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article imageDanish coroner says journalist likely strangled on submarine

By Helene DAUSCHY and Annabella PULTZ (AFP)     Mar 22, 2018 in Crime

A coroner testified Thursday that Swedish journalist Kim Wall, who died on Danish inventor Peter Madsen's submarine, was probably strangled or had her throat cut, and did not die in an accident as Madsen claims.

Christina Jacobsen told the Copenhagen district court there was no conclusive evidence to prove the cause of death beyond doubt.

"What we think happened is that the airways were totally or partially cut off. That would be due to either strangulation, throat cutting or drowning," she said.

However, when asked by Madsen's lawyer Betina Hald Engmark whether Wall's autopsy showed typical signs of strangulation (blood accumulation in the eyes, abrasions on the neck), the coroner replied: "No."

Madsen, 47, who is charged with premeditated murder, sexual assault, and desecration of a corpse, has changed his version of events multiple times but has maintained her death was accidental.

On the first day of his trial on March 8, he told the court that Wall, a 30-year-old freelancer, died when the air pressure suddenly dropped and toxic fumes filled his vessel on the night of August 10, 2017, while he was up on deck.

He has admitted dismembering her body and throwing it overboard, but denies premeditated murder and sexual assault.

Wall's body parts, weighed down in plastic bags with metal objects, were recovered from waters off Copenhagen.

While the coroner acknowledged that Madsen's explanation of carbon monoxide poisoning "could be" the cause of death, she said "the air seems not to have been able to leave the lungs, which is not the case with lack of oxygen or inhalation of gases."

An autopsy report on Wall's lungs from October concluded there were "no signs of exhaust gases in the tissue" and Jacobsen said Thursday there were "no signs" of "heat damage to the respiratory system" that Madsen's explanation of toxic fumes would have caused.

She stressed however that Wall's torso had been in the water for a long time and evidence "could have vanished."

Wall had accompanied Madsen to interview him for a profile she was writing of the eccentric inventor, who is well known in Denmark.

The prosecution has painted a picture of Madsen as a sadist who murdered Wall as part of a sexual fantasy.

The coroner testified Thursday about numerous lesions found on Wall's torso and head, with much of the questioning focused on the 14 stab wounds to her genital area.

- 'Blood still circulating' -

Presenting sketches to the court, prosecutor Jakob Buch-Jepsen tried to determine whether the stabs -- believed to be inflicted with several instruments, including a 50-cm sharpened screwdriver -- occurred before, during, or after death.

"The level of blood accumulation indicates that they occurred around the time when there was still blood circulation, or just after. We are probably not talking hours," she testified.

The trial of Danish submarine builder Peter Madsen  accused of murdering and mutilating Swedish jour...
The trial of Danish submarine builder Peter Madsen, accused of murdering and mutilating Swedish journalist Kim Wall, resumes Wednesday as prosecutors are not convinced by his account that she died accidentally aboard his vessel
Anne Gyrite SCHUETT, Ritzau SCANPIX/AFP/File

Madsen testified a day earlier that he had stabbed Wall's body several hours after her death to let out gases that accumulate inside a decomposing body so she would sink to the seabed.

"There is nothing sexual in the stabs hitting her vagina," he said.

He has previously explained that he chopped her up because he panicked and wanted her dead body off the submarine but couldn't lift her out in one piece.

But the coroner said his explanation didn't add up.

"As the stabs are superficial, gases would not have been able to get in or out," she said.

- Beheadings and impalings -

Wall's boyfriend Ole Stokke Nielsen meanwhile told the court that she "was afraid to go on the trip in a submarine" but that she was "fascinated by people dedicated to something".

He reported her missing to police in the early hours of August 11.

Madsen intentionally sank the submarine
Madsen intentionally sank the submarine
Jens Noergaard Larsen, Scanpix Denmark/AFP/File

Rescuers who plucked Madsen from the sea around midday on August 11 -- after he intentionally sank his sub, according to police -- meanwhile told the court that Madsen seemed unusually "calm" for someone who had just been rescued.

On Wednesday, the prosecution showed the court three videos found on Madsen's hard drive of women having their throats slit, and being beheaded and impaled.

His line of defence has varied on the videos: he has denied searching for or downloading some of the videos, but others he admitted to watching "to be able to feel emotions and to cry" about the women's suffering.

Madsen is due to take the stand again on March 28, with around 35 witnesses to testify in the coming days.

The verdict is due on April 25. The prosecutor has called for a life sentence, which in Denmark averages around 16 years.

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