The Gruesome Crimes Of Peter Madsen, The Danish Inventor Who Dismembered Kim Wall

Published April 29, 2024

Go inside the chilling story of Peter Madsen, the entrepreneur-turned-murderer who killed Kim Wall aboard his submarine on August 10, 2017.

Peter Madsen

Collection Christophel/Alamy Stock PhotoPeter Madsen, the former entrepreneur who murdered journalist Kim Wall aboard his homemade submarine.

Once touted as the “Danish Elon Musk,” Peter Madsen made quite the name for himself as an inventor, entrepreneur, and self-taught engineer in his native Denmark and beyond. Using crowdfunding to build rockets and submarines, Madsen convinced many individuals, organizations, and businesses of his great potential, despite his lack of formal education.

However, many of his colleagues noted that Madsen’s enthusiasm could be too bold or perhaps even dangerous. He often found himself in conflict with others who were working on his projects, and his “eccentricities” could prove to be problematic. When he wasn’t working, Madsen was known to attend wild parties and orgies, and he allegedly described himself as a “sadist.”

Though many people who knew Madsen personally began to distance themselves from him as he became “increasingly megalomaniacal,” he remained widely admired for his innovative space program and homemade submarines. Then, in 2017, Madsen attracted the attention of Swedish journalist Kim Wall, who wanted to interview Madsen about his projects.

In August of that year, Madsen agreed to an interview with Wall aboard his submarine UC3 Nautilus — only to murder the young journalist in the underwater vessel. After tying her up, he sexually abused her, killed her, dismembered her, and tossed her body parts out to sea near Copenhagen. He then tried to sink his own submarine to try and cover his tracks.

And in the wake of Kim Wall’s murder, a truer portrait of Peter Madsen was painted, one that shows how twisted and dark his mind really was.

Peter Madsen’s Promising Early Years

Peter Madsen was born in Denmark on January 12, 1971, to Annie and Carl Madsen. There was a large age gap between his parents, with his mother being more than three decades younger than his father. She also had three children from previous relationships, whom Carl Madsen allegedly abused.

This led to Annie leaving Carl when Peter was a young boy, and naturally taking all her children with her. Peter would eventually reconnect with his father, however, as the two had a shared interest in rockets.

Peter Madsen In 2010

Wikimedia CommonsAn artist who once knew Peter Madsen said the inventor would “call himself a sadist.”

Peter Madsen showed promise in school, making a lasting impression on a teacher named Johannes Fischer. In an interview with the Danish news publication B.T., Fischer remembered Madsen as a “keen” boy who was eager to learn about rocket fuel by the time he was in his early teens.

In March 1986, Madsen completed his first notable project: a roughly three-foot-high rocket, which he had created in his father’s workshop. After he launched the rocket, it soared to a height of about 330 feet before crashing.

Kim Wall's Killer Peter Madsen

Wikimedia CommonsPeter Madsen speaking at an engineering conference.

A year later, he was accepted into the secondary school Kalundborg Gymnasium, where he would continue his academic pursuits. All the while, Madsen reached out to various engineers, attempting to learn more and make connections that could benefit him in the future.

Although Madsen never pursued formal education after secondary school, his connections and early projects had earned him a reputation as someone with great potential as an entrepreneur. By 2008, he had even become something of an anti-establishment celebrity in Denmark, especially after he launched his crowd-funded submarine UC3 Nautilus.

The UC3 Nautilus Propels Peter Madsen To Incredible Heights

Peter Madsen’s crowning achievement, the UC3 Nautilus, was a 40-ton, 58-foot submarine built by a small team of volunteers for a relatively low cost. The vessel was made mostly from donated iron and other parts. Named after the submarine from Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, the UC3 Nautilus attracted widespread attention, and a crowd gathered in Copenhagen on May 3, 2008, to watch it be lowered into the ocean.

UC3 Nautilus

Wikimedia CommonsPeter Madsen’s UC3 Nautilus submarine.

The UC3 Nautilus launched Madsen to local stardom. He was seen as an innovator, an individual with great ambitions and the skills to back them up. As Robert Fox, a filmmaker who made a documentary on Madsen in 2009, told Wired, “You had a sense that he was doing something different. It was something bigger. It was something worth being part of.”

Following the launch of the UC3 Nautilus, Madsen set his sights on an even larger project: constructing a manned built-from-scratch rocket. He partnered with a former NASA contractor named Kristian von Bengtson, and together they founded the program Copenhagen Suborbitals.

Peter Madsen With Kristian Von Bengtson

Wikimedia CommonsPeter Madsen with former NASA contractor Kristian von Bengtson.

