The Danish inventor jailed for the gory murder of a journalist on his home-made submarine was arrested after trying to escape from prison today.
Peter Madsen forced his way out of the jail by taking a female psychologist hostage with what he claimed was a pistol, before threatening guards by saying he had a bomb, according to Danish media.
He was later seen in the open, sitting by a roadside while wearing a belt and surrounded by snipers, a few hundred yards from the prison in the Copenhagen suburbs.
A bomb squad arrived on the cordoned-off street while police faced off with the killer who dismembered Swedish reporter Kim Wall after she boarded his submarine in 2017.
Around three hours after his escape, police announced the stand-off was over and that Madsen had been arrested and driven away.
Snipers point their guns at Peter Madsen as he sits on a roadside today after trying to escape from prison in Denmark
Madsen was surrounded by a massive police presence after trying to escape his life sentence for murdering journalist Kim Wall in 2017
Danish armed guards on the scene today after Peter Madsen dramatically tried to escape from his life sentence for the 2017 submarine murder
Danish inventor Peter Madsen (left) was jailed in 2018 for the gory murder of journalist Kim Wall (right) on his submarine in a Copenhagen harbour
Madsen escaped from the prison by using an object that ‘looked like a pistol’ to convince guards that the psychologist’s life was in danger.
Prison official Bo Yde Sorensen said Madsen was ‘armed with a pistol-like object’ and said guards were right to lock him out of the jail because there was an ‘obvious risk to life’.
‘It was very violent and the staff therefore choose to back off. We guess it was a dummy,’ he told BT.
At a press conference this afternoon, police said Madsen had then jumped into a white van and forced the person behind the wheel to drive for around five minutes before officers caught up with him.
Detectives have so far struggled to question the driver because he speaks little Danish, but he is not suspected of plotting with Madsen, police said.
What happened to the hostage is not clear, but Madsen was surrounded on the roadside grass after allegedly telling officers he was wearing an explosive device.
Witnesses said Madsen had managed to get away in the white van before police stopped him, wrestled him out of the vehicle and threw him to the ground amid shouting and screaming outside the prison.
Police dogs, trained negotiators and bomb disposal experts equipped with a robot were on the scene as they assessed Madsen’s threat.
Authorities said at the press conference that Madsen had a realistic-looking bomb belt, but said it was likely to have been a dummy.
‘There is nothing at this point to indicate that (the belt) contained explosives… We think it was fake,’ Copenhagen police inspector Mogens Lauridsen said, adding that an investigation was underway.
The exact nature of his ‘pistol’ was also unclear and police said they did not know whether Madsen had made it himself.
Once the two-hour stand-off ended, Madsen was taken back to a van and driven away, although he has not yet been questioned over the escape.
Denmark’s justice minister Nick Hækkerup said the escape was ‘deeply serious’ and demanded an investigation from the probation service.
‘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,’ he said.
‘One thing is for sure: we will launch a number of further measures against prisoner escapes in the near future.’
Danish media said Madsen has previously been kept in isolation at the Herstedvester prison – a high-security facility with space for 161 inmates in need of psychiatric or psychological care as well as sex offenders – because guards suspected he would try to escape from one of the country’s famously relaxed jails.
One witness told Politiken: ‘It’s horrible and strange that he has been able to escape from a prison where there are so many psychopaths.’
‘This is a closed prison. We are examining our security procedures to see if they have been respected and if they need to be reinforced,’ said prison chief Hoegh Rasmussen.
Madsen’s lawyer told Danish media she knew nothing about his escape attempt.
Police inspector Lauridsen said Madsen had not yet been questioned. ‘He will be soon though,’ he added.
Police equipment on the ramp of a van during the Peter Madsen operation in Denmark today
Police officers stand by a cordon after Peter Madsen was surrounded by officers today
A view of the Herstedvester prison where Madsen has been serving his life sentence
Madsen, 49, was sentenced to life in prison in 2018 for killing, sexually assaulting and dismembering Wall after she boarded his submarine.
Wall’s mutilated body was found in August 2017 after she boarded the home-made submarine in Copenhagen to research a piece on the eccentric inventor.
Police divers then recovered a weighted-down bag containing her head, other body parts and her clothes.
Madsen was rescued from waters between Denmark and Sweden shortly before his submarine sank.
Investigators later recovered and searched the sunken submarine.
Madsen changed his version of events several times, initially claiming Wall was alive and that he had dropped her off on a nearby island.
He later said she had hit her head on the submarine’s hatch, before changing tack again and claiming that she was suffocated by an accidental gas leak.
But forensic tests found that she had either been strangled or had her throat cut – and that around the time of her death, Madsen had stabbed her in her breasts and genitals with a knife or screwdriver.
Danish judge Anette Burkoe said it was a ‘cynical and planned sexual assault and brutal murder of a random woman, who in connection with her journalistic work had accepted an offer to go sailing in the defendant’s submarine’.
The home-made submarine ‘UC3 Nautilus’, which was built by Danish inventor Peter Madsen and is where he killed Kim Wall in 2017
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 was an accident.
‘There is only one who is guilty, and that is me,’ Madsen said in the documentary.
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.
Danish jails are also known for their less-than-punishing conditions, with most inmates kept in open prisons.
Prisoners receive wages for at least 37 hours of work, are eligible for sick pay and can watch television, play games and cook their own meals. They can also continue to vote in elections.
Some prisoners are eligible to leave and see their family as often as every three weeks, although not if they are considered a flight risk.
One report on the Danish prison system said that only 0.1 per cent of prison leave led to the inmate re-offending.
A Washington Post report in 2016 found that guards did not search inmates or visitors for drugs despite knowing they were being smuggled in.
Knives and vegetable peelers that had been used to attack other prisoners were merely anchored to a cell wall rather than being removed, the report said.
‘Conditions in the prison must, as far as possible, reflect the conditions in the society outside,’ the Danish prison service says on its website.