Danish police said Wednesday that a headless torso found in waters off Copenhagen is that of missing Swedish journalist Kim Wall, the Associated Press reported.
The torso was attached to a piece of metal, police said, “likely with the purpose to make it sink,” according to AP.
The identification of Wall’s remains marked a major turning point in a case that has gripped Denmark and journalists around the world since Wall vanished Aug 10, while reporting aboard the submarine of inventor Peter Madsen.
Madsen, who was charged in connection with Wall’s death, has admitted she died on board the vessel “and that he consequently buried her at sea” off the coast of Copenhagen, police announced Monday.
A passing cyclist found the headless torso on a nearby shore the same day — nearly two weeks after reporter Wall disappeared and Peter Madsen escaped from the sinking submarine, investigators said.
Madsen at first claimed Wall left the UC3 Nautilus alive before it sank, but now admits she died in an “accident” and he threw her body into the water, according to a police statement.
The body “washed ashore after having been at sea for a while,” Copenhagen police investigator Jens Moeller Jenson told reporters, according to the AP.
Police were able to match DNA from the torso to Wall’s toothbrush and hairbrush, along with blood found in the submarine, Moeller Jenson told reporters.
The cause of the journalist’s death is not yet known, according to the BBC.
“It is with boundless sorrow and dismay that we received the news that the remains of our daughter and sister Kim wall have been found,” Wall’s mother, Ingrid Wall, wrote in a Facebook post Wednesday, adding that the full extent of the “disaster” is not yet clear, and “there are still a number of questions to be answered.”
The mother described her daughter as a widely respected journalist who “gave voice to the weak, vulnerable and marginalised people.”
The freelance journalist was last seen on the evening of Aug. 10, leaving the Copenhagen harbor with Madsen in the Nautilus, which is described on its website as “one of the world’s largest home-built submarines.”
This photo purportedly shows Swedish journalist Kim Wall standing in the tower of the private submarine UC3 Nautilus in Copenhagen Harbor. (Anders Valdsted/AFP/Getty Images)
Madsen, 46, built the Nautilus nearly a decade ago. He has since launched plans to build a crowdfunded space laboratory, according to the BBC.
Wall, originally from Sweden, was working on a story about the engineer, according to her family.
After reporting from the heart of postwar Sri Lanka and the capital of North Korea, taking a submarine trip with a passionate inventor seemed typical for the 30-year-old freelancer, as her friends told it.
“That was what she did. She just wandered places,” said Christopher Harress, a reporter for AL.com, who met Wall when they both studied at Columbia University.
“She trusted somebody, and then this is what happened,” Harress told The Washington Post.
Exactly what happened on the Nautilus almost two weeks ago remains a mystery. Before his story changed, Madsen told police that he dropped Wall off from the ship late on Aug. 10, and later barely made it after the ballast tank malfunctioned and the Nautilus sank in less than a minute.
“I couldn’t close any hatches or anything,” Madsen told a Danish television station.
Peter Madsen, right, talks to a police officer at Dragoer Harbor, south of Copenhagen, on Aug. 11 after his submarine sank. (Bax Lindhardt/Scanpix Denmark/AFP/Getty Images)
But a witness contradicted this. He told reporters that he saw Madsen emerge from the belly of the vessel and stay in the submarine’s tower until water began pouring into it.
Only then did Madsen swim to a nearby boat, the witness said.
“There was no panic at all,” he told a Danish outlet. “The man was absolutely calm.”
Copenhagen police arrested Madsen on a charge of involuntary manslaughter after the sinking, according to a police news release, and accused him of deliberately wrecking the submarine, which was later lifted from the bottom of the bay.
“There is nobody on board — neither dead nor alive,” Copenhagen’s homicide chief told reporters at the time.
Madsen denied the manslaughter charge, but a judge ordered that he be held for 24 days while police continue investigating. On Monday, police said Madsen recounted that she died on board.
Court proceedings have been closed to the public. In the absence of information, the case has taken on “the air of the Scandinavian crime thrillers for which the region is known,” the New York Times wrote.
A tattered life jacket found floating in the water seemed like a clue last week, the Associated Press reported, but turned out to be unrelated.
And Wall’s family, who initially told The Post they hoped she’d come back safely, have since abandoned that hope. “It seems the worst has happened,” her parents and brother said in a statement last week.
Without explaining what “accident” Madsen blamed for Wall’s death, Copenhagen police said Monday that they expected to find her body in the water off the coast eventually.
Investigators mapped the submarine’s route, and divers searched along it Friday, with helicopters joining over the weekend.
On Monday, according to CNN, a cyclist found a female body — armless, legless and headless — on the shore on the other side of an island from where the submarine set off. It had been sent for DNA testing.
“It is clear that the police, like the media and everybody else, is speculating whether this female body is Kim Wall, but it is way too soon to tell,” a police spokesman said at a news conference.
Cleve R. Wootson Jr. contributed to this post, which has been updated.
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