Danish inventor Peter Madsen pleaded not guilty at the start of his trial Thursday in the death and mutilation of Swedish journalist Kim Wall aboard his homemade submarine.
Prosecutor Jakob Buch-Jepsen, who opened the trial by calling the killing an “unusual and brutal case,” read Madsen’s charges before he formally entered a not guilty plea.
Madsen is accused of sexually assaulting, torturing and killing Wall, a U.S.-based Swedish journalist who joined him on his vessel for an interview last August.
Buch-Jepsen said after Wall boarded the submarine Aug. 10, the last day she was known to be alive, she sent text messages and pictures to her boyfriend.
“I’m still alive btw,” one read.
“But I’m going down now!” read another.
After Wall’s boyfriend was unable to reach her later, he reported her missing, the Danish prosecutor said.
Madsen admitted to dismembering Wall’s body and disposing of it at sea, but said Wall died accidentally.
“The accused denies voluntary manslaughter, but admits violating the law about indecent handling of a corpse,” defense attorney Betina Hald Engmark said in court.
The first day of Madsen’s trial was attended by many journalists — with media members taking 20 of the 36 seats in the court. The rest of the press, another 105 journalists from 15 different countries — including Israel, the United States, China, France and Austria — are watching from an exclusive lounge.
Madsen’s parents also attended, watching the proceedings from a private room normally reserved for judges.
Madsen was rescued by police after his vessel began sinking the day after Wall left with him on the sub. The inventor initially told police he had dropped Wall off — but later said she died when a heavy hatch on the submarine fell on her head. He later said Wall died of carbon monoxide poisoning inside the submarine.
A cyclist found Wall’s headless torso 11 days later on a Copenhagen beach. Police found the remaining parts of her body in plastic bags.
Buch-Jepsen is seeking a life sentence for Madsen — the most severe punishment possible in Denmark.
Prosecutors plan to argue that Madsen planned the murder — as he brought a saw, knife, plastic strips and metal tubing aboard the submarine.
Madsen pleaded guilty to lesser charges in the case, including violating the Maritime Act.
By Sara Shayanian