The Tragic Murder Of Journalist Kim Wall

Kim Wall was a Swedish journalist with a passion for pursuing stories in different parts of the world, and she didn't believe in holding herself back. As reported by the BBC, she'd worked from several places thanks to her job: Uganda, Cuba, Kenya, the Marshall Islands, and more. When she went missing in 2017, her parents were taken aback and didn't quite know how to react. 

They wrote about what was on their minds back then, stating, "As a journalist, Kim has worked in many dangerous places, and we have often been worried about her. That something could happen to her in Copenhagen, just a few kilometers from the childhood home, we could not imagine at all. Now it looks like the worst has happened." (via TV 2.)

They penned the letter when Wall was still missing, and the family wasn't sure whether they'd get to see her again. The ordeal was a long and frustrating one, to say the least. Kim's case received a lot of international attention, and the authorities were ultimately able to determine that Wall was murdered by a man she was interviewing on a submarine: a Danish entrepreneur named Peter Madsen. But what exactly happened, and what led to the tragic incident? Here's a look at the events leading to Kim Wall's unexpected demise.

Kim Wall was a freelance journalist from Sweden

Kim Wall was on the verge of starting a new life. According to a report by Wired, she was preparing to move to Beijing with her partner, Ole Stobbe, a designer from Denmark. In fact, she was in Copenhagen in March 2017 specifically because she was spending some time with Stobbe. Around that time, Wall was working hard on her freelance assignments and was particularly interested in chasing a story on people who were making rockets, such as Danish entrepreneur Peter Madsen.

As outlined by Wired, Wall's background was eclectic: She grew up in Trelleborg, Sweden, which isn't too far from Copenhagen. Wall lived in several places as she grew up and established her career as a young reporter, including Sweden, Paris, New York, and London. Wall was very experienced and had covered tough topics such as Sri Lanka's bloody history after it recovered from a civil war and established itself as a tourism hot spot. It was clear that Wall wasn't afraid to chase difficult stories if she found that they had potential and were worth exploring.

In 2016, for example, Wall found herself in Haiti, writing about Vodou, a religion that remains prominent in certain parts of the tiny nation. Wall wrote about how Haiti's residents continue to seek solace in the religion even when presented with modern medicine. 

Kim Wall was writing about a Danish entrepreneur

How did Kim Wall decide to write about individuals building rockets in Copenhagen? As per Wired, it was an accidental discovery. Wall found a workshop that had rockets while exploring the city with her partner, and she learned of a pair of dueling projects. One of the rocket-builders was Peter Madsen. He was well-known in Denmark and had created a bit of a stir with a submarine that he had built himself. It was called the UC3 Nautilus and was a nod to the book Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea

Madsen had teamed with an entrepreneur named Kristian von Bengtson, and the duo worked on making a rocket together, setting up their ambitious project in Copenhagen. Madsen was known to be unconventional in his approach and often spoke publicly about his work. Eventually, Madsen and his partner had a falling out, becoming rivals, and the former started work on his rocket project in a workshop that he named the Rocke Madsen Space Lab. 

Wall was interested in speaking to Madsen but wasn't successful at first. However, Madsen got in touch with her in August 2017, days before she was preparing to leave the city. Madsen said he'd be happy to share insights on his work. Wall was at her farewell party with a group of friends when she received the invitation.

Kim Wall boarded Peter Madsen's submarine before her disappearance

Kim Wall's interview with Peter Madsen was scheduled to take place aboard the UC3 Nautilus on August 10. As reported by SBS News, Wall went to the submarine from the party, hoping to get interesting anecdotes from Madsen. She was in touch with her partner and sent him texts before her interview, sharing photos of the submarine. Heartbreakingly, Wall joked that she was "still alive" before the submarine submerged. She texted, "I'm still alive btw [by the way] ... But going down now!" 

She added that Madsen had provided coffee and cookies for their interview. She sent her boyfriend several photos, including one of her by the steering wheel. In fact, while she was on the submarine, Stobbe even spotted Wall from a quay, still at the party with his friends. Wall was waving in his direction.

