The murder of Kim Wall

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30-year-old Kim Wall was a freelance journalist who was traveling the world from her hometown in Sweden. She had previously done reporting from North Korea, the South Pacific, Uganda, Cuba, Kenya, New York City, the Marshall Islands & Haiti & had written for Harpers, TIME, the New York Times, the Guardian, Vice, the South China Morning Post, among other publications. Her writing has been translated into several languages. Kim specialized in stories about identity, gender, pop-culture or subcultures, often with social justice themes. 

It was August of 2017 & Kim was getting ready to move to Beijing, China with her Danish partner, Ole Stobbe. In March of 2017, Kim had heard about 46-year-old Danish inventor, Peter Madsen & was hoping to interview him & had been trying to arrange a meeting for several months. Kim was in Refshaleoen visiting Ole & hoped to take advantage of being only minutes away from where Peter had his workshop. It was Thursday, August 10, 2017 & Kim & Ole had planned a goodbye party that evening & were setting up for the BBQ when Kim got an unexpected text from Peter, asking her to tea at his workshop. Knowing she would only be in town for the next few days before their move, she took advantage of the opportunity & set off to meet him. She came back about a half hour later & let Ole know that Peter had invited her to go down in his submarine; he had built a 40 ton, 58 foot submarine called the Nautilus. Kim decided to forgo her own goodbye party for a chance at the interview; she asked Ole if he wanted to join her & he would have, had it not been for the pre-planned get together. Kim said goodbye & Ole gave her an extra big kiss, knowing she was going out to sea & she told him she would be back in a few hours, the ride was set for two hours between 7-9 pm. It was 7 pm when Kim boarded the UC3 Nautilus; she sent Ole a photo of the sub & later a picture of the windmills as well as one with her at the steering wheel. While Ole was outside with his friends, he saw Kim out in the distance, on the submarine, waving toward him. 90 minutes later, a passing ship happened to take the last photos of Kim alive; she was smiling & looked relaxed in the submarine’s tower. 

Peter was well known in Denmark & Kim was very eager to speak to him, not necessarily about his submarine, but about a rocket he planned to build & eventually launch into space. As Kim & Peter started to go down in the sub, she texted Ole, “I’m still alive btw, but I’m going down now. I love you! He brought coffee & cookies tho.” This was the last message that would be sent from the sub. 

Kim was described as a “rock-sold” reporter who never made a spectacle of those she interviewed. Her classmate & friend, Anna Codrea-Rado told the BBC that she was very bubbly & warm, the kind of person who had fantastic stories about the things she was working on – you could jump straight past the small talk. She was well traveled & had varied interests. She was interested in quirky stories. If you were at a party you’d end up passing hours just chatting to her.

Peter was very familiar with being in the spotlight, his life frequently featured in magazine & TV reports. He called himself an “inventrepreneur” & said that his work was to “challenge the ordinary.” He was 6-years-old when his parents divorced; his father, Carl was domineering & violent, physically abusive toward Peter’s step brothers. Carl Madsen was 36 years older than Peter’s mother, Annie. After the divorce, Annie left, taking Peter’s three half-brothers with her, leaving Peter with Carl who shared a fascination with wars & rockets. Carl made it clear to Peter, if you visit your mom, don’t come back. 

Carl died when Peter was 18 & over the next few years, he studied engineering though changed his course after he felt he learned enough to move on & build submarines & rockets. Friends described him as an eccentric person who was not fond of being contradicted & as an uncompromising person while others said that his moods could swing between rage & euphoria. Another who worked alongside Peter said that if something didn’t please him, he would act like a child who dropped their ice cream. When his mood turned, people knew to stay away “before stuff started flying.” He had been married to his wife since November 2011 though she left him after the events of this story & has chosen to remain anonymous. His brother would say that he was “his own greatest enemy.” He would often speak & joke about Nazis in his workshop & call his colleague Nazi-inspired nicknames & make jokes about injecting battery acid into a person’s veins. 

