COPENHAGEN — A Danish inventor who admitted to dismembering a journalist and discarding her body from the submarine he built was convicted on Wednesday of killing her, in one of the most gruesome and closely watched cases in Scandinavian history.
A court in Copenhagen found the submarine inventor Peter Madsen, 47, guilty of premeditated killing — equivalent to murder — in the death of Kim Wall, 30, whom prosecutors said he bound, tortured, sexually assaulted and stabbed repeatedly after she went on his submarine, the UC3 Nautilus, to interview him.
He was sentenced to life in prison.
Mr. Madsen sat still, his face slightly flushed, as the presiding judge, Anette Burko, read the verdict in Copenhagen City Court. Wearing a black blazer over a black T-shirt, and light gray pants, he stared down, without his glasses, at the defense table.
The trial was heard by a three-person panel — Judge Burko and two lay judges — whose votes counted equally. They convicted him unanimously of sexually assaulting Ms. Wall, killing her and desecrating her body.
“Given all of the evidence, the court has concluded that Madsen is guilty of murdering Kim Wall,” Judge Burko said.
She noted the evidence of premeditation in the crimes, including Mr. Madsen’s history of researching murder and dismemberment, and the fact that he brought onto the submarine the tools used to subdue and kill Ms. Wall. “The court finds that the evidence showed Madsen tied up Kim Wall,” she said.
Mr. Madsen and his lawyer, Betina Hald Engmark, left the courtroom briefly to confer; when they returned, Ms. Engmark said that he would appeal the verdict. He has until May 9 to file an appeal with the Eastern High Court in Copenhagen.
“My client and I are not satisfied with the result,” Ms. Engmark said after leaving the court.
The prosecutor, Jakob Buch-Jepsen, had asked the court to impose the maximum possible sentence, life in prison, which is rare in Denmark, even in murder cases. He could be considered for release in as little as 12 years.
“I’m not a steel man; of course I’m personally affected by this case,” Mr. Buch-Jepsen said after the verdict was pronounced. “This case has crept under my skin more than other cases.”
It was “a case so heinous and repulsive that as a prosecutor, it renders you speechless,” he said in his closing argument on Monday. “Peter Madsen is not normal. He is a danger to society.”
A court-ordered psychiatric evaluation of Mr. Madsen described him as a narcissistic psychopath, lacking in empathy but not psychotic or delusional.
Ms. Engmark, the defense lawyer, noted during the trial that investigators had been unable to establish the cause of Ms. Wall’s death. She admitted that Mr. Madsen had mutilated the body and thrown pieces into the sea, and that he had lied to the police. But she argued that there was no clear evidence that Ms. Wall had been murdered.
Ms. Wall, who was Swedish and lived in Copenhagen, was last seen alive on Aug. 10, when she met Mr. Madsen for what was supposed to be a two-hour trip aboard the submarine. The submarine sank the next day — officials have said Mr. Madsen sank it deliberately — and while he was rescued, Ms. Wall was nowhere to be found.
He claimed at first that he had put her safely ashore hours earlier — the first of several conflicting stories he gave, according to the police — but her mutilated remains were found in the waters near Copenhagen over the next several weeks. He then claimed that she had died in an accident aboard the submarine, and said that he had cut up the body and discarded the pieces.
But Mr. Buch-Jepsen presented evidence that Mr. Madsen had planned to assault and kill her, bringing the tools to bind, cut and stab his victim, and heavy objects like pipes to weigh down her remains. The prosecutor showed text messages that Mr. Madsen had deleted, but that investigators were able to recover, telling another woman that she should be tied up and tortured aboard the sub, and telling a friend that he had planned the perfect murder, one that would be a “great pleasure.”
Mr. Buch-Jepsen presented Mr. Madsen, who had founded a company to build spacecraft, as desperate to commit the murder after the cancellation of a rocket launch on Aug. 8. That day, he texted three other women to invite them onto the submarine. All three declined.
“It was not premeditated against Kim Wall, but against the next women who wanted to go along with him on the submarine,” Mr. Buch-Jepsen said on Wednesday.
Ms. Engmark argued that the mutilation of Ms. Wall’s body occurred entirely after her death, and that Mr. Madsen was guilty of nothing more serious than improper handling of a body, a crime that carries a six-month prison sentence.
Ms. Wall, a freelance journalist who had written for many publications, including The New York Times, had traveled the world — she had reported from Cuba, North Korea and Uganda, among other places — focusing on what she called “undercurrents of rebellion.” She and her boyfriend, Ole Stobbe, were a few days from moving to Beijing when she died.
She had tried for months to get an interview with Mr. Madsen, a self-taught engineer who had designed and built submarines and referred to himself as “Rocket Madsen.” So when he texted her on Aug. 10, asking to meet her that evening for a ride on his latest submarine, she skipped a going-away party for her and Mr. Stobbe and accepted Mr. Madsen’s invitation.
Ms. Wall’s parents sat through most of the trial as silent spectators, and her brother attended parts as well, but they have largely declined to discuss the case with the news media.
“Everybody can make out for themselves how we think and feel,” her mother, Ingrid Wall, said at one point. “We have no reason to express anything about that.”
Ms. Wall’s parents and brother were not present for the verdict on Wednesday.
The court ordered Mr. Madsen to pay an amount equal to about $19,700 to Mr. Stobbe; Ms. Wall’s parents did not qualify for such compensation because she was an adult and did not live with them. The court also ordered the submarine — which was raised from Koge Bay — seized and destroyed.
The case received intensive international news coverage, and each night people lined up outside the courthouse, hoping to claim the limited number of seats in the courtroom the next morning. In Denmark and Sweden, the news media has been criticized for its graphic reporting of the killing.
“It’s an extremely difficult case, in one of the world’s most wealthy and safe societies, where violence, sexual violence and rape are declining,” said Morten Frich, a journalist who covered the trial for Information, a Danish newspaper.
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