Danish police confirmed Wednesday that a headless torso found washed ashore near Copenhagen is the body of Swedish journalist Kim Wall, who they believe was killed by a famed inventor aboard his homemade submarine.
The announcement is the latest development in a bizzare case that started out as a missing persons investigation and has become a shocking murder scandal involving 46-year-old James Madsen, a well-known Danish aerospace engineer and entrepreneur.
Wall was conducting research on a story about Madsen when the pair sailed from Copenhagen on Aug. 10 in the inventor’s self-built UC3 Nautilus submersible. The next day, rescuers pulled Madsen from the water after the submarine became disabled and sank. Wall was nowhere to be found.
After coming ashore, Madsen initially told told investigators that he had dropped off Wall alive in Copenhagen. He soon recanted that story, saying instead that he “buried” Wall at sea following the supposed accident, according to NPR.
Authorities charged Madsen with manslaughter while they searched the waters around Copenhagen for traces of Wall’s body. A combined team of Danish and Swedish maritime investigators then recovered the 60-foot-long submarine as Madsen’s account of the incident became more suspect.
The condition of Wall’s remains now confirms what investigators had suspected: the journalist’s death was in no way accidental. Police spokesman Jens Moller said Wednesday the body had suffered damage indicating “an attempt to make sure air and gas inside should leave the body so that it would not rise from the seabed,” reports Reuters.
“There was also some metal attached to the body, allegedly also to make sure the body would sink to the bottom,” Moller added.
Because the arms, legs and head had been severed from the torso, police had to confirm the identity of the body using DNA collected from Wall’s toothbrush and hairbrush, along with blood evidence found in the submarine.
Following Wednesday’s announcement, Wall’s family reacted to the gruesome discovery.
“It is with boundless sadness and dismay we received the message that the remains of our daughter and sister Kim Wall have been found,” Wall’s mother Ingrid Wall said on Facebook. “During the horrendous days that have passed since Kim disappeared, we have received countless evidence of how loved and appreciated she was, both as a person and friend and as a professional journalist. From all corners of the world comes proof of Kim as a person who made a difference.”
Wall, 30, was well-traveled journalist whose work had appeared in The New York Times and Foreign Policy, among other publications. She had reported from assignments in North Korea and Haiti, according to her LinkedIn profile.
Madsen is currently charged with manslaughter, which carries a sentence between five years and life in prison. His lawyer, Betina Hald, says he maintains his innocence and is sticking with the story that Wall’s death was accidental, reports Reuters.
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