LONDON — Danish inventor Peter Madsen, who was convicted of torturing and murdering journalist Kim Wall on his homemade submarine, escaped a Copenhagen jail where he is serving a life sentence, on Tuesday.
Madsen used a female prison psychologist as a hostage during his escape, police told reporters at a press conference, adding that he forced his way out of the prison using objects resembling a gun and explosive bomb belt.
Madsen was arrested about half a mile from the prison, five minutes after police were alerted, West Copenhagen police chief Mogens Lauridsen told reporters.
When police found him, Madsen had forced his way into a van and was pulled out by officers and handcuffed. During the arrest, officers noticed a belt around his torso and moved to a safe distance, suspecting it might contain explosives.
"Nothing indicates that the belt contained explosives," Lauridsen said, adding that he did not suspect Madsen had received help fleeing the prison in the Danish capital.
No employees at the prison nor any police officers were injured during the escape or arrest, authorities said. Adding that the operation was now over and Madsen was back in custody and would be charged with attempted escape from prison.
In 2018, Madsen was sentenced in the Copenhagen City Court to life in prison for murdering Wall, 30, a reporter from Sweden, after he lured her aboard his submarine in 2017 with the promise of an interview for a story.
The exact cause of her death was never established but the court also found Madsen guilty of sexual assault and the defilement of a corpse, having dismembered Wall's body and dumped it at sea.
The freelance award-winning journalist, who studied at New York's Columbia University Journalism School and traveled to Asia and Africa, wrote for leading magazines and newspapers and the gruesome case garnered global attention.
Madsen has denied murdering Wall. He previously claimed she died accidentally inside the submarine, but later confessed to throwing her body parts into the Baltic Sea.
He lost his appeal and apologized to Wall's family, who were present in the appeals court.
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Life sentences in Denmark usually mean 16 years in prison, but convicts are reassessed to determine whether they would pose a danger to society if released and can be kept longer.
West Copenhagen police said on Twitter the operation was now over and they had removed all road blocks and cordons from the area near the Herstedvester jail.
"Tuesday's prisoner escape is deeply serious," said Denmark's justice minister Nick Haekkerup in a statement on Twitter.
"I have asked the probation service for an explanation so that we can clarify how this escape attempt could take place," he said. Adding that his department would launch "further measures" against prisoner escapes in the future.
Kim Wall's family declined to comment on Madsen's escape and recapture.