An engineer whose 40-ton homemade submarine sank off Denmark’s eastern coast late last week has been arrested in connection with the disappearance of a journalist last seen aboard the vessel.
Peter Madsen is being held on suspicion of manslaughter in the death of Kim Wall, 30, a Swedish journalist who boarded Madsen’s sub for a short voyage on Thursday.
Wall never returned from the trip, and authorities on Sunday told reporters that investigators suspect the sinking of the submarine was a “deliberate act.”
Wall has worked for several media outlets, including The New York Times and Vice magazine. She was reportedly working on a story about Madsen when she disappeared.
Madsen, 46, made headlines in 2008, when he used crowdfunding to finance construction of the nearly 60-foot submarine, which he dubbed the UC3 Nautilus. The eight-passenger vessel was, at the time, the largest known amateur-built submarine.
The Danish Navy launched a search for the sub early Friday, after Wall’s boyfriend reported that it had not returned to Copenhagen.
According to The Associated Press, boat owner Kristian Isbak, who responded to a call for assistance from the authorities, spotted the Nautilus floating in nearby Koge Bay at about 11 a.m. Friday. Isbak said he saw Madsen standing in the submarine’s tower.
“He then climbed down inside the submarine and there was then some kind of air flow coming up and the submarine started to sink,” Isbak told the AP. “[He] came up again and stayed in the tower until water came into it.”
As the vessel sank, Madsen reportedly swam to a nearby boat. Once back on shore, he told Danish television station TV2 that the sub sank after “a minor problem turned into a major issue.”
“It took about 30 seconds for Nautilus to sink, and I couldn’t close any hatches or anything,” Madsen told the station. “But I guess that was pretty good because I otherwise still would have been down there.”
Questioned by authorities about the whereabouts of Wall, Madsen allegedly said he’d dropped her off at Copenhagen Harbor Thursday night. Madsen has since changed his story, according to the BBC, but police have not released additional information about his alleged statements.
On Saturday, Madsen’s sub was lifted out of the bay, where it had been lying at a depth of about 23 feet. Wall was not found inside.
That same day, Madsen was ordered jailed after prosecutor Louise Pedersen filed preliminary charges against him “for having killed in an unknown way and in an unknown place Kim Isabell Frerika Wall... sometime after Thursday 5 p.m.”
Madsen’s lawyer, Betina Engmark, told The Associated Press that her client maintains his innocence and is “willing to cooperate.”
Authorities have not said why they suspect the submarine was intentionally scuttled. They are reportedly examining the vessel’s electronics for clues as to where it traveled after it left the docks.
Wall’s family is still hoping for the best.
“It is with a great concern that we, her family, received the news that Kim is missing after an interview with Peter Madsen in Denmark,” the family wrote in a statement to the Committee to Protect Journalists. “We sincerely hope that she will be found and that she is well.”