x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 17 December 2017

Inventor charged with killing journalist after submarine wrecked

Peter Madsen faces a potential life sentence over the death of Swedish woman who visited his amateur-built vessel

Peter Madsen with one of his submarines pictured in an archive photograph. He has been charged with the murder of a 30-year-old journalist who went missing after boarding his submarine
Peter Madsen with one of his submarines pictured in an archive photograph. He has been charged with the murder of a 30-year-old journalist who went missing after boarding his submarine

A Danish inventor faces a potential life sentence after being accused of killing a journalist who visited his 18m-long ship before it sank off the country’s eastern coast on Friday. Madsen, 46, was charged with the manslaughter of Kim Wall on the same day he was rescued from the sea by the Danish navy.

He appeared in court on Saturday, where a judge detained him for 24 days while police investigate the disappearance of the 30-year-old Swedish freelance journalist, who had written for publications including the New York Times, The Guardian, the South China Morning Post and Vice Magazine.

“Peter Madsen faces preliminary charges (of manslaughter) for having killed in an unknown way and in an unknown place Kim Isabell Frerika Wall of Sweden sometime after Thursday 5pm,” prosecutor Louise Pedersen told a packed courtroom.

Mr Madsen denied the charges, telling police that he had dropped the woman off in Copenhagen on Thursday night.

The 40 tonne ship, named the UC3 Nautilus, was one of three that the entrepreneur had built. It can carry up to eight people and can dive up to 470m, although in practice it has rarely gone beyond 40m.

Ms Wall’s boyfriend had called out the authorities after the submarine failed to return after she had boarded it on Thursday. The Danish navy dispatched two helicopters and three ships to find the vessel, and several private craft joined in the search.

Kristian Isbak, who had answered the call to help locate the ship, saw Mr Madsen standing in the submarine’s tower dressed in trademark military fatigues while it was still afloat.

“He then climbed down inside the submarine and there was then some kind of air flow coming up and the submarine started to sink,” Isbak told The Associated Press. “[He] came up again and stayed in the tower until water came into it." Mr Madsen then swam to a nearby boat as the submarine sank.

Ms Wall’s family told the Associated Press that “it is with great dismay that we received the news that Kim went missing during an assignment in Denmark.”

The 30-year-old Sweden-born freelance journalist had studied at the Sorbonne university in Paris, the London School of Economics and at Columbia University in New York where she graduated with a master's degree in journalism in 2013.

A salvage vessel, the Vina, was Saturday working on raising the submarine, which was seven metres under water off Copenhagen's south island of Dragoer.

If tried and found guilty, Madsen would face between five years and life in prison.