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Denmark gripped by 'submarine murder' case ahead of trial

Inventor Peter Madsen is set to go on trial over the death of journalist Kim Wall.

Peter Madsen outside his 'UC3 Nautilus' submarine
Peter Madsen outside his 'UC3 Nautilus' submarine AP

Denmark is braced for this trial and the story of murder on a submarine.

The gruesome details are described as a real-life Nordic noir, bringing media interest from around the world.

It was August last year journalist Kim Wall went on assignment aboard Peter Madsen's home-made mini-sub. She was a 30-year-old journalist from Sweden. She studied in London and New York, and had been published in the Guardian and Time Magazine.

In search of the story of a somewhat eccentric Danish inventor, Wall boarded the 33-tonne submarine alone with Madsen and went out to sea promising to keep in regular touch with her boyfriend.

Divers uncovered body parts that had been weighed down in the sea
Divers uncovered body parts that had been weighed down in the sea PA

Wall never returned from that voyage. Her headless torso was found in the sea south of Copenhagen just over a week later. It had 11 stab wounds.

Madsen has pleaded not guilty to murder. But in Denmark, a psychiatric assessment is conducted by the Ministry of Justice before the trial. Their recommendation presented to the court is that Madsen is not insane but he is a danger to the public.

If found guilty, the psychiatrists advise Madsen should be sentenced to life then detained indefinitely with regular checks; only released if and when it's deemed 'safe' to do so.

Journalist Kim Wall had hoped to write a story about Mr Madsen.
Journalist Kim Wall had hoped to write a story about Mr Madsen. Tom Wall/AP

THE CASE

It was Kim Wall's boyfriend who alerted police when she failed to contact him. The coast guard was then called when the submarine reported it was taking in water. A rescue mission found Madsen, but he claimed he was alone in the vessel.

Initially, he told police he'd already dropped Wall off safe and well near Copenhagen before returning to sea by himself. Then the body parts were found.

At this point, Madsen changed his story. He told police Wall died in an accident aboard the submarine, so he buried her at sea - dismembering the body in a panic. Today he admitted mishandling a dead body, but denies he killed Wall.

The prosecution believes he deliberately sabotaged his mini-sub to get rid of the evidence.

Madsen's 33-tonne Nautilus submarine was homemade
Madsen's 33-tonne Nautilus submarine was homemade PA

CELEBRITY

Peter Madsen is well-known in Denmark - previously a minor celebrity for maverick inventions. He tried to build a rocket that would take people into space on private tours. He's also designed a new type of replica gun used in films.

One friend and former colleague of Madsen told me the inventor liked to push boundaries.

"Peter wanted to design a submarine, so he built three," Daniel Karpantschof told me. "He wanted to build a rocket, so he tried to send one to space. He always wanted to push things further and further.

"But no one saw this coming. There has been some talk - a number of people, especially Peter's former business partners, coming forward saying this was a matter of time. That's not true. No one saw this coming.

"Peter was genuinely a wonderful human being."

The prosecution believes Peter Madsen has a different side, though. They argue he's a cold-blooded killer capable of dismembering a body without emotion. They believe he's lied and void of remorse.

The trial is expected to last seven weeks. And if found guilty, there's a chance Madsen may never be freed.

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