In a mysterious turn of events, Columbia-educated Swedish journalist Kim Wall is missing after she boarded a submarine in Copenhagen, Denmark, last week that has since been sunk.
Wall was writing a story about the man who built the submarine, Peter Madsen, a self-described “inventrepeneur.” Madsen claims that after the two boarded the UC3 Nautilus submarine on Aug. 10, he dropped Wall off on Refshaleoen Island after she had completed her interview.
But Danish authorities launched a search the following morning after the sub failed to return to the Copenhagen harbor as planned and Wall failed to return home. The Nautilus was eventually located, 30 miles off the coast of the Danish capital in the bay of Koge, on the verge of sinking. Authorities rescued Madsen as the sub went under water.
Wall’s boyfriend, Kristian Isbak, claims that after authorities asked for help in the search, he saw Wall and Madsen in the Nautilus’s tower. The Washington Post reports that Isbak told authorities he saw them both enter the main cabin, then saw Madsen reappear on the deck just before the submarine began to sink. Madsen did not appear to be alarmed that the sub was sinking.
“There was no panic at all,” Isbak said. “The man was absolutely calm.”
The vessel was subsequently towed at a depth of 22 feet to Copenhagen.
Madsen’s initial story was that he dropped Wall off on the island after she completed the interview and he noticed the submarine was having issues. He claims he didn’t have time to prevent the incident.
“It took about 30 seconds for Nautilus to sink, and I couldn’t close any hatches or anything,” Madsen told Danish TV2, The Washington Post reported. “But I guess that was pretty good because I otherwise still would have been down there.”
But authorities soon discovered the sinking was the result of intentional actions.
“The investigations confirm that the sinking of the submarine was allegedly a consequence of a deliberate act,” Copenhagen police said in a statement.
After the ship was drained of water and examined, no sign of Wall, alive or dead, was found on board.
Madsen has been charged with involuntary manslaughter and is being held for 24 days, but since the case became far more serious than a simple disappearance, Danish authorities have kept information close to the vest.
Madsen’s lawyer said he was “hurt” by accusations he intentionally caused Wall harm. His defense lawyer, Bettina Hald Engmark, told The Associated Press her client is “willing to cooperate.”
Wall’s family said she was covering Madsen for a feature story on his use of crowdfunding to build subs and rockets in Denmark.
Police aren’t optimistic they’ll find Wall alive.
“We’re still hoping that we’ll find Kim Wall alive, but we are preparing ourselves for the fact that she may not be,” said Copenhagen Police Homicide Chief Jens Moller on Sunday.
Before attaining her Master’s in journalism and international affairs at Columbia, Wall got her Bachelor’s at the London School of Economics and Political Science. She has reported from all corners of the world, including North Korea, Sri Lanka, and the Marshall Islands, where she was quarantined and tested for radiation, the paper reported.
Authorities are urging Danish onlookers to notify them if they see any unusual debris in the water.
“If you see things that seem normal, something resembling junk, look again, and contact us if needed,” Swedish police spokesman Mattias Sigfridsson said.
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