'The Investigation': The True Story Behind the HBO Series

The Investigation is the new true-crime drama streaming now on BBC iPlayer and airing on Mondays on HBO, which tells the story of the murder of Kim Wall, a Swedish journalist killed on a submarine in Denmark in 2017. This case was investigated by a team led by Copenhagen police head of homicide Jens Moller (played by Soren Malling), who is the lead of the show, which takes the decision never to feature Wall's killer, Peter Madsen.

Wall was a Swedish journalist whose work has appeared in The New York Times, The Guardian and many more noted publications. In August 2017, just a week before she was planning to move to Beijing with her boyfriend, she was invited by Madsen, a Danish engineer, to interview him on his homemade submarine, the UC3 Nautilus, one of three submarines the rocket and sub enthusiast had constructed.

When Wall did not return, and the submarine was sunk, her boyfriend reported her missing, leading to the arrest of Madsen. He initially claimed that she had disembarked the craft before it sank, though this story changed after her torso washed up on a beach.

the investigation hbo true story
'The Investigation' on HBO focuses on the police case that aims to find out what happened on board the UCS Nautilus submarine that led to the death of Kim Wall. Getty

What followed was a series of ever-changing stories from Madsen about what happened after new details emerged about what happened on the Nautilus. He changed his story from saying she left the boat to saying she died in an accident and he had buried her at sea, then changed this again to say she died of a fractured skull after the submarine hatch hit her on the head. When Navy divers found the rest of her body, however, he said she had died after carbon monoxide gas had been released into the craft. Around this point, he also confessed to dismembering the body, which the post-mortem had revealed contained numerous stab wounds.

As the trial went on, details of graphic videos found on Madsen's computer, including one of a woman being decapitated, emerged. At the end of this trial, he was found guilty of murder, indecent handling of a corpse and sexual assault, and sentenced to life imprisonment. This sentence (though not the verdict) was appealed in September 2018, but upheld by Denmark's high court. He is now imprisoned at Denmark's Herstedvester prison, despite briefly escaping in October 2020.

HBO's The Investigation, as its title suggests, tells this story entirely from the point of view of those attempting to find out exactly what happened on board that submarine.

Speaking to Sky News, The Investigation showrunner (and Borgen co-creator) Tobias Lindholm said he choose this path so as to, "liberate myself from the burden of genre convention."

In particular, he pointed out one element of the investigation that gave him this idea.

"Jens told me one thing that became very key: he told me that he had never interrogated the perpetrator himself," Lindholm explained. "He had other investigators to do that and then he will analyse the answers, come up with new questions, but never go in there, into the room. And with him saying that I realised that I could make not a true crime show, but a show we could call true investigation."

The Investigation airs Mondays at 10 p.m. on HBO. After airing, episodes are released on HBO Max.