The UC3 Nautilus got plenty of attention when Madsen introduced it to the world back in 2008. On the night of Kim's disappearance, number of witnesses saw him launch the submarine, a vessel that was made possible with the help of several volunteers and generous donations from others. According to The Guardian, Madsen was experienced and had even built another submarine called Kraka. But of course, it was, sadly, the UC3 Nautilus that ended up in the limelight after Wall's murder.

Kim Wall was reported missing

Ole Stobbe began to be concerned after he hadn't received any updates from Wall for hours after she boarded the submarine. According to a report by The Cut, Stobbe approached the local police when Wall didn't come back that evening. Things weren't clear. Madsen later claimed that he'd dropped Wall after they spoke to each other for three hours. 

Wired highlights the fact that Stobbe couldn't help but feel stressed as the party continued late into the night without his girlfriend. They were planning to attend a wedding the next day, and he couldn't help but worry as he wondered why there were no texts or calls from Wall. She always kept him in the loop. After the party wrapped up, Stobbe stood near the pier but didn't see Wall. He headed home and tried to rest but couldn't and ended up looking for Wall. 

Convinced that something was seriously wrong, he reached out to the police sometime close to 1:45 AM and also informed the navy that his girlfriend was nowhere to be seen. A few hours later, maritime rescue personnel told the police that they believed an accident had taken place. The next morning, locals spotted the UC3 Nautilus at sea. The sub sank a short while later, but Madsen escaped, swimming to safety.

Peter Madsen was arrested almost immediately

After Peter Madsen escaped from his sinking submarine, he immediately spoke to a gathered crowd of journalists, claiming that the vessel sank because of the ballast tank (via the BBC). Police officials later refuted this statement and said that they had reason to believe that Madsen sank the vessel on purpose. At this point, Kim Wall was still missing, and there were no clues as to what could have happened to her.

Meanwhile, Madsen was arrested and could be legally restrained for 24 days if necessary (via The Cut.) He was accused of "negligent manslaughter" at first and was believed to be responsible for Wall's disappearance. The entrepreneur claimed that he was innocent and that he didn't know about the circumstances surrounding her disappearance. It was reported at the time that if the case was pursued further, Madsen could go to trial and receive a prison sentence. 

At the same time, experts continued to search for Wall, noting that it was not an easy task, especially because they had so little information. An official stated that both local police officers and rescue personnel were part of a massive search effort for Wall. Additionally, the journalist's partner, Ole Stobbe, who had seen Madsen when he was rescued and escorted to shore, knew that something was seriously wrong. Madsen was calm, and things just felt odd to Stobbe.

Kim Wall's remains were discovered almost two weeks later

Almost two weeks after Kim Wall was first reported missing, a cyclist came across a disturbing sight. According to the BBC, the cyclist found a torso and alerted the local authorities. The date was August 21, and the location wasn't very far from where the submarine sank.

Authorities worked fast to confirm that the cyclist had indeed found Wall's torso (via Wired.) This changed things, of course, and in early September, prosecutors upgraded Peter Madsen's charge to manslaughter. It would be another month before divers would be able to find more of Wall's remains at sea, separated and disposed of using plastic bags. Her legs were "tied to pieces of metal," and it became increasingly clear that something rather disturbing had taken place aboard the submarine. Madsen, meanwhile, had been providing inconsistent accounts of what had happened that night.

As per a CNN report, police used dental records to establish Wall's identity. A police official, Jens Moeller Jensen, shared disturbing details when he revealed what they discovered. He said, "We found a bag with Kim Wall's clothing; shirt, skirt, socks and shoes, and also a knife and lead pieces weighing them down. Around noon we found a leg, then another leg, and shortly thereafter we found a head, also in a bag weighted down by several metal pieces."

Peter Madsen changed his story several times

Peter Madsen refused to come clean about what exactly had happened on the submarine and offered several differing accounts. As per CNN, he claimed that he wasn't responsible for her death but acknowledged that he did dispose of her body. Experts, meanwhile, believed that Madsen had killed Kim Wall by stabbing her. He then proceeded to dismember her before throwing her body parts away.

