Falling hatch cover killed Kim Wall, says submarine owner

Peter Madsen denies amputating journalist’s limbs, says he dropped ‘whole’ body in water

Peter Madsen (right), captain of the submarine UC3 Nautilus, talks to police in Dragoer Harbor south of Copenhagen, following a major rescue operation after the submarine sank. Photograph: Bax Lindhardt/AFP/Getty Images

Peter Madsen (right), captain of the submarine UC3 Nautilus, talks to police in Dragoer Harbor south of Copenhagen, following a major rescue operation after the submarine sank. Photograph: Bax Lindhardt/AFP/Getty Images

 

Swedish journalist Kim Wall died when she was accidentally hit by a heavy hatch cover on board a home-made submarine, the Danish owner of the vessel testified in court on Tuesday.

Peter Madsen, who denies killing Ms Wall, said he was holding the hatch for her but it slipped and hit her head as they sailed in the strait between Denmark and Sweden last month on the UC3 Nautilus submarine he had built.

Madsen (46), was speaking in court after being charged with killing the Swedish journalist on the submarine and mutilating her body.

It could mean a sentence of five years to life in prison for Mr Madsen, if found guilty.

The court on Tuesday ordered a psychiatric evaluation and that Mr Madsen be kept in custody for four weeks.

Involuntary manslaughter

In its preliminary investigation, the court had ordered Mr Madsen detained until Tuesday on the lesser charge of involuntary manslaughter.

Mr Madsen said Ms Wall’s death was an accident.

With the vessel at the surface, he said he had crawled out through the hatch and was standing on top, while holding it open to let Ms Wall follow him. At that moment, the submarine was rocked by a wave from another boat.

“I lose my foothold and the hatch shuts,” he told the Copenhagen court, saying Ms Wall was knocked to the floor below. “There was a pool of blood where she had landed.”

A prosecutor also read earlier testimony from behind closed doors in which Mr Madsen said the impact had fractured the journalist’s skull and killed her.

Mr Madsen said he tried to bury her at sea but denied mutilating her body, and added he had contemplated killing himself while still on board.

Freelance journalist

Ms Wall, a 30-year-old freelance journalist who was researching a story on Mr Madsen, went missing after he took her out to sea in his 17m (56 ft) submarine on August 10th.

On August 23rd, police identified a headless female torso that washed ashore in Copenhagen as Ms Wall’s. The cause of her death has not been determined.

In court, Mr Madsen denied having amputated her limbs and said he dropped her “whole” body into the water, several hours after her death, after a sleep because he was “tired and exhausted”.

He admitted he wanted to “bury her at sea” by attaching metal to the body in order for it to sink.

Police technicians on home-made submarine UC3 Nautilus in Copenhagen harbour, Denmark, conduct forensic investigations in connection with the death of journalist Kim Wall. Photograph: Mogens Flindt/Ritzau Foto/AP
Police technicians on home-made submarine UC3 Nautilus in Copenhagen harbour, Denmark, conduct forensic investigations in connection with the death of journalist Kim Wall. Photograph: Mogens Flindt/Ritzau Foto/AP

“I had no contact with the body and didn’t want a dead body in my submarine,” Mr Madsen told the court. “I put a rope around her feet to drag her out of the hatch,” he said, adding that he was crying during this operation.

‘I couldn’t continue’

“I am suicidal at this stage (and) thought a fitting end for Peter Madsen would be on board the Nautilus,” he said. “I was in a condition where I decided I couldn’t continue the life I had been living.”

He changed his mind, he said, because he wanted to see his wife and three cats.

The submarine is one of three Madsen had built and one of the largest such privately built craft in the world. It can carry eight people and weighs 40 tonnes fully equipped.

A day after taking Ms Wall out to sea, Mr Madsen was rescued in a navy operation after deliberately sinking the vessel.

Reuters