The Gruesome Murder Of Kim Wall At The Hands Of Peter Madsen

Published February 21, 2024
Updated February 22, 2024

On August 10, 2017, Kim Wall boarded Peter Madsen's homemade submarine in Copenhagen. Days later, her dismembered torso washed up on shore.

Kim Wall

Personal PhotoKim Wall was known for bravely traveling the world to report her stories, even visiting North Korea at one point.

When Swedish journalist Kim Wall boarded Danish inventor Peter Madsen’s submarine on August 10, 2017, she expected to conduct a standard interview. A freelance reporter with bylines in The New York Times, The Guardian, and The Atlantic, Wall planned to complete the interview before making a big move to Beijing with her boyfriend Ole Stobbe Nielsen.

Wall had reached out to Madsen earlier in the year about his space lab and amateur space program and learned about his homemade submarine UC3 Nautilus. She jumped at the chance to speak with him aboard his vessel and agreed to join him on a two-hour trip in the waters near Copenhagen. But after Wall entered the submarine, she was never seen alive again.

Eleven days later, Kim Wall’s dismembered torso was discovered just off the coast of Copenhagen. The torso had been stabbed 15 times.

Peter Madsen, who’d been found by authorities in the early hours of August 11th as his submarine sank, was instantly named the prime suspect in the murder case. At first, the inventor claimed that he’d dropped Wall off on land, but later said that she’d died accidentally in the submarine — and that he’d only dismembered her body so he could get it out of his vessel.

In reality, Madsen had tortured Wall, sexually abused her, and murdered her before dismembering her corpse and throwing her body parts out to sea — cutting an inspiring young life tragically short.

Kim Wall’s Impressive Career As A Journalist

Kim Wall was born on March 23, 1987 in Trelleborg, Sweden, a small town just across the strait that divides Sweden and Denmark. She went on to study international relations at the London School of Economics, then pursued a masters program at Columbia University’s School of Journalism.

Rather than taking a full-time position with any one news outlet, Wall conducted her work as a freelance journalist, primarily focusing on stories about identity, gender, subcultures, and social justice.

Kim Wall In Haiti

Kim Wall Memorial Fund/FacebookKim Wall pictured on a boat heading to Île-à-Vache in Haiti.

“What made her journalistic abilities so exceptional was that she looked for quirky stories but with a bigger narrative,” her friend, Anna Codrea-Rado, said in an interview with the BBC. “She reported them deeply — she never made a spectacle of the characters. Her reporting was rock-solid.”

Wall’s journalistic investigations took her all over the world, from Uganda to Cuba to the Marshall Islands. One of her stories even took her into North Korea, one of the most isolated and secretive countries on Earth.

Eventually, she learned about Peter Madsen, an eccentric Danish inventor and self-taught engineer who used crowdfunding to build rockets and submarines, including the underwater vessel UC3 Nautilus.

Wall was in talks with Wired magazine to do a story on Madsen and his various entrepreneurial projects when she reached out to him in March and April 2017. Months later, in August, he agreed to an interview.

Kim Wall’s Ill-Fated Meeting With Peter Madsen

On August 10, 2017, Kim Wall met with Peter Madsen at a dock in Copenhagen, where he had his homemade submarine. At the time, Wall was staying in the city with her boyfriend, Ole Stobbe Nielsen, but the couple was planning to leave soon, as they were relocating to Beijing.

At first, things seemed perfectly normal on the Copenhagen dock. If anything, the situation seemed safer than many others Wall had been in while reporting a story, especially since she was very close to her hometown. Per ABC News, Wall had texted her boyfriend just after 8 p.m. local time, letting him know that she and Madsen were about to go down into the submarine, and that Madsen had “brought coffee and cookies.”

Peter Madsen

Wikimedia CommonsIt was later discovered that Peter Madsen had viewed disturbing videos of women being tortured and killed shortly before his scheduled interview with Kim Wall.

The ride was only supposed to take two hours, but when Nielsen didn’t hear back from Wall at all that night, he reported her missing.

Then, 11 days later on August 21st, a mutilated torso was discovered on a nearby beach by a cyclist. DNA testing revealed that it was Wall’s.

Peter Madsen’s Changing Stories About Kim Wall’s Death

The morning after Kim Wall’s scheduled interview with Peter Madsen — shortly after Wall was reported missing — Madsen’s submarine was found near a lighthouse in Køge Bay. The vessel was sinking, and Madsen needed to be rescued by first responders at the scene. But Wall was missing.

