Danish inventor pleads not guilty to journalist’s manslaughter

Peter Madsen is accused of murdering and dismembering Kim Wall in August last year

A man and a woman standing in the tower of Peter Madsen’s private submarine UC3 Nautilus in Copenhagen Harbor in August. Photograph: Getty Images

A man and a woman standing in the tower of Peter Madsen’s private submarine UC3 Nautilus in Copenhagen Harbor in August. Photograph: Getty Images

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Danish inventor Peter Madsen denied murdering Swedish journalist Kim Wall aboard his home-built submarine in August, telling a court on Thursday he disposed of her body after she died breathing in exhaust fumes.

On the first day of his trial, Mr Madsen (47) said he had had to dismember the corpse to get it out of the submarine. He intended to dispose of the body parts at sea to restore a “normal” condition on board, he said, admitting he was not thinking rationally at the time.

Mr Madsen is accused of murdering and dismembering Ms Wall, a 30-year-old Swedish journalist who was researching a story on the man who was already well known in Denmark for his submarines and his plan to send a human into space in a home-made rocket.

Ms Wall disappeared after Mr Madsen took her out to sea in his 17m (56ft) submarine in August last year. Later that month, police identified a torso washed ashore in Copenhagen as Ms Wall’s.

Court drawing by Anne Gyrite Schütt made available by Danish news agency Ritzau SCANPIX shows accused Peter Madsen (left) and the prosecutor Jakob Buch-Jepsen (standing) on the first day of the trial at the courthouse in Copenhagen, Denmark. Image: Anne Gyrite Schütt/ScanpixAFP/Getty Images
Court drawing by Anne Gyrite Schütt made available by Danish news agency Ritzau SCANPIX shows accused Peter Madsen (left) and the prosecutor Jakob Buch-Jepsen (standing) on the first day of the trial at the courthouse in Copenhagen, Denmark. Image: Anne Gyrite Schütt/ScanpixAFP/Getty Images

He is also accused of “sexual assault without intercourse, of a particularly dangerous nature” in relation to the 14 interior and exterior stab wounds investigators found to Ms Wall’s genitals, prosecutor Jakob Buch-Jepsen told the court.

Prosecutors said Ms Wall died either by strangulation or having her throat cut. Mr Madsen faces up to life in prison if convicted.

“I plead not guilty to the voluntary manslaughter of Kim Wall,” Mr Madsen told the court.

Under the Danish penal code, manslaughter is used to describe the deliberate killing of a person and there is no distinction between manslaughter and murder.

Mr Madsen, wearing a black T-shirt and jeans, told the court that Ms Wall had died from breathing exhaust gases that had leaked into the submarine due to a technical error, while he was on the deck of the vessel preparing for to submerge.

“When I turn to open the hatch cover, the most terrible minutes of my life begin. I cannot open the hatch, because the engine is sucking air from the cabin,” he said.

“Then I hear Kim calling.”

After eventually opening the hatch, he said: “I crawl down and find Kim Wall lifeless. I kneel beside her and pat her on the cheeks.”

He has previously admitted to dismembering her body and dumping the body parts at sea.

Prosecutor Jakob Buch-Jepsen speaks to the press as he arrives at the courthouse in Copenhagen. Photograph: Mads Claus Rasmussen/AFP/Getty Images
Prosecutor Jakob Buch-Jepsen speaks to the press as he arrives at the courthouse in Copenhagen. Photograph: Mads Claus Rasmussen/AFP/Getty Images

Mr Buch-Jepsen said Mr Madsen had searched the internet for “beheading girl” just hours before the trip, and had videos of real killings of women on his computer.

Investigators had found Mr Madsen’s semen on the clothes he was wearing during the trip, Mr Buch-Jepsen said. Mr Madsen denied in court having had any sexual relations with Ms Wall.

The trial is scheduled over 12 court hearings, with a verdict expected on April 25th. – Reuters

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