Peter’s interest in submarines & rockets was all-consuming but he still made room in his life for sex & was said to be a regular at fetish parties & had a membership to a BDSM club. It was said that he had been kicked out because “he seemed fascinated but not turned on.”  Peter tended to use the Nautilus as a way to attract women, using the line, “This is my submarine. You want to see my submarine?” Women were fascinated by him.  A friend & recent sexual partner had exchanged texts with Peter in which she assumed they were joking & he said he had a murder plan ready in the submarine, he talked about what tools he would use & that he would cut the woman up.

Peter ended up building three submarines during his thirties & after completing these builds, he moved forward with the idea of space exploration & partnered with architect Kristian von Bengston who was a former NASA contractor & the pair planned to form Copenhagen Suborbitals, a collective of amateur rocket-makers funded by donations. Their goal was to launch a manned rocket into space. 

In 2014 their partnership dissolved due to disagreements blamed mostly on Peter’s behavior. In 2014, journalist Thomas Djursing told a newspaper that Peter was “angry with God & everyone. He has a hard time getting along with other people – he has lofty ambitions & wants to do everything his way.” Peter moved on to opening a new workshop of his own in June of 2014 called Rocket Madsen Space Lab; it was located in a hangar across a paved lot from Copenhagen Suborbitals.

Peter’s new workshop

In 2015, Peter got into another argument, this time with a group of volunteers who were maintaining his submarine, the Nautilus. He said, “You may think that a curse is lying on the Nautilus. That curse is me. There will not be peace on Nautilus for as long as I exist.” 

As the goodbye party continued that Thursday night, partygoers moved to a nearby bar & Ole began to worry when Kim had yet to return. They planned to get up early for a wedding the next day & it wasn’t like Kim not to check in. Ole walked to the pier to wait for Kim & eventually went back to his room, but unable to sleep, he got on his bike & rode around the island in search of her. At 1:45 am in the early morning hours of Friday, August 11th, he called the police & a half hour later he called the Navy. Just before 4 am, police were notified of a possible accident at a local maritime rescue center & soon after, helicopters began searching the waters around Copenhagen. 

Police needed to find out what happened that night in the Oresund strait between Denmark & Sweden. At 10:30 am, the Nautilus was spotted near a lighthouse in Koge Bay near a desolate stretch of coastline southwest of Refshaleoen. A news report indicated that a man who was out on his boat, helping with the search, saw Peter in the submarine tower at 11 am. He watched as he went down the hatch & reemerged as the sub began to rapidly sink. Peter began swimming toward a nearby motorboat  where he was pulled to safety by four people who were out fishing & he was brought to the port of Dragor, where he was met by a group of reporters. A reporter asked him if everything was ok & Peter turned & gave him a thumbs up. He said he was fine but felt sad that the Nautilus sank & blamed it on a defect in the ballast tank. Ole was at the dock where the press had gathered & knew that something must be terribly wrong when only Peter emerged from the submarine. 

Madsen in Copenhagen’s harbor, shortly after his rescue on Aug. 11.

Later that day, police put out a statement indicating that Peter claimed he had dropped Kim off at about 10:30 pm the night before, near the Halvandet restaurant on the northern tip of Refshaleoen & hadn’t seen her since. The restaurant owner promptly handed over CCTV footage & said the area was well covered with cameras.  

 Police did not believe this so Peter was arrested & charged with involuntary manslaughter “for having killed in an unknown way & in an unknown place Kim Isabel Fredrika Wall of Sweden sometime after 5 pm” & the judge ordered that he be held for four more weeks.

During the time that Kim was missing, her parents wrote a letter to Danish TV, saying, “Kim has worked as a journalist 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 her childhood home, we could not imagine at all.” Kim was born in 1987 & grew up in the small town of Trelleborg in southern Sweden, just across the strait dividing Denmark from Sweden, about 40 miles from Copenhagen. She studied international relations at London School of Economics & got her master’s degree at Columbia University’s School of Journalism. She was at the top of her class, winning honors in her year. 

