A Man Was Just Charged In Kim Wall’s Death & That's One Step Closer To Justice

by Lauren Holter
CBS News

Five months after the Swedish journalist was found dead off the coast of Denmark, Danish inventor Peter Madsen has been charged with Kim Wall's murder. Madsen was an initial suspect in Wall's death after she went missing following a visit to his submarine in August. The inventor had claimed Wall's death was an accident, but Danish authorities announced Tuesday that Madsen was charged with premeditated murder, dismemberment, "sexual relations other than intercourse of a particularly dangerous nature," and violating the Act on Safety at Sea.

"This is a very unusual and extremely brutal case which has had tragic consequences for Kim Wall and her relatives," said Special Prosecutor Jakob Buch-Jepsen in a statement. Buch-Jepsen added that the evidence in the case "must be presented in court and not in the press." Madsen's trial is set to begin March 8, lasting eight days.

Wall joined Madsen on his UC3 Nautilus submarine in August while working on a profile of him. Roughly 15 hours after the submarine left the Copenhagen shore, Madsen was rescued from the sinking vessel and Wall was deemed missing. Madsen first told the police he had dropped off Wall on shore, but later changed his story and claimed she died in a "terrible accident."

The Danish prosecutors charging Madsen with Wall's murder are seeking a sentence of life in prison. If he's found guilty at trial, Madsen's sentencing would take place April 25.

Wall was an accomplished journalist who liked to cover unexpected stories, including Ugandan leader Idi Amin’s torture chambers, Haitian vodou, and how Cubans watch Keeping Up With the Kardashians without internet access. "She has found and told stories from different parts of the globe, stories that must be written,” Wall's mother wrote in a statement after her disappearance. “She gave voice to the weak, vulnerable and marginalised people."

Those who knew the 30-year-old reporter want her to be remembered for her success and positive energy. Elisa Lees Muñoz, executive director of the International Women’s Media Foundation (IWMF), described how beloved Wall was in an August statement. “Kim Wall was a dedicated journalist, and loved by our network of staff and global journalists who worked closely with her. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Kim’s family, friends and colleagues during this heart-wrenching time," Muñoz wrote. She added: "She was dogged in her pursuit of important and sometimes quirky stories. She was adored by those who knew her."

The Kim Wall Memorial Fund was set up to honor the journalist's legacy, raising money through GoFundMe to provide a grant for young female journalists covering the types of stories Wall chased. The fundraising page, set up by Wall's friends and family, says, "Kim would have wanted more women to be out in the world, brushing up against life."

On top of the Kim Wall Fund, multiple other awards have been dedicated to Wall's memory. The Kim Wall Memorial Scholarship will help students who share Wall's values finish school, going first to the Finnish journalist Hanna Nordenswan. Google sponsored the Kim Wall Best Digital Reporting Award to discover the best stories on international affairs "using creative and dynamic digital storytelling techniques" (submissions for the first award are currently open here). Wall's alma mater, the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University, also set up a scholarship in her name.

Wall's classmates, family, and friends were shocked by her death, but they want her work to continue inspiring other young journalists. "What anyone who met her for even a short time knows that her exuberance is (I can't bring myself to write in the past tense) contagious," said Valerie Hopkins, one of Wall's Columbia classmates, in IWMF's statement. "In the four years since we graduated, I have followed her work and marveled [at] how she was able to write stories from so many countries." The awards honoring Wall's life will allow more women to travel the world and discover untold stories.