A Danish man convicted of torturing and murdering a Swedish journalist on his homemade submarine made a dramatic, but brief escape from a suburban Copenhagen prison on Tuesday, reportedly taking a hostage to break out before police recaptured him.
Peter Madsen was quickly apprehended near the Herstedvester prison where he is serving a life sentence for the killing of Kim Wall.
Danish Minister of Justice Nick Haekkerup called the escape attempt “very serious.”
“It goes without saying that convicted prisoners who have committed the worst possible crimes should not be able to escape from the custody of the authorities,” Haekkerup wrote on Twitter.
Police said Madsen appeared to be carrying fake weapons, including a “bogus” explosive belt.
“When we came, he threw away something that looked like a firearm,” suburban Copenhagen police operations chief Mogens Lauridsen said.
Madsen, one of Denmark’s most notorious criminals, was captured about five minutes after the escape and about 500m from the facility.
Prison personnel who followed him saw that he had jumped into a passing white van and informed police.
Lauridsen said that they do not believe Madsen had an accomplice.
Police officers then found on Madsen “what seems to be a belt with explosives,” Lauridsen said.
He was handcuffed, officers stepped back and Madsen was left on the side of a road while a bomb squad investigated the belt, Lauridsen said.
“It seems to be a bogus belt,” he said, adding that it was unclear whether Madsen had made it or the object that looked like a firearm.
Prison director Hanne Hoegh Rasmussen told a news conference that the escape was being investigated and that she could not immediately confirm media reports that Madsen took a female prison psychologist hostage inside the prison.
“No one has been injured physically,” Hoegh Rasmussen said, adding that prison staff were receiving psychological support.
The facility has 161 cells and has a wing with inmates who have psychiatric, psychological or sexual behavior problems.
In 2018, Madsen was sentenced in the Copenhagen City Court to life in prison for killing Wall, a 30-year-old reporter from Sweden who he lured aboard his homemade submarine in 2017 with the promise of an interview.
He dismembered her body and dumped it at sea.
Madsen lost his appeal, shortly after apologizing to the victim’s family who were present in the appeals court. The sensational case has gripped Scandinavia.
Madsen has denied murdering Wall. He claims she died accidentally inside the submarine, but he has confessed to throwing her body parts into the Baltic Sea.
Life sentences in Denmark usually mean 16 years in prison, but convicts are reassessed to determine whether they would pose a danger to society if released and can be kept longer.
A self-taught engineer, Madsen built rockets in his spare time, but never went to college. In 2008, he launched his homemade UC3 Nautilus submarine.
Wall had planned to interview Madsen for a story on a rocket program he founded in 2014, with the goal of building a crowdfunded rocket to launch himself into space.
However, by the time he finally texted her, his cash flow had dried up and he had canceled the planned test launch.
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