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article imageDanish submarine builder says falling hatch door killed journalist

By Ethan Bilby (AFP)     Sep 4, 2017 in World

A Danish inventor accused of killing a journalist aboard his homemade submarine said Tuesday that she died when a hatch door fell on her head, but prosecutors insisted he murdered her.

Wearing army fatigues, black Converse sneakers, and a blank expression on his face, Peter Madsen appeared in a Copenhagen district court for a custody hearing over the grisly case that has gripped global audiences.

At the end of the four-hour hearing, the judge ordered Madsen held in custody suspected of murder until October 3.

Journalist Kim Wall, 30, vanished after interviewing Madsen aboard his homemade submarine on August 10. Her headless torso was found floating in waters off Copenhagen on August 21.

Madsen told the court the pair had sailed out of the Copenhagen port in the early evening, with the vessel resurfacing after a two-hour dive. He told how he climbed out of the sub's tower, holding the 70-kilogramme (154-pound) hatch door for Wall, who was following him out of the tower.

But he slipped and lost his grip on the door, which fell on her head, killing her instantly and causing her to bleed from the head.

"I saw a closed hatch. I heard a bump. I didn't hear a scream," he told the court, saying he found no pulse when he checked her body.

In a panic, he threw her overboard, he said, insisting the body was intact.

"In the shock I was in, it was the right thing to do," Madsen told the court, adding that he had even contemplated taking his own life.

Asked why he didn't contact authorities, he replied: "I knew the world I lived in... had died. There was nothing left for me."

The 46-year-old has been held in custody since August 12 suspected of "negligent manslaughter".

But Danish prosecutors on Tuesday insisted the suspicion be changed to murder and desecration of a corpse.

Prosecutor Jakob Buch-Jepsen accused Madsen of "having killed Kim Wall in an undetermined fashion, then he dismembered the body, he cut the torso and tied pipes to it with the intention of sinking it to the seabed."

Buch-Jepsen said the pipes could be traced back to Madsen's submarine workshop, though the defence argued there was no proof of that.

- 'A lot of gossip' -

Madsen admitted Tuesday to tossing the body overboard, but denied having mutilated it.

The judge ordered Madsen to undergo a psychiatric evaluation.

Peter Madsen (R) has been been in custody since August 12 suspected of 'negligent manslaughter&...
Peter Madsen (R) has been been in custody since August 12 suspected of 'negligent manslaughter' in a gruesome case that has puzzled investigators and shocked the public
Bax Lindhardt, Scanpix Denmark/AFP/File

Authorities are still searching for the rest of Wall's remains, which they hope will provide clues about the cause of death.

The prosecution hinted at the possibility that Wall died in a sex crime.

Madsen, who is married, insisted there was no sexual relationship between him and Wall, and their contacts had been purely professional.

The self-taught engineer told the court he and his wife have an open marriage.

The prosecution on Tuesday cited witnesses who claimed Madsen watched beheading videos, practiced asphyxiation sex and was fascinated by death and sex.

But his lawyer insisted there was no proof he committed murder.

"There is nothing that proves that my client murdered Kim Wall," Betina Hald Engmark told the judge, adding the court had merely heard "a lot of gossip."

Wall was reported missing by her boyfriend on August 11, a day after she failed to return home from her interview with Madsen.

That same day, Madsen was rescued from waters between Denmark and Sweden shortly before his submarine sank.

- 'Curse' on the sub -

The Nautilus was the biggest private sub ever made when Madsen built it in 2008 with help from a gro...
The Nautilus was the biggest private sub ever made when Madsen built it in 2008 with help from a group of volunteers
Jens Noergaard Larsen, Scanpix Denmark/AFP/File

Investigators recovered and searched the vessel, which Madsen admitted to sinking intentionally.

Madsen is an eccentric, well-known figure in Denmark. In addition to launching his homemade submarine, he has also successfully launched rockets with the aim of developing private space travel.

The Nautilus was the biggest private sub ever made when Madsen built it in 2008 with help from a group of volunteers.

They were engaged in a long-running dispute over the Nautilus before members of the board decided to transfer the vessel's ownership to Madsen, according to the sub's website.

In 2015, Madsen sent a text message to two members of the board claiming: "There is a curse on Nautilus".

"That curse is me. There will never be peace on Nautilus as long as I exist," Madsen wrote, according to the volunteers.

A graduate of the Columbia School of Journalism in New York  Kim Wall had written about the earthqua...
A graduate of the Columbia School of Journalism in New York, Kim Wall had written about the earthquake-hit ruins of Haiti, the macabre torture chambers of Idi Amin's Uganda, and Cubans using hard drives to access foreign culture
Tom WALL, TT News Agency/AFP/File

Wall worked as a freelance journalist based in New York and China, and her articles were published in The Guardian, The New York Times and others.

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