Murder is quite rare in Denmark, but one of its citizens will soon be on trial for a particularly gruesome killing. The high-profile case comes almost a century after the world was stunned by another horrific case, that of a Danish woman who systematically murdered as many as 25 babies.
Between 1913 and 1920, Copenhagen resident Dagmar Overbye took in infants from unwed mothers, promising to care for them or find adoptive parents. But despite receiving money for her services, Overbye strangled or smothered the babies and burned their bodies. Her actions were uncovered after one mother tried to retrieve her new-born daughter, without success, and reported Overbye to the police. Overbye confessed to 16 murders and was convicted of nine for which evidence was strong, but she is believed to have killed up to 25 infants, including her own. Although she received a death sentence, it was commuted, and in 1929 she died in prison at age 42. Responding to the case, the Danish government required all children be registered and those in foster care be supervised.
A very different murder suspect will stand trial on 8 March 2018. Engineer and entrepreneur Peter Madsen, 47, is accused of premeditated killing, sexual assault and improper handling of a body in August last year. The victim was Kim Wall, a 30-year-old Swedish journalist whom he invited for a short trip on his submarine in connection with an article she was writing about him. He is also accused of intentionally sinking his submarine in a ploy to conceal his actions. Wall’s head and limbs were sawn from her torso and the parts weighted and thrown overboard. Police retrieved her remains, found signs of torture, and Madsen was charged. He says Wall’s death was an accident.
Peter Madsen, who knows what happened to Kim Wall
— Photo of serial murderer Dagmar Overby, courtesy of Politimuseet, Copenhagen
— The shocking case of the Vesterbro baby burner – CPHPost Online
— Dagmar Overby: Englemagersken (Angel Maker), by Karen Søndergaard Jensen. Biography published in 2007 by Kallisto, ISBN 87-990521-2-1 (in Danish)
— Denmark’s largest serial murderer – Danmarks Radio: DanmarksHistorie (in Danish)
— Danish inventor abused Kim Wall before killing her, Indictment says – New York Times
—Video: Remembering Kim Wall
—Statistics on murder in Denmark 2006-2016
— Photo of Peter Madsen, 2010, by Joi Ito, via Wikimedia Commons