As pointed out by the BBC, Madsen had at least three versions to offer about the events that took place on the evening of August 10. It must be noted that all of his stories were incredibly hard to believe and didn't add up at all. He first claimed that he had ensured that Wall was safely ashore close to 10:30 PM that evening. He added that he didn't spot her again after that. A local restaurateur refuted this claim and noted that there were plenty of CCTV cameras near where Madsen claimed to have dropped Wall off. Indeed, Wall was never spotted there.

Madsen eventually changed his story. He said that there was an unfortunate accident on the submarine and that Wall was killed after she was struck on the head by the vessel's hatch. Then Madsen changed his story again in October, saying that Wall died because of "carbon monoxide poisoning." Madsen refused to accept the allegations of murder. At one point, he even insisted that he didn't reveal all the details because he was trying to show respect for Wall's family. 

Kim Wall was severely injured before she passed away

It was later revealed that Kim Wall was severely injured on the submarine. As per The Guardian, Wall was stabbed as many as 15 times aboard the UC3 Nautilus. Experts also found Peter Madsen's DNA on Wall's body. Additionally, a search of Madsen's computer revealed that he had videos of women being tortured and murdered. Disturbingly, Madsen was thought to have looked at a video of a beheading before he met up with Kim Wall (via the BBC.)

The prosecutor alleged that there was sexual intent involved and that Madsen had attempted to get other women aboard his sub in the past but hadn't succeeded until Wall joined him. He used several tools, such as a saw and a screwdriver, to hurt and kill Wall and then get rid of her remains. Prosecutors were certain that it was a premeditated, ruthless act. Most disturbingly, it was discovered that Wall had sustained injuries near her genitals (via CNN.) 

Madsen was accused of a number of crimes, including participating in "sexual relations other than intercourse of a particularly dangerous nature." Legal experts were convinced that Madsen carried out the violent and gruesome crime to fulfil a sick sexual fantasy. While he was sentenced to life imprisonment, he tried to appeal and ask for a less severe sentence. The court didn't grant it. 

Peter Madsen later confessed to Kim Wall's murder

After denying it for years, Peter Madsen finally admitted that he murdered Kim Wall. According to The Guardian, the confession took place when he was interviewed for a documentary released by Discovery Networks Denmark in 2020, The Secret Recordings with Peter Madsen. Madsen was directly asked whether he was responsible for Wall's murder, and he replied that yes, it was him. He said, "It's my fault she died. And it's my fault because I committed the crime. It's all my fault ... There is only one who is guilty, and that is me."

The statement proved that the prosecutors had managed to establish the truth and that Madsen was indeed guilty of killing Wall, something that he had never admitted until that point. The confession was among over 20 hours of phone exchanges, surreptitiously recorded, between Madsen and his interviewers (via the BBC.) Surprisingly, Madsen granted permission for the recordings to be used publicly.

Kim Wall's friends and family have paid tribute to the slain journalist

Kim Wall's tragic death left behind a void for her loved ones. One of her friends, journalist Caterina Clerici, remembered Wall in a moving piece in October 2017. She wrote in The Guardian that Wall was charismatic and an enthusiastic reporter. She shed light on how her friend was getting ready to settle down with her boyfriend in China after moving to several places for work. Clerici recounted, "After years of moving around frenetically to pursue her career — which at times made her feel removed from her Swedish childhood friends, who were all already married, buying houses and starting families — she finally had a long-term plan." Clerici wrote that her friend was a naturally gifted storyteller who had been intrigued by stories ever since she was a kid. 

Additionally, Caterina mentioned how Kim was always trying to find ways to tell stories that would otherwise go untold. This was echoed by other friends, who said that Wall's stories were a way for the voiceless to speak up, to express their thoughts and feelings. According to CNN, many friends remembered Wall for the person she was, insisting that her tragic death would not define her.

In her honor, a memorial fund was also established in a bid to offer support to female journalists across the world. The Kim Wall Memorial Fund offers fellowships to journalists looking to tell powerful stories and focuses heavily on diversity and inclusion.