COPENHAGEN — A Danish court sentenced inventor Peter Madsen to life in prison on Wednesday for murdering and dismembering a Swedish journalist aboard his home-built submarine in Copenhagen harbor in August 2017.
Madsen, dressed in black, sat completely still as his sentence was handed down in the Copenhagen City Court.
Police detained him on Aug. 11 last year when he emerged from his submarine without 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 homemade rocket.
Later that month, police identified a torso washed ashore in Copenhagen as Wall’s. Arms, legs and a head determined to be that of the victim were also later retrieved by the authorities.
“After a total assessment, the court finds that the defendant murdered Kim Wall,” Judge Anette Burkoe said.
Wall was a freelance journalist whose work had appeared in Harper’s Magazine, The Guardian, The New York Times, Foreign Policy, the South China Morning Post, The Atlantic and TIME.
Originally from Sweden, she held degrees from New York’s Columbia University and the London School of Economics and was based between New York and Beijing. She had written about topics ranging from gender and social justice to pop culture and foreign policy, according to her LinkedIn profile.
The court decided that Madsen had “dismembered the body to conceal the evidence from the crime he had committed,” she said.
The prosecutors had said that Wall died either by strangulation or having her throat cut. Forensics has not been able to confirm nor deny either allegation.
Madsen, 47, admitted to dismembering the body and throwing it overboard his 17-metre (56-ft) submarine but he denied murdering Wall.
He was 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 Wall’s genitals.
He claimed Wall died from breathing exhaust gases that had leaked into the submarine due to a technical error while he was on the deck preparing to submerge. Forensics has also not been able to back up his claim.
“The explanation is not credible and is not consistent with the following decision to dismember the body,” the judge said, noting that the jury found the murder had been planned.
A life sentence in Denmark is typically around 15 years without parole. The longest serving convict in modern Danish history is set to begin his 34th year behind bars this year after the murder of two young adults in 1985.
Wall’s closest relatives were not present in court on Wednesday. Her mother had previously said: “She gave a voice to the weak, the vulnerable and marginalized people. That voice would have been needed for a long, long time. Now it won’t be so.”
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Madsen will appeal against the sentence, his defense attorney told the court. The defendant had sought a minimum sentence of six months in prison for dismembering the corpse.