In 2011, von Bengtson blogged about how this venture was “the ultimate DIY project,” but by 2014, it seems the relationship between him and Madsen had largely fallen apart. Madsen left Copenhagen Suborbitals and opened his own workshop called Rocket Madsen Space Lab. His new workshop was located directly across the lot from Copenhagen Suborbitals.

Eventually, Madsen’s colleagues began to notice how his newfound fame and wealth changed him, or perhaps revealed his true nature, which had, until that point, been kept under control. Former colleague Claus Nørregaard told The Guardian about Madsen’s wild parties, which were “filled with robots and strange buttons you could push, which made things happen.”

Nørregaard added, “Everywhere there were flashing lights, floating platforms with fires and DJs on. People ran around naked, stood on their heads, or crawled around the tower. It was all about being as strange as possible.”

Madsen, who married an unidentified woman in 2011, also bragged openly about how he had an open relationship and was free to partake in group sex and swingers’ events. An artist who knew him told The Guardian, “He enjoyed talking about it, so we all knew that he was promiscuous, but we all thought it was in a respectful way… He was a sadist. He would call himself a sadist.”

All this is to say that Peter Madsen could at best be described as an eccentric figure, a brilliant mind with some less-than-savory quirks. That facade, however, would come crashing down in 2017.

The Murder Of Swedish Journalist Kim Wall

Kim Wall

Personal PhotoKim Wall, the Swedish journalist murdered by Peter Madsen.

In 2017, 30-year-old Swedish journalist Kim Wall had become fascinated with the story of Madsen and his rivalry with von Bengtson, as well as Madsen’s innovative projects. Before long, she was in talks with Wired to do a story about him, and so she reached out to Madsen, then 46, for an interview.

He eventually agreed, and they set up an interview for August 10, 2017, on board the UC3 Nautilus. Wall arrived, texting her boyfriend shortly after 8 p.m. local time, saying that the two were about to go down in the submarine and that Madsen had even “brought coffee and cookies.”

Wall’s boyfriend never heard from her again.

UC3 Nautilus Being Pulled Out Of The Water

TT News Agency/Alamy Stock PhotoThe UC3 Nautilus being pulled out of the water.

The next morning, Madsen’s submarine was discovered, sinking, near a lighthouse in Køge Bay. First responders successfully rescued Madsen, but Kim Wall was not with him. He claimed he had dropped her off on land before the submarine began to sink. Madsen would later change his story, alleging that she had accidentally died after a hatch cover fell on her head — and then claiming she had perished from carbon monoxide poisoning.

But 11 days after Wall’s disappearance, her dismembered torso was discovered on a beach near Copenhagen. Furthermore, it was found that she had been stabbed 15 times, mostly around her genitals. Madsen claimed that dismemberment was the only way to get Wall’s body out of the submarine after her “accidental” death, but the stab wounds told a different story.

Danish Defence Command Divers Looking For Kim Wall

TT News Agency/Alamy Stock PhotoDivers from the Danish Defence Command investigating the area where Kim Wall’s torso was found.

In the following months, the rest of Wall’s dismembered body parts would be found in nearby waters. Meanwhile, police were closely investigating Madsen, believing that he had murdered Kim Wall on the UC3 Nautilus before intentionally sinking it to make her death seem like an accident.

Disturbingly, they learned that in the hours before his scheduled interview with Wall, Madsen had searched online for the terms “beheading,” “girl,” and “agony.” On his computer, they discovered several videos of women being tortured and murdered, offering a chilling look into his apparent fantasies.

Forensic psychiatrists who interviewed Peter Madsen later described him as a pathological liar with “narcissistic and psychopathic traits” and “a severe lack of empathy and remorse,” painting a picture of a cold-blooded killer.

Ultimately, Madsen was charged with premeditated murder, aggravated sexual assault, and desecrating a corpse in Wall’s death. In 2018, he was found guilty of all charges and sentenced to life in prison. However, it wasn’t until 2020 that Madsen finally admitted to his guilt.

“It’s my fault she died,” he said. “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.”


After learning about Peter Madsen, go inside the horrific crimes of Peter Kürten, the Vampire of Düsseldorf. Or, read about Peter Scully, the depraved man who built a child pornography empire on the internet.

author
Austin Harvey
author
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.
editor
Jaclyn Anglis
editor
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 Crimes Of Peter Madsen, The Danish Inventor Who Dismembered Kim Wall." AllThatsInteresting.com, April 29, 2024, https://allthatsinteresting.com/peter-madsen. Accessed May 23, 2024.