After a judicial hearing the next day, August 12th, police were told a new story from Peter that finally emerged on August 21st. Peter said that there had been a “terrible accident” on board the sub & Kim had been accidentally hit on the head by the sub’s 150# hatch. He said he panicked & dragged her body out of the submarine & “buried her at sea” somewhere in Koge Bay, about 30 miles south of Copenhagen. Peter remained in custody while the police searched for Kim. After the submarine had been raised from the shallow waters where it sank, traces of Kim’s DNA were found inside.

On August 21st, eleven days after Kim boarded the Nautilus, a cyclist was riding along Amager Island, not far from where the sub sank & came across a human torso that had washed ashore. DNA analysis confirmed that the torso belonged to Kim the following day. An autopsy showed that she had been stabbed 15 times in and around her vagina though didn’t confirm that these wounds were the cause of her death.  On September 5th, a court approved the prosecutor’s request to change the charge against Peter to manslaughter. On October 6th police divers found Kim’s head, legs, a knife & clothing, on November 22nd, her left arm was found & on November 29th, her right arm was located; all were in plastic bags & weighed down with pieces of metal. At this point, Peter continued to deny that he had killed & dismembered Kim, despite the fact that divers found a saw that may have been used in the dismemberment. 

On October 30th, Peter changed his story for the third time & said that Kim died onboard from carbon monoxide poisoning while he was up on deck. It was then that he admitted to dismembering Kim’s body. During the trial, which started on March 8, 2018, Peter said that the pressure on board the sub suddenly plummeted while he was on deck & Kim was in the engine room. The sub filled with exhaust fumes & Peter had been unable to get back in. He said when he was finally able to open the hatch, “a warm cloud hits my face. I find her lifeless on the floor & I squat next to her & try to wake her up, slapping her cheeks.” The autopsy showed no signs of heat damage to the respiratory system & no signs of gasses in the tissue of Kim’s lungs. He claimed that for almost an hour, he tried to push her body out of the submarine & when he wasn’t successful, he mutilated & dismembered her. He maintained that he did not murder and sexually assault Kim, but admitted to dismembering her & disposing of her body at sea, claiming he initially hid the truth out of respect for the victim’s family. He said he then planned to commit suicide, sinking the submarine, telling the court, “In my shock I thought it was the right thing to do.” One article indicated that he had slept with Kim’s body for two hours as he contemplated his next steps. 

Prosecutors rejected Peter’s story & during the trial, they painted a picture of a man who liked watching videos of women being tortured & killed which were found on Peter’s workshop computer; the night before Kim was murdered, he searched, “beheading” “girl” & “agony.” Shortly before Kim came on board the sub, he had watched a beheading video of a woman who was alive which was found by police on a hard drive. Peter claimed it did not belong to him & everyone in the lab had access to that computer. During the trial, prosecutor Jakob Buch-Jepsen said it was unclear how Kim died but Peter had brought a saw, a knife, sharpened screwdrivers, straps, zip ties & pipes onboard. He had likely bound, beaten & stabbed Kim before killing her by possibly choking her or cutting her throat. Coroner Christina Jacobsen testified that it’s likely that Kim’s airway was totally or partially cut off via strangulation, throat cutting and/or drowning, but also stated that the autopsy didn’t show typical signs of strangulation such as blood accumulation in the eyes or abrasions on the neck. The stab wounds were determined to occur around the time there was still blood circulating or just after despite Peter claiming that he had stabbed Kim several hours after she died to allow gasses that accumulate in a decomposing body to release. The coroner stated that the wounds were more superficial & wouldn’t have allowed the gasses to get in our out. Kim’s partner Ole testified that Kim had been afraid to go on the outing in the submarine but she was fascinated by people dedicated to something so she overcame her fear & went. 

