http://www.digitaljournal.com/news/world/kim-wall-an-ill-fated-plucky-journalist/article/500853

Kim Wall: an ill-fated, plucky journalist

Posted Aug 24, 2017 by Helene DAUSCHY (AFP)
Kim Wall was an intrepid and plucky journalist who criss-crossed the globe seeking unique stories.
Swedish journalist Kim Wall was writing a feature story about the DIY sub inventor Peter Madsen
Swedish journalist Kim Wall was writing a feature story about the DIY sub inventor Peter Madsen
Tom WALL, TT News Agency/AFP/File

Kim Wall was an intrepid and plucky journalist who criss-crossed the globe seeking unique stories.

Her work had taken her to the earthquake-hit ruins of Haiti, the macabre torture chambers of Idi Amin's Uganda, as well as the oddities of an American freaks carnival and tourism in North Korea.

A similarly offbeat tale -- about Peter Madsen, a Danish inventor who built his own submarine -- led Wall, 30, to a gruesome death, with the discovery of her headless torso on August 21, days after the vessel sank.

Investigators say Wall's body was "deliberately" mutilated and weighed down with a metal object in Koge Bay, south of Copenhagen, just 50 kilometres (31 miles) from her southern hometown of Trelleborg in Sweden.

She was last seen with Madsen, whom she interviewed on board the submarine on August 10. Failing to return home, Wall's boyfriend, with whom she had planned to move to China, reported her as missing a day later. Prosecutors have Madsen in custody and are seeking murder charges.

- 'Voice to the weak' -

Wall's close friend and former classmate at Columbia Journalism School, Yan Cong, 26, said the reporter "felt Beijing was an exciting place where she felt she belonged".

"I was really excited about her moving to Beijing. It seemed she had everything sorted out," Cong told AFP. "When I chatted with her on WeChat in July, she told me they'd rented an apartment and could move in after August 15."

She recalled one meeting on a Beijing rooftop where Wall told her she had been a background extra on the set of a feminist porn film shoot.

"She always had the funniest and best stories from her reporting trips."

Wall, who also had a degree in International Relations from the London School of Economics, worked freelance, and had been published by The Guardian, The New York Times and others.

"She gave voice to the weak, to the vulnerable and marginalised people," her mother Ingrid Wall wrote in a Facebook post.

Why Wall chose to interview Madsen, a self-taught engineer known for his foul temper and dreams of amateur space travel, is not clear.

Peter Madsen (R)  builder and captain of the private submarine "UC3 Nautilus"  talks to po...
Peter Madsen (R), builder and captain of the private submarine "UC3 Nautilus", talks to police in Dragoer Harbor, south of Copenhagen, on August 11, 2017, following a major rescue operation after the submarine sank
Bax Lindhardt, Scanpix Denmark/AFP/File

But to Nina Berman, one of Wall's professors at Columbia University, it was typical of her approach.

"It was totally up Kim's alley, I'm not surprised at all she would have wanted to know why someone (…) would imagine himself creating things that are normally created by powerful military and governments," Berman told AFP.

"She would have tried to understand the motivation and find some deeper meaning behind it."

- 'Very sweet' and 'genuine'-

Wall was driven by her passion to cover untold and unusual stories, according to those who had been involved in publishing her work.

"She should be remembered for her insatiable curiosity, and her drive to find stories which no other journalist had touched," Jessica Reed, the Guardian's US features editor who commissioned Wall to write articles on a range of subjects, told AFP.

Members of The Danish Emergency Management Agency (DEMA) assist police at Kalvebod Faelled in Copenh...
Members of The Danish Emergency Management Agency (DEMA) assist police at Kalvebod Faelled in Copenhagen, close to the site where Kim Wall's torso was found on August 21
Martin Sylvest, Scanpix Denmark/AFP

Wall had written about voodoo in Haiti, Chinese feminists rising up against "Donald Trump's misogyny" and Cubans using hard drives to access foreign culture.

"If you look at the pieces she was producing, I've never done such pieces on that sort of depth and level," Tiffany Ap, Wall's colleague in Hong Kong at The South China Morning Post, told AFP.

Wall "was a very genuine person" and had a "rare combination of being really sweet but also very capable and daring", Ap said.

"She could really bring to life the people whose stories she told."

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