Man Charged With Killing Missing Journalist After Crowdfunded Submarine Sinks

By Rhett Jones on at

When the UC3 Nautilus was first launched in 2008, it was touted as the world’s largest privately built submarine. It’s had some trouble along the way but was back in action this year. On Friday, however, it sunk off the coast of Denmark and authorities are concerned about a missing woman who had allegedly been on board the vessel reporting a story for Wired.

The Associated Press reported early this morning that Peter Madsen, the owner of the vessel and co-founder of Copenhagen Suborbitals, was returned to shore by a private boat after a technical malfunction sank the sub. “I am fine, but sad because Nautilus went down,” Madsen told Denmark’s TV2, “a minor problem with a ballast tank... turned into a major issue.”

Further details are sketchy. According to the Associated Press report, “The navy initially said the sub was ‘found sailing’ south of Copenhagen,” but later corrected themselves and confirmed that it had sunk. Soon thereafter, Copenhagen police confirmed that an unidentified woman had been reported missing and her boyfriend told authorities that she had been on the submarine doing a story for Wired. The boyfriend is said to be the one who first alerted police that the submarine was missing when it didn’t return on time.

According to Swedish outlet Berlingske, a spokesperson for the Danish police said that Madsen claims he dropped the woman off in Copenhagen the previous night. “We know she was aboard the submarine last night, but we do not know if she was aboard the boat when she disappeared.” the spokesperson said. “All I can say is that the woman’s relatives reported her missing this night.” Police are now reporting that the submarine was found by divers but will need to be hauled to shore before they can enter. It was found on the seabed in Koge Bay, seven metres below the surface.

“It took about 30 seconds for Nautilus to sink, and I couldn’t close any hatches or anything,” Madsen told reporters. Co-founder of the DIY rocket ship group Copenhagen Suborbitals, Madsen is a an eccentric renaissance man who helped build the UC3 Nautilus with a group of volunteers over the course of three years. It was launched in May of 2008 and performed relatively smoothly for several years before being grounded in 2011. Repairs and maintainance were needed and following a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo, it relaunched in April this year.

Copenhagen Suborbitals is a group of amateur rocket enthusiasts that supports itself through crowdfunding and has around 55 volunteers. The collective hopes to one day fly a volunteer on one of its rockets but flight tests have, so far, failed. The Nautilus was another project for the group and was a bigger success. In 2014, Madsen left the group to focus on other projects, one of which being the UC3 Nautilus.

The UC3 Nautilus submarine association was formed in order to separate ownership of the sub from Copenhagen Suborbitals. But within a year, Madsen was feuding with the board of that organisation over who the proper owner of Nautilus really was. A statement on the association’s website claims that board members received a text message from Madsen that read in part, “You may think that a curse is lying on Nautilus. That curse is me.” After several rounds of negotiation, the board decided to cede ownership of the vessel to Madsen.

press release from Copenhagen police states that Madsen has now been arrested and charged with “killing” the Swedish woman. Madsen denies the charges and claims he dropped the still unidentified woman off in Copenhagen on Thursday night around 11:30pm local time. Police are seeking any witnesses who may have seen the woman after 4pm on Thursday.

Police say that the submarine was found by divers but will need to be hauled to shore before they can enter. It was found on the seabed in Koge Bay, seven meters below the surface.

The police description of the missing woman reads:

160 cm tall, 56 kg, 30 years, faint of building, reddish brown hair, green eyes. Wearing an orange blouse with long sleeves, black and white floral skirt, nylon stockings and white tennis shoes.

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