At first, Madsen said that he had already dropped Wall off on land and didn’t know what happened to her afterward. But after Wall’s torso was discovered — and Wall’s blood was found inside the recovered vessel — Madsen said that Wall had accidentally died after a hatch cover fell on her head.

Madsen tried to explain away the dismemberment as the only way he could’ve gotten Wall’s body out of the submarine. But examination of the torso painted a far more gruesome picture, as Wall had been stabbed 15 times, and most of the wounds were located near her genitals.

Peter Madsen's Submarine

Wikimedia CommonsThe UC3 Nautilus submarine constructed by Peter Madsen.

Despite this, Madsen maintained his innocence, later claiming that Wall had actually died of carbon monoxide poisoning while onboard the vessel. But police had a strong feeling early on that Madsen was directly responsible for Wall’s death — and that he may have intentionally sunk his own submarine to make it look like Wall’s murder was merely a tragic accident.

This suspicion was only strengthened in the months following the incident, as Wall’s dismembered head, legs, and arms were later discovered in the water. All signs pointed to homicide, and in the meantime, investigators began to learn more and more disturbing things about their prime suspect.

The Dark, Twisted Mind Of Peter Madsen

As police looked further into Peter Madsen, his façade entirely crumbled. As The Guardian reported, Madsen’s friends had already noticed troubling changes in him as his prominence and wealth grew.

Madsen began throwing wild parties full of “flashing lights, floating platforms with fires and DJs on,” according to a former associate, Claus Nørregaard. “People ran around naked, stood on their heads or crawled around the tower. It was all about being as strange as possible.”

An artist who knew Madsen noted that “he would call himself a sadist.”

Eventually, the people who were once closest to him pulled away, as his “megalomaniacal” tendencies came out more. But after news of Kim Wall’s death broke, police uncovered even more disturbing truths about Madsen.

Peter Madsen At An Engineers' Conference

Wikimedia CommonsPeter Madsen at an engineers’ conference in 2010.

Just hours before Wall boarded his submarine, Madsen had searched online for the terms “beheading,” “girl,” and “agony.” He had also apparently watched a video on his phone of a woman having her throat slit. Later, other videos of women being tortured and murdered were found on his computer.

Following Madsen’s arrest, a psychologist who examined him described him as “perverted,” “sexually deviant,” and “highly untrustworthy.”

It was little surprise when he was charged with premeditated murder, aggravated sexual assault, and desecrating a corpse in Wall’s death. He was found guilty of all those charges in 2018 and sentenced to life in prison. It wasn’t until 2020 that he finally admitted to killing her: “It’s my fault she died. And it’s my fault because I committed the crime. It’s all my fault.”

The Legacy Of A Courageous Journalist

It would be easy for some to remember Kim Wall as the victim of a gruesome crime, but her family members and friends have, in the years since her death, made it quite clear that she was so much more than that.

In a piece for The New Yorker, Wall’s friend Alexis Okeowo wrote of Wall: “She was warm and silly and wanted to know about the world. That inquisitiveness helped fuel her work.”

Kim Wall In Majuro

Kim Wall Memorial Fund/FacebookKim Wall in Majuro, the capital of the Marshall Islands in the central Pacific Ocean.

Wall had a deep interest in exploring the lives of people from all over the world. She traveled to a ski resort in North Korea, explored how nuclear testing had affected the Marshall Islands, and wrote about underground internet providers in Cuba. She also covered more niche, local stories, like interviewing a self-proclaimed vampire — all on a freelancer’s budget.

Despite the dangers she faced as a female reporter and the difficulties she encountered while traveling, that never stopped her from chasing a story.

“Please don’t remember her as the murdered Swedish journalist who died in a grisly horror straight out of a crime drama,” her friend Anna Codrea-Rado said after Wall’s murder. “Remember her work.”

After reading about the inspiring life and tragic death of Kim Wall, learn about Nikko Jenkins, the man who committed a grisly murder spree to appease an Egyptian serpent god. Or, read the horrific story of Junko Furuta, the teenage girl who was held captive and tortured for 44 days.

Austin Harvey
A staff writer for All That's Interesting, Austin Harvey has also had work published with Discover Magazine, Giddy, and Lucid covering topics on mental health, sexual health, history, and sociology. He holds a Bachelor's degree from Point Park University.
Jaclyn Anglis
Jaclyn is the senior managing editor at All That's Interesting. She holds a Master's degree in journalism from the City University of New York and a Bachelor's degree in English writing and history (double major) from DePauw University. She is interested in American history, true crime, modern history, pop culture, and science.
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Harvey, Austin. "The Gruesome Murder Of Kim Wall At The Hands Of Peter Madsen.", February 21, 2024, Accessed June 14, 2024.