On Tuesday, news emerged that the torso found floating in the waters of Copenhagen has been identified as that of Kim Wall, a 30-year-old journalist who went missing after boarding the self-crafted submarine of Danish inventor. But who is Peter Madsen? Shortly after Wall's disappearance, the inventor was arrested on preliminary manslaughter charges and, in light of the discovery of Wall's body, many are likely wondering just that.
As The New York Times reported, Madsen is a 46-year-old Danish man who is well-known for his engineering prowess and inventiveness. One of four sons, Madsen reportedly grew up in Hong, a small town on Zealand, Denmark’s largest island. According to the Times, as a child, Madsen was fascinated by rockets and, indeed, launched his first rocket at the age of 15.
Madsen reportedly went on to study engineering at the university level, but never completed his degree. Instead, he became widely-regarded as a self-taught aerospace engineer who become well-known for several intriguing projects.
In 2008, he founded an amateur space exploration company, Copenhagen Suborbitals, which refers to itself as "only amateur space program" in the world and lists one of its primary objectives as successfully launching a human being into space and safely returning them to earth.
According to the Times, Madsen also began launching submarines in 2002 and, in 2008, successfully launched his own self-crafted, crowd-funded submarine, the UC3 Nautilus. The Nautilus is the submarine from which Wall disappeared earlier this month, reportedly after boarding the sub to interview Madsen for an article she was writing about him. The submarine also sank the day after Wall was last seen alive (it was allegedly intentionally sunk), though only Madsen was discovered on board, with Wall already missing.
Madsen has been charged with manslaughter in the death of Wall, whom he claim accidentally died aboard his submarine; he also said he buried her body in an undisclosed location. This explanation for Wall's death deviates from Madsen's original story, in which he stated that Wall had departed his submarine and that he had dropped her off in Copenhagen after she interviewed him.
The Times reported that individuals who knew Madsen were shocked that he could potentially be involved in Wall's death. Jens Falkenberg, whom the paper described as a member of the amateur submarine building community, said: “Peter is a colorful personality, but he’s in no way evil, and I don’t believe there’s anything violent in him ... I can’t imagine Peter having killed her intentionally, but I can imagine an accident happening. The submarine is an ungainly place and you move around awkwardly. Perhaps she fell and broke her neck.”
As the investigation proceeds, hopefully Danish authorities will be able to shed more light on what exactly happened to Wall. In the meantime, Wall's family, friends, and professional community are mourning the loss of the revered journalist, while also expressing shock and sadness at her sudden, tragic death.