Kim Wall was not your run-of-the-mill junior reporter. She was an established, freelance journalist who had reported from far-flung places like North Korea, the South Pacific, Uganda, and Haiti. The Swedish-born journalist had written articles for The New York Times, the Guardian, Vice, and the South China Morning Post.
So when Kim managed to secure a rare interview with a famous Danish inventor, she was overcome with joy. Little did she know that her journey into Peter Madsen’s twisted lifestyle would turn her scoop into a mystery all it’s own…
Chasing a Scoop
Kim had been chasing the interview for a few months. Ever since she’d gotten in contact with famous Danish inventor Peter Madsen, she’d been intent on sitting down with him to speak about some of his more recent inventions. So when Madsen invited her to take a trip in his homemade submarine, she jumped at the chance.
Peter Madsen wasn’t “world famous” by any means, but in his native Denmark, he was a bit of a celebrity. Madsen was self-made and ingenious. He’d already built a working submarine by hand and was aiming to build a rocket to launch into space. It was this ambition that most intrigued Kim.
Madsen had built the craft in 2008 on a whim. He named the 40-ton submarine the UC3 Nautilus, obviously inspired by Captain Nemo’s famous craft in “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.” After much trial and error, the man-made vessel made a successful sojourn beneath the water. It gained him much renown in his native Denmark.
The only caveat to Kim’s interview was that she take a spin in Madsen’s submarine, something that she was more than happy to oblige him in. She met him at his dock in Copenhagen on a breezy summer day. It was about 7 pm when Kim stepped onto the UC3 Nautilus. She took a picture aboard the deck. It would be one of the last images her.
Prior to the fateful interview, Kim had been planning to move to Beijing, China. She and her Danish partner, Ole, had been involved for a number of years and had seen much of the world together. China was just the next step in their adventure together. The Madsen interview was meant to be her final story before she left. It was an easy, straightforward piece; or so she believed.
Going Away Party
Unfortunately, Madsen ended up setting the interview for the evening that Kim and Ole’s friends had planned a going away party. Still, it would be worth it in the end. And she’d have plenty of time to spend with Ole when they got to China. Kim kept in touch while she was aboard the sub, texting Ole repeatedly to let him know she was OK.
Kim’s last text to her partner was sent right before the vessel submerged. “I’m still alive btw,” she told him. “But I’m going down now. I love you! He brought coffee and cookies tho.” Ole tried to text back a number of times but received no answer. By midnight, he was worried sick and decided to contact the coast guard.
Around the same time that Ole was making his call, the UC3 Nautilus had was sighted by a merchant ship. The crew had seen the vessel on the north-west side of the Oresund bridge, but without any satellite tracking on the amateur sub, there was no way to find it after that. They would have to wait until the morning to try and contact Madsen.
Pulled to Safety
The submarine was finally spotted a day or so later by a lighthouse worker. A rescue helicopter was dispatched and radioed Madsen from their location above the obviously sinking sub. Within 30 seconds, the sub was gone. A group of nearby fisherman managed to pull Madsen to safety, but Kim Wall never re-emerged from the water.
On the dock in Dragor, a group of reporters questioned the shivering inventor about what had happened. He told them that the sub’s ballast tank had accidentally filled with water, forcing the metal tube to sink like a stone. Though they searched the area, there was no sign of Kim’s body. Two weeks later, officials confirmed that the journalist was deceased. Still, questions about the whole situation lingered in the public’s mind.
On August 21st, ten days after she’d disappeared, a passing cyclist discovered Kim Wall’s mutilated remains on the beach. Or rather, they found part of her torso. Police divers then searched the waters in the immediate area and found her head, legs, and some of her clothing. A cursory examination of the dismembered remains revealed the disturbing truth.
Forensic experts could tell almost immediately that Kim’s arms, legs, and head had been deliberately removed. She hadn’t been dismembered by some submarine accident, but because someone cut her to pieces. Then that same person had bagged those parts and weighed the bags down with car pipes and other bits of heavy metal. All signs pointed to Madsen.
Considering he was the last person to see Kim alive, Madsen became suspect number one. What followed was the first of three unconvincing explanations Madsen offered during the course of the investigation. According to the inventor, he’d dropped Kim off near the Halvandet restaurant at around 10:30 pm the night they’d gone out in the sub.
Thanks to the cooperation of the restaurant owner and the CCTV around the establishment, this version of the night was proven to be a lie. Undaunted, Madsen offered up another explanation. This was more in line with what he’d told reporters on the day the sub sank. There had allegedly been a terrible accident on board which resulted in Kim sustaining a deadly head wound. Panicked, he dumped the body and scuttled the sub.
A few months later, Madsen changed his story yet again. In this new scenario, Kim had died of carbon monoxide poisoning while he had been up on deck. The air pressure onboard had plummeted while Kim was in the engine room and the exhaust fumes had done her in before he could open the hatch.
When Madsen finally got in, he tried his best to revive her, but she was gone. As in the previous account, Madsen admitted to dismembering her body and dumping the remains at sea. In his mind, this gruesome ritual was a means of “respecting” the victim and her family. As the prosecution built the case against him, they learned some disturbing facts about the erstwhile inventor.
According to the prosecution, Madsen’s workshop computer had hundreds of videos of women being killed and tortured. He’d even watched a beheading video right before he and Kim went out on the sub. Madsen’s unsavory sexual appetites notwithstanding, he continued to deny that he had either murdered and sexually assaulted Kim.
The “smoking gun,” if indeed there was one, appeared in the form of the tools Madsen had taken aboard his sub before Kim had arrived. The theory was that Madsen had allegedly brought a screwdriver, saw, and metal piping on board with the clear intention to use them on his soon-to-be victim.
During the trial, a scientist from the Danish Technological Institute was brought in to testify. Though he admitted that Kim Wall could have died of exhaust fumes while locked in the sub, this would only be possible if the temperature rose to extremely high levels. It also didn’t explain why Madsen had seen fit to dismember her remains.
Many Questions, One Conviction
The incident became an international sensation. People all over the region were hungry for justice and they watched intently while awaiting the judge’s verdict. Peter Madsen was eventually convicted of premeditated murder and aggravated sexual assault. He will serve life in prison. As to why he did what he’d done? That we may never know.