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Danish inventor has 'psychopathic tendencies,' prosecutors say at murder trial

Inventor Peter Madsen is charged with murder, dismemberment and indecent handling of a corpse in connection with the death of Swedish journalist Kim Wall.
/ Source: Associated Press

COPENHAGEN, Denmark — The Danish inventor accused of torturing and killing Swedish journalist Kim Wall during a private submarine trip before dismembering her body is an intelligent man "with psychopathic tendencies," a prosecutor said as the murder trial opened Thursday.

Businessman Madsen, 47, was standing trial at Copenhagen City Court accused of tying up and torturing Wall, 30, before he either cut her throat or strangled her on his submarine in August.

Image: Danish submarine owner and inventor Peter Madsen
Danish submarine owner and inventor Peter Madsen on Aug. 11, 2017.Bax Lindhart / EPA file

He is charged with murder, dismemberment and indecent handling of a corpse for the way he disposed of Wall's body.

Prosecutor Jakob Buch-Jepsen said a psychiatric report has concluded that Madsen has "no empathy or feelings of guilt."

He started the 12-day trial by reading out the charges, describing in detail how Wall's body parts were found on the ocean bed. Madsen, wearing glasses and a dark shirt, listened quietly with his fists closed.

Madsen's lawyer, Betaina Hald Engmark, then formally entered a not-guilty plea to the murder charge.

Related: Danish submarine owner charged with abusing journalist before killing her

Madsen denies killing Wall and says she died accidentally inside the UC3 Nautilus while he was on deck. However, he has admitted cutting her up before he "buried her at sea."

The prosecution claims Wall's murder was premeditated because Madsen brought along tools he normally didn't take when sailing.

Buch-Jepsen said the cause of Wall's death has yet not been established. But he said Wall's blood was found on the military-style bodysuit that Madsen wore when he was arrested, and he also said that detectives found videos and texts about killing women on Madsen's laptop and an external hard drive.

Image: Missing Swedish Journalist
The private submarine UC3 Nautilus on Aug. 10, 2017, in Copenhagen Harbor.Peter Thompson / AFP - Getty Images file

Wall's parents were also present Thursday at the trial.

Members of the court were shown a drawing of the multiple stabs to Wall's torso. An audio file of a radio exchange between Madsen and maritime officials from Aug. 11 — the day after Madsen and Wall embarked on their submarine trip— was also played. In the recording, Madsen said he had let Wall off on an island, and that there were no injured persons aboard but only technical problems.

The 33-ton, nearly 18-meter-long submarine sank south of Copenhagen shortly after being spotted afloat. Madsen reported "man overboard" over the radio and was then picked up alone.

Buch-Jepsen said that after Madsen was arrested on land, forensic experts found dried blood on Madsen's nose — "blood that eventually was proven to belong to Kim Wall."

Wall, who wrote for The New York Times, The Guardian and other publications, was on the submarine trip to interview Madsen. She had previously reported on topics including tourism in post-earthquake Haiti and nuclear testing in the Marshall Islands.

Related: Submarine owner says Kim Wall buried at sea

She studied at Paris' Sorbonne university, the London School of Economics and Columbia University in New York, from where she graduated with a master's degree in journalism in 2013.

Caterina Clerici, a friend from Columbia, said Wall had "a soft spot for misfits, for places and people that did not conform."

Madsen was a co-founder of Copenhagen Suborbitals, a private aerospace consortium to develop and construct manned spacecraft.

In an interview with Danish weekly Soendagsavisen in 2014, Madsen said he one day "hoped to have a criminal career," adding he didn't want to rob a bank because "no one must be hurt."

On the evening that he contacted Wall, Madsen also texted an associate to call off a planned trip the following day in the submarine that first launched in 2008.

After Wall left to meet Madsen, her boyfriend received several text messages from her. He started worrying when the messages stopped coming and eventually alerted authorities, who launched a search for the submarine, which didn't have a satellite tracking system.

Investigators found dried blood inside the submarine, and divers eventually found Wall's body parts in plastic bags held down on the Baltic Sea bed by metal pieces. Her torso had been stabbed multiple times.

Police believe Madsen sank the submarine on purpose, and found videos of women being tortured and killed on his personal computer in his hangar. He did not make the videos himself, investigators said.

The trial at Copenhagen's City Court ends April. 25.