Verdict due in trial of Danish inventor accused of journalist’s murder

The trial of a Danish inventor accused of murdering a journalist aboard his self-built submarine is due to wrap up this week with a verdict due by Wednesday at the earliest.

Verdict due in trial of Danish inventor accused of journalist's murder
A police vehicle at Copenhagen City Court on April 23rd. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT/Ritzau Scanpix

Peter Madsen, 47 — who is accused of premeditated murder, aggravated sexual assault and desecrating a corpse — has repeatedly changed his version of events since his arrest last August, a day after Swedish freelance journalist Kim Wall boarded his submarine to interview the eccentric self-taught engineer and semi-celebrity.

Madsen has since admitted dismembering Wall, 30, and throwing her body parts into the sea but denies killing her.

Prosecutor Jakob Buch-Jepsen and defence lawyer Betina Hald Engmark are due to present their final arguments on Monday, with the judge issuing a verdict no earlier than Wednesday.

The trial at Copenhagen's district court earlier heard evidence that Madsen had more than 40 video clips, including animated and so-called snuff films of women being impaled, hanged and beheaded on his laptop.

The prosecution says Madsen tortured and murdered Wall as part of a sexual fantasy.

It has said it will seek a life sentence, which in Denmark averages around 16 years, or safe custody, a legal alternative which would keep him behind bars indefinitely as long as he is deemed dangerous.

READ ALSO: After seven days: key points from Peter Madsen's trial

Madsen initially claimed he had dropped Wall off on dry land in Copenhagen on the night of August 10th, 2017, but he later changed his story, claiming that a heavy hatch door had fallen on her head and killed her.

When an autopsy report later revealed there was no blunt trauma to Wall's skull, he said she died after a sudden drop in pressure caused toxic fumes to fill the vessel while he was up on deck.

He has admitted cutting off the journalist's head, arms and legs, and stuffing the body parts into plastic bags weighed down with metal pipes before throwing them into the sea as he contemplated suicide.

A cyclist found Wall's torso floating in Køge Bay, off Copenhagen, 10 days after her disappearance.

The rest of her remains were recovered over the course of the next few weeks from waters off the Danish capital.

An autopsy report said Wall most likely died after being strangled or having her throat slit, after having been sexually abused, but was unable to definitively ascertain the cause of death.

Fourteen stab wounds and piercings were found in her genital area.

The court heard Madsen had brought a number of objects on board the submarine including a saw, plastic luggage strips and a very long, sharpened screwdriver.

Several hours before Wall boarded the submarine on August 10th, he googled “beheaded girl agony” — something Madsen says was “pure coincidence”.

The prosecution also cited a psychiatric evaluation of the accused, which described him as “perverse” with “psychopathic traits”.

The court was shown some of the video clips and animated films found on Madsen's hard drive, in which women were impaled and beheaded.

“It is not of a sexual nature. This is about strong emotions. I watch these videos to cry and to feel emotions,” he told the court.

Madsen has insisted he stabbed Wall's genital area to prevent gases from building up inside the body after death, which would have made it float to the water's surface.

The inventor said he didn't want her body found, to spare her loved ones the details of a death by toxic fume inhalation.

He was arrested on August 11th after he was rescued at sea as his submarine sank — intentionally downed, according to prosecutors.

The defence has criticised what it has called a lack of physical evidence against Madsen.

Under cross-examination, coroner Christina Jacobsen admitted she could not totally exclude the possibility of death by toxic fumes, because of the torso's decomposed state after being submerged in water for 10 days.

READ ALSO: Coroner testifies in trial of submarine owner over death of Swedish journalist

A submarine expert who inspected the Nautilus testified there was no soot in the vessel's air filters, saying that would be the case if Madsen's fumes scenario were true, although another expert called by the defence disagreed.

During Madsen's psychiatric evaluation, doctors found him to be cold when discussing the victim, and merely “curious” about his upcoming trial.

When they asked him why he dismembered Wall, he replied coolly: “When you're faced with a big problem, you break it up into parts.” 



Sweden breaks yearly record for fatal shootings

A man was shot to death in Kristianstad, Skåne, late on Thursday night. He is the 48th person to be shot dead in Sweden this year, meaning that the previous record for most fatal shootings in one year set in 2020 has now been broken.

Sweden breaks yearly record for fatal shootings

“Unfortunately we can’t say more than that he’s in his twenties and we have no current suspects,” duty officer Mikael Lind told TT newswire.

According to police statistics, this most recent deadly shooting means that 48 people have been shot to death in 2022, meaning that Sweden has broken a new record for deadly shootings per year.

Earlier this week, Sweden’s police chief Anders Thornberg said that this number is likely to rise even higher before the end of the year.

“It looks like we’re going to break the record this year,” he told TT on Tuesday. “That means – if it continues at the same pace – around 60 deadly shootings.”

“If it ends up being such a large increase that would be very unusual,” said Manne Gerell, criminiologist at Malmö University.

“We saw a large increase between 2017 and 2018, and we could see the same now, as we’re on such low figures in Sweden. But it’s still worrying that it’s increasing by so much over such a short time period,” he said.

There also seems to be an upwards trend in the number of shootings overall during 2022. 273 shootings had occured by September 1st this year, compared with 344 for the whole of 2021 and 379 for the whole of 2020.

If shootings continue at this rate for the rest of 2022, it is likely that the total number for the year would be higher than 2021 and 2020. There are, however, fewer injuries.

“The majority of shootings cause no injuries, but this year, mortality has increased substantially,” Gerell explained. “There aren’t more people being shot, but when someone is shot, they’re more likely to die.”

Thursday’s shooting took place in Kristianstad, but it’s only partially true that deadly gun violence is becoming more common in smaller cities.

“It’s moved out somewhat to smaller cities, but we’re overexaggerating that effect,” Gerell said. “We’re forgetting that there have been shootings in other small cities in previous years.”

A report from the Crime Prevention Council (Brå) presented last spring showed that Sweden, when compared with 22 different countries in Europe, was the only one with an upwards trend for deadly shootings.

Temporary increases can be seen during some years in a few countries, but there were no countries which showed such a clear increase as Sweden has seen for multiple years in a row, according to Brå.

The Swedish upwards trend for deadly gun violence began in the beginning of the 2000s, but the trend took off in 2013 and has continued to increase since.

Eight of ten deadly shootings take place in criminal environments, the study showed. The Swedish increase has taken place in principle only among the 20-29 year old age group.

When police chief Anders Thornberg was asked how the trend can be broken, he said that new recruitments are one of the most important factors.

“The most important thing is to break recruitment, make sure we can listen encrypted and that we can get to the profits of crime in a better way,” he said.