrayed in the media after her death. She would have been amused by the polished image of her life, because Kim was such a real and authentic person. She was a strong woman, yes, but she had doubts and could be insecure and vulnerable. Although she was successful and happy, she had everyday struggles of juggling her career, her love-life and her family.
She was looking forward to living in Beijing with the love of her life Ole Stubbe, who has been left behind to face his future without Kim.
In the killing of Kim Wall, there is a huge sense of a life interrupted. She was not done. There were so many stories to be told by her, so many places to see. On Thursday night, August 10th 2017, she was supposed to go out for an interview and return in an hour or two. There was nothing sinister or foreboding about the situation – Kim was simply doing her job.
In an effort to remember Kim for how she lived and not how she died, her family founded the Kim Wall Memorial Fund. The fund’s aim is to help female journalists to travel and cover stories in the same spirit as Kim would have done.
On March 23rd 2018, which would have been Kim’s 31st birthday, it was Day 4 of the Peter Madsen trial in Copenhagen. Kim’s family had a better way to remember Kim on this day. In New York, they presented Anne Kirstine Hermann with the inaugural grant of the Kim Wall Memorial Fund. In Anne’s acceptance speech, she said:
“The world needs more reporters like Kim, who encourage curiosity and empathy between communities.”
After Peter Madsen’s guilty verdict, Kim’s boyfriend, Ole Stobbe, broke his media silence and wrote a heartfelt article to Danish Newspaper, Weekadvisen. He wrote:
“Kim loved and appreciated living more than any other people I have met yet. She enjoyed life, challenged it and expected all of it. Great experiences, great challenges, great knowledge, great impact, great love…”
As Kim’s loved ones try to rebuild what is left of their lives, they will remember Kim and her lust for life. In his article, Ole concluded:
“I cannot hate and love at once. One must be remembered, and one should be forgotten. The choice is simple.”
If you’d like to read more about this case, have a look at the resources used for this episode in the show notes. To learn more about or contribute to the Kim Wall Memorial Fund go to: ‘rememberingkimwall.com’ or follow the link in the show notes.
This was The Evidence Locker. Thanks for listening!
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