Danish Lutheran priest expected to confess to murdering wife

Thomas Gotthard, the Danish Lutheran priest seized by police last October, three weeks after his wife's disappearance, is expected to confess in court today to murdering her, meaning he could be found guilty as early as this afternoon.

Danish Lutheran priest expected to confess to murdering wife
Until last month Thomas Gotthard maintained his innocence. Photo: Nordsjællands Politi/Ritzau Scanpix

“The accused is expected to give a full account about what happened, and we hope and expect that the case will be decided with a confession case later in the day,” Gotthard’s defence lawyer Jesper Storm Thygesen, told TV2 on Tuesday morning.

After the hearing began at 9.15am, both the defence and prosecution called for it to be held behind closed doors to avoid prejudicing the full trial, which has been scheduled for October if the 44-year-old does not make a full confession.

The media organisations present called for the hearing to be held in public, but the judge granted the request. 

Gotthard told police last year that his wife, psychologist Maria From Jakobsen, had left the couple’s house in a depressed state, leaving her phone and bank cards behind.

But he was taken into custody three weeks later after police found caustic soda and hydrochloric acid in the couple’s house and discovered that he had searched for terms like “sea depth,” “oil barrels,” “suicide,” “disappeared” and “cleaning” on the family computer.

He has since been suspended from his position as a parish priest.

Police have also documented how Gotthard cleaned his car on October 26th, the day of his wife’s disappearance, and found CCTV footage showing him on November 6th disposing of a big blue plastic barrel at the recycling centre in Frederikssund, the town where the couple lived.

Both before, on the day, and afterwards, Gotthard drove around the area in Brønshøj, where Jakobsen’s car was found on October 30th, without being able to give any explanation for the journeys.

In June, police reported that investigators had found remains of Jakobsen close to the couple’s home, describing the discovery as “of great importance to the case.”

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Former head of Danish intelligence charged over leaks

Danish prosecutors on Friday charged the country's former military intelligence chief with leaking state secrets, following a scandal over Denmark's cooperation with US intelligence.

Former head of Danish intelligence charged over leaks
The prosecution authority said Lars Findsen was accused of “having divulged secrets important to national security on several occasions and… under particularly aggravated circumstances”.
The details of the investigation are classified, but the case comes after Danish media reported that the Danish intelligence services had cooperated with the US National Security Agency (NSA).

Findsