How Denmark’s submarine murderer crumpled as the verdict hit home

Peter Madsen showed clear signs of nervousness as he walked through the neoclassical domed door of courtroom 60 in Copenhagen City Court for the verdict.

How Denmark's submarine murderer crumpled as the verdict hit home
A courtroom sketch of Peter Madsen during the trial. Photo: Anne Gyrithe Sch'tt

But he still managed a fleeting smile of greeting for his gruff-voiced defence lawyer Betina Hald Engmark.

With no further need to scrutinise the evidence that had been piled up in thick A4 books around him on the other 11 days of his trial for the murder of the Swedish journalist Kim Wall, he no longer wore his thick black-rimmed glasses.

And he rubbed his eyes and slightly pale face, as if still recovering from a near-sleepless night.


Peter Madsen. Photo: Niels Hougaard/Ritzau via AP

After he sat down, Madsen at first spoke briefly and seriously with Hald Engmark, but then sat in silence waiting for the judge and jury to arrive.

He was markedly more subdued than on other days, when his eyes often scanned the courtroom, taking in its ornate classical stucco, modern reliefs showing anguished figures, and chandelier lit with the light flooding in through high domed windows from a central courtyard.

The area reserved for the media and public was so overcrowded that some journalists struggled to find a decent seat, and chairs were passed forward from the back so they could squeeze into a place with a good vantage point.

Wall's mother and father, who had followed the trial on many of the other days from seats reserved for the victim's family, were not present in the courtroom. The family seats were instead filled with friends and relatives, several with a clear resemblance to Wall. They chatted quietly, catching up with each other as cousins do at a wedding or funeral.

When Judge Anette Burkø arrived in the courtroom, everyone stood up, following Danish court tradition, and she immediately began reading the unanimous verdict, handing down an unusually strong life-sentence while onlookers were still standing.

Most journalists had expected the sentence to come towards the end of the judge's address, when they would already be sitting down with their laptops open ready to file.

There was a sense of frustration as they struggled to find ways to communicate the news to editors and producers. Some pulled out their phones, others balanced laptops in the air.

After the verdict had been delivered Madsen's demeanour underwent a dramatic change. He appeared totally crushed and when the court was allowed to sit, he sat stock still, head bowed and eyes closed for perhaps half a minute as he absorbed it.

The forensic psychiatrist who examined Madsen had identified narcissistic traits, so perhaps he had still been holding onto a hope that the judge and two jurors would be swayed by Engmark's well-put together final arguments, which emphasised the absence of conclusive physical evidence in the case.

If he had been holding onto such a hope, it was demolished the moment Burkø began her address.

After the verdict was delivered, Madsen was led out of the court with Engmark to a back room where they could discuss their response. Minutes later they returned and Engmark announced that Madsen would appeal. By this time Madsen recovered his composure somewhat, and began again to move and look around.

Then the judge and jury left the court, after which Madsen was led away by a police officer, followed by Engmark.

After the trial was over, several members of Wall's family shook hands with one another, perhaps less out of celebration than a sense of completion.

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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.