The Danish inventor Peter Madsen, who was handed a life prison sentence in 2018 for the killing of the Swedish journalist Kim Wall, has confessed to the crime for the first time, in a television documentary.
The 49-year-old, found guilty of premeditated murder, aggravated sexual assault and desecrating a corpse, had insisted during the trial that Wall’s death, on Madsen’s homemade submarine in August 2o17, was an accident.
In The Secret Recordings with Peter Madsen, released on Wednesday morning, the journalist Kristian Linnemann asks the self-taught engineer whether he killed Wall, 30, when she went to interview him onboard the vessel. He answers “Yes”.
“It’s my fault she died,” he says. “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,” Madsen said in the documentary, produced by Discovery Networks Denmark.
The network said more than 20 hours of conversations were recorded with Madsen from his cell. The programme director, Pil Gundelach Brandstrup, said Madsen’s answers were “acknowledgments of the facts that the prosecution claimed, and he has so far denied”.
Wall, who had written for the Guardian and the New York Times, was last seen alive on the submarine, the Nautilus, on 10 August 2017. Her dismembered torso was found floating off the coast of Copenhagen 10 days after she was reported missing, and her head, legs and clothes were discovered in bags at sea that October.
Madsen, who was rescued just before the vessel sank, initially claimed to have set the journalist down on dry land. He subsequently changed his story, saying she had died when a heavy hatch cover accidentally fell on her head during their brief voyage on the 17-metre (56ft) submarine.
He later revised his account again, saying Wall, who was researching a profile about him, died of carbon monoxide poisoning while on board. He admitted dismembering her body, saying it was the only way he could get it out of the submarine, weighting her body parts, and throwing them into the sea.
Prosecutors said 15 stab wounds were found on Wall’s body along with traces of Madsen’s DNA. A police examination of Madsen’s computer uncovered material featuring women being tortured and killed.
The trial judge, Anette Burkø, described the crime as “a cynical and pre-planned sexual assault of a particularly brutal nature on a random woman who, in connection with her journalistic work, accepted an invitation for a sailing trip”.
She said the court instead believed the prosecution’s theory that Madsen had sexually tortured Wall to fulfil a violent sexual fantasy.
Madsen later appealed, asking the appeals court to give him a lighter punishment and arguing that life behind bars was disproportionate. The appeals court upheld the life sentence.