An amateur submarine builder is facing charges in connection with the disappearance of a Swedish journalist who was aboard his homemade ship for a story.
The vessel sank early Friday morning off the Danish coast as the inventor, Peter Madsen, escaped to a nearby rescue ship. But he told police that he had dropped off the reporter, Kim Wall, at a remote Copenhagen island around three hours into the trip.
Wall’s boyfriend had reported her missing when she didn’t come home that night after what was supposed to be a short evening voyage.
A judge ruled that Madsen could be held for up to 24 days on preliminary manslaughter charges.
“The owner of the submarine was arrested and is accused of having killed the Swedish woman without intent,” police said in a statement. “He denies the allegations and explains that he left the woman on the end of the Refshaleøen island.”
The eccentric DIY enthusiast crowdfunded the renovation of his UC3 Nautilus sub earlier this year. First launched in 2008, the ship was famous for being the world’s biggest privately owned submarine, but it had sat in disrepair for seven years until April.
Madsen said in an interview with a Danish television station that the trip spun into chaos after a “minor problem” with a mechanism meant to balance the craft turned into a “major issue.”
“It took about 30 seconds for Nautilus to sink, and I couldn’t close any hatches or anything,” he said, per The Guardian. “But I guess that was pretty good because I otherwise still would have been down there.”
Wall is a 30-year-old freelance journalist whose work appeared in major outlets all over the world, including the New York Times, Harper’s Magazine, and Foreign Policy (she’s also done reporting for Mashable that was never published for reasons unrelated to the quality of substance of her work). Some of her past pieces include a feature story on a massive dome of nuclear waste on an island in the Pacific and in-depth reportage on a nascent Cuban internet culture.
Copenhagen police said they’ve located the sunken submarine, but it will have to be airlifted to land before they can enter.
Before the submarine’s relaunch, Madsen had been locked in a fierce ownership dispute with a board representing the group of volunteers who helped him build it.
Madsen ultimately won out, but during one round of negotiations, he apparently sent board members an foreboding message that now reads in a more jarring light.
“You may think that a curse is lying on Nautilus,” he wrote, according to the association’s statement at the time. “That curse is me. There will not be peace of Nautilus for as long as I exist. You can not lift that curse legally.”