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Danish coroner says journalist likely strangled on submarine

© AFP/File | A man and a woman standing in the tower of Madsen's submarine

COPENHAGEN (AFP) - 

A coroner testified Thursday that Swedish journalist Kim Wall, who died on Danish inventor Peter Madsen's submarine, was probably strangled or had her throat cut, and was not killed in an accident as Madsen claims.

Christina Jacobsen told the Copenhagen district court there was no conclusive evidence to prove the cause of death beyond doubt.

"What we think happened is that the airways were totally or partially cut off. That would be due to either strangulation, throat cutting or drowning," she said.

However, when asked by Madsen's lawyer Betina Hald Engmark whether Wall's autopsy showed typical signs of strangulation (blood accumulation in the eyes, abrasions on the neck), the coroner replied: "No."

Madsen, who is charged with premeditated murder, sexual assault, and desecration of a corpse, has changed his version of events multiple times but has maintained her death was accidental.

On the first day of his trial on March 8, he told the court that Wall, a 30-year-old freelancer, died when the air pressure suddenly dropped and toxic fumes filled his vessel on the night of August 10, 2017, while he was up on deck.

He has admitted dismembering her body and throwing it overboard, but denies premeditated murder and sexual assault.

The coroner disputed Madsen's claim though, testifying: "The air seems not to have been able to leave the lungs, which is not the case with lack of oxygen or inhalation of gases."

Wall had gone out for a sail with Madsen to interview him for a profile she was writing of the eccentric inventor, who is well known in Denmark.

But the prosecution has painted a picture of Madsen as a sadist who murdered Wall as part of a sexual fantasy.

Wall's dismembered body parts, weighed down in plastic bags with metal objects, were recovered from waters off Copenhagen in the weeks following her disappearance.

The coroner testified Thursday about numerous lesions found on Wall's torso and head, with much of the questioning focused on the 14 stab wounds to her genital area.

- 'Blood still circulating' -

Presenting sketches to the court, prosecutor Jakob Buch-Jepsen tried to determine whether the stabs -- believed to be inflicted with several instruments, including a 50-cm sharpened screwdriver -- occurred before, during, or after death.

"The level of blood accumulation indicates, that they occurred around the time when there was still blood circulation, or just after. We are probably not talking hours," she testified.

Madsen testified a day earlier that he had stabbed Wall's body several hours after her death to let out gases that accumulate inside a decomposing body so she would sink to the seabed.

"There is nothing sexual in the stabs hitting her vagina," he said.

He has previously explained that he chopped her up because he panicked and wanted her dead body off the submarine but couldn't lift her out in one piece.

But the coroner said his explanation for the stab wounds didn't hold up.

"As the stabs are superficial, gases would not have been able to get in or out," she said.

Peter Madsen, who was argumentative and obstinate during the prosecution's questioning on Wednesday, kept his head down during the coroner's testimony on Thursday.

- Beheadings and impalings -

Known in Denmark as "Rocket Madsen", a self-taught engineer fascinated by space and the bottom of the ocean, the 47-year-old is described by his friends as authoritarian, unpredictable, and prone to angry outbursts.

On Wednesday, the prosecution showed the court three videos found on Madsen's hard drive. On one, a real woman had her throat slit; another was an animated film of a woman having her throat slit and being decapitated; a third was an animated film depicting a woman having her throat slit before being decapitated and impaled.

Texts on women being impaled were also found.

His line of defence has varied on the videos: he has denied searching for or downloading some of the videos, but others he admitted to watching "to be able to feel emotions and to cry" about the women's suffering.

Madsen is due to take the stand again on March 28, with around 35 witnesses to testify in the coming days.

The verdict is due on April 25. The prosecutor has called for a life sentence, which in Denmark averages around 16 years, or safe custody, a legal alternative which would keep him behind bars indefinitely as long as he is deemed dangerous.

© 2018 AFP