Carrying a "pistol-like" object and a fake bomb strapped to his abdomen, a Danish man serving a life sentence for the sexual assault and murder of a journalist aboard his homemade submarine, bluffed his way out of prison before police quickly recaptured him.

Peter Madsen, whose high-profile case received international attention following the murder of Swedish journalist Kim Wall in 2017, was seen in a photo published by the Danish tabloid Ekstra Bladet sitting in the grass with his hands behind his back as police nearby trained their weapons on him.

At a news conference, Copenhagen West Region police confirmed that Madsen escaped Herstedvester Prison in Albertslund on the outskirts of the capital using a fake pistol and a belt that looked like a bomb. He was recaptured less than a mile from the prison, police said, according to the daily Jyllands-Posten.

A witness, Frank Jensen, was quoted by Ekstra Bladet as saying that Madsen had been driving a white van when officers surrounded him and then pulled him from the vehicle.

Madsen, 49, was first arrested in 2017 following his rescue after the sinking of the submarine he designed and built, the UC3 Nautilus. Wall, who had been working on a story about the inventor, was last seen alive on the vessel just before its sinking. It was more than a week before authorities found her torso washed up ashore in Copenhagen.

She was later found to have more than a dozen stab wounds in and around her genitals.

Madsen initially told police he had dropped Wall safely ashore but later changed his story multiple times – first, saying he had "buried her at sea" after a heavy hatch fell on her head.

Divers later found Wall's severed head in a weighted bag, and further investigation revealed no signs of blunt force trauma to the skull, casting doubt on Madsen's version of events. He then changed his story again, claiming that she died of carbon monoxide poisoning aboard the sub.

Before trial, Madsen admitted to dismembering Wall's body but continued to maintain he had not killed her.

He was found guilty of premeditated murder and sexual assault and sentenced to life in prison in 2018.

In a documentary that aired last month, Madsen reportedly admits for the first time to the murder, saying: "There is only one who is guilty, and that is me."

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