Danish inventor gets life for murder, rape of journalist on personal submersible

Peter “Rocket” Madsen, the Danish inventor who sought to put himself into space aboard an amateur-built rocket and built (with the aid of colleagues) his own submarine—the UC3 Nautilus—was found guilty today by a judge and two jurors in the bizarre death of journalist Kim Wall, who disappeared last August while aboard the Nautilus.

Madsen was found guilty on all three of the primary charges filed by Copenhagen prosecutors against him: premeditated murder, aggravated sexual assault, and the desecration of a corpse. He was given a life sentence—a rare verdict in Denmark, and one that on average means 16 years of prison time. Madsen’s attorney, Betina Hald Engmark, said after the sentencing that Madsen will appeal the verdict.

Wall’s dismembered body and decapitated head were recovered weeks after her disappearance, as Madsen repeatedly changed his story about what happened to her. At first he said he had dropped her off the night before, and then he claimed she had died when the submarine’s deck hatch slipped from his fingers and hit her on the head. Finally, after her head was recovered without signs of a head blow, he said that she had died of asphyxiation from carbon monoxide.

Prosecutor Jakob Buch-Jepsen urged the court to disregard Madsen’s account of events during the trial because of the frequent changes, arguing Madsen’s credibility was “not only low, it is non-existent.”

During the trial, which took place over the past seven weeks, the prosecution presented evidence that Madsen had premeditated the assault and killing, including over 40 violent video clips found on his laptop during a search—including the torture and decapitation of women. Four women testified that Madsen had tried to lure them into trips alone with him on his submarine in the weeks before Wall’s murder. And two women testified that Madsen had confessed to them that he might be a psychopath.

Madsen also sent text messages to a friend in which he apparently joked about a plan to tie up a woman on his submarine and slit her throat—messages he later tried to delete, unsuccessfully. And when Madsen was taken into custody, police found he had scratches on his arms, flecks of Wall’s dried blood in his nostrils, and semen traces in his underwear.

Wall’s torso had been stabbed repeatedly, and her body parts were weighed down with metal objects—including a knife and a saw—when Madsen threw them overboard. He then sank the sub—he claimed this was in an attempt to take his own life, which he then backed out of.

In his closing statement, Madsen said, ““The only thing I want to say is that I’m very, very sorry for what has happened.” His lawyer argued that there was no physical evidence of the main charges against Madsen, as a forensic examination of Wall’s body could not determine the exact cause or time of death, and the prosecution’s case was a “horror story without facts.”

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