Traces of Peter’s DNA was found on Kim’s body & markings of a saw blade were consistent with the dismemberment. Her exact cause of death could not be determined. Peter had previously asked other women on board though others had declined the invitation. Prosecutors said that a screwdriver, a saw & metal piping were brought on board for the first time on August 10th as part of a premeditated murder plan to stab his victim, mutilate her & dispose of her body at sea. 

A scientist from the Danish Technological Institute told the court that Peter’s account that Kim died from exhaust fumes was possible, but only if the temperature on board had risen very high. A police witness told the court that there were no signs of exhaust fumes found in the submarine when it was tested. On April 25, 2018, Peter was found guilty & sentenced to life in prison. His appeal was denied in September of 2018. In Denmark, a life sentence averages 16-17 years; Peter can theoretically be released on parole after 12 years. A mental assessment by the Danish Medico-Legal Council has deemed him a narcissistic psychopath with a severe lack of empathy  & remorse who “poses severe threat to others.” 

In the fall of 2018, following his conviction, Peter got married to a 39-year-old native Russian artist named Jenny Curpen on December 19, 2019. She wrote on her Facebook profile that her husband committed a horrible crime which he was being punished for but, “I am lucky to be with the most beautiful, smart, talented, devoted & empathetic person & man ever. My husband is the one of two victims of his crime, and staying alive was a punishment itself for him.” She divorced him in early 2022.

In October of 2020, Peter escaped from prison carrying a “pistol-like” object with a fake bomb strapped to his chest though officers captured him less than a mile from prison. He was given a 21-month sentence which will not be added to the life sentence but may affect future probation applications. That same year, Peter eventually confessed to Kim’s murder in The Submarine Killer: Confessions of a Murderer, which is a documentary produced by Discovery Networks Denmark. Journalist Kristian Linnemann asked Peter if he killed Kim when she went onboard the sub to interview him & he answered, “Yes. 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, & that is me.” More than twenty hours of conversations were recorded from Peter’s cell. HBO made a recreation of the events of this case in a six-part series called The Investigation.

Kim’s friend Anna wants to make sure that Kim is remembered for her work, not for the grisly nature of her death. Kim’s parents, Ingrid & Joachim Wall wrote a memoir about their daughter’s exceptional life & her murder, recalling the anguish & pain they experienced in the aftermath of Kim’s death, called A Silenced Voice. A memorial fund has been set up in memory of Kim Wall, the Remembering Kim Wall website that was set up on the day that Peter Madsen appeared in court & was established by family & friends to honor Kim’s spirit & legacy. With the goal of raising money, they hope that it will allow a young female reporter to be out in the world, “brushing up against life.”


  1. BBC News: Peter Madsen: Who is Kim Wall’s killer?
  2. BBC News: Kim Wall: An ‘exceptional’ journalist remembered
  3. BBC News: Kim Wall: What we know about Danish submarine death
  4. BBC News: Kim Wall: Decapitation videos ‘found on suspect’s hard drive”
  5. The Guardian: Kim Wall ‘stabbed 15 times’ onboard Danish inventor’s submarine
  6. The Guardian: Danish killer confesses to murder of Kim Wall for first time 
  7. Inside Edition: Everything We Know About the Killing of Kim Wall, the Journalist Slain After Boarding Peter Madsen’s Submarine
  8. Fox News: Kim Walls’ gruesome death detailed in Peter Madsen’s murder trial: A timeline
  9. Wired: The Final, Terrible Voyage of the Nautilus 
  10. The Local: Coroner testifies in trial of submarine owner over death of Swedish journalist
  11. The New Yorker: The Peter Madsen Guilty Verdict Leaves Lingering Questions & Pain
  12. Ranker: The Tragic & Gruesome Death of Journalist Kim Wall
  13. Esquire: HBO’s The Investigation Purposely Only Tells Part of the True Story of Kim Wall’s Murder
  14. TheCinemaholic: Where is Peter Madsen’s Ex-Wife Jenny Curpen Now?

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