A Danish man sentenced to life in prison over the murder of journalist Kim Wall on board his homemade submarine has been arrested after a dramatic prison break and stand-off with police.
Peter Madsen took a female psychologist hostage and then escaped from prison in Copenhagen on Tuesday, keeping police at bay for nearly two hours after he wore what police feared was an explosives belt strapped around his waist.
The 49-year-old escaped from Herstedvester prison at around 10am, seizing the woman and brandishing a “pistol-like object”.
“He used her as a shield to threaten the staff to open the gate. It was very violent and the staff, therefore, chose to back off,”Bo Yde Sorensen, chairman of the Danish Prison Federation, told Ekstra Blade newspaper.
“The weapon was life-like so the prison guards at the gate did not dare take any chances in relation to the hostage, who they judged to be in life danger. He threatened to kill her if they did not open the gate.”
Madsen, who murdered a Swedish journalist on his submarine in 2017, got almost 1km from the prison gates.
He was quickly surrounded by police in the residential area of Albertslund, at which point he jumped into a white van parked nearby.
When he emerged, he was wearing what he claimed was a bomb belt. It then took bomb squad officers and specially trained armed police nearly two hours to seize him, during which time Madsen was photographed calmly sitting with his back against a hedge or fence by the side of the road.
“There is nothing at this point to indicate that [the belt] contained explosives… We think it was fake,” Copenhagen Vestegns police inspector Mogens Lauridsen said, adding that an investigation was under way to be certain.
According to the Ritzau newswire, Danish police also used a remote-controlled bomb-robot, known as Rullemarie, during the operation.
“No one was physically injured, but it has been very psychologically stressful for the employees involved,” Hanne Hoegh Rasmussen, the prison’s head, said at a press conference after the arrest.
“We will try to investigate the case in cooperation with the police. The best thing we can say now about that situation is that Peter Madsen is in police custody.”
Madsen was jailed for life in April 2018, after murdering 30-year-old journalist Kim Wall the previous August, after she joined him on board his self-built submarine for an interview.
In a documentary that aired in September, he confessed for the first time to the killing, after having insisted during the trial that her death had been an accident.
“There is only one who is guilty, and that is me,” Madsen said in the documentary.
In a case that made headlines around the world, Madsen had however admitted to the court that he chopped up her corpse and threw her body parts into the sea.
He changed his story several times during his trial but said Wall died when the air pressure dropped and fumes filled the vessel while she was inside.
In the documentary, Madsen said however he and Wall had a discussion that “shook things up”, and that’s what caused him to kill her.
Psychiatric experts who evaluated Madsen for the court found him to be “a pathological liar” who poses “a danger to others” and who was likely to be a repeat offender.
Before the murder, Madsen, who described himself as an artist and inventor, had made a name for himself internationally both for his series of self-built submarines and for his plan to send himself into space on a self-built rocket.
A few months after Madsen was jailed, it emerged that he had entered into a relationship with one of his prison guards, and in January he married the Russian artist Jenny Curpen.
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