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Police suspect Danish submarine killer had help in escape bid

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COPENHAGEN (AFP) – Danish police suspect that Peter Madsen, who is serving a life sentence for the grisly murder of a journalist aboard his homemade submarine, may have had accomplices in his failed jailbreak, the prosecutor said on Wednesday (Oct 21).

“Police believe that someone may have helped (Madsen) with his escape, and that’s what the next 14 days should allow us to shed light on,” prosecutor Rasmus Kim Petersen told reporters after a judge ordered Madsen held in custody for two weeks.

The 49-year-old is serving a life sentence for the 2017 murder of Swedish journalist Kim Wall, who was interviewing him for a profile she was writing. The gruesome killing made headlines around the world.

On Tuesday, Madsen managed to escape briefly from the Herstedvester Prison in Copenhagen, threatening prison staff with a fake gun and claiming to be wearing a bomb belt.

He was caught just minutes later by police, who waited more than two hours for bomb experts to determine that he was not in possession of explosives before hauling him away.

In a hearing behind closed doors at the Glostrup court outside Copenhagen on Wednesday, Madsen pleaded guilty to the six preliminary charges brought against him, with the exception of that concerning possible accomplices, his lawyer said.

“He admits trying to escape, but not that it was done with accomplices,” lawyer Anders Larsen told reporters.

His client “had no intention of hurting anyone”, he said, describing Madsen as “saddened by the situation”.

“He thinks that his conditions regarding visits and communications have been toughened mostly because of who he is… and that’s what motivated him” to escape, Mr Larsen said.

Denmark, like its Nordic neighbours, prides itself on the humane conditions of its prisons.

But it has among Europe’s highest rates of prison escapes, according to a 2018 Council of Europe report.

The two issues are related, according to experts.

Under Danish law, an inmate serving a life sentence can ask to be paroled after 12 years.

Madsen’s escape bid will likely ruin any chances of his being granted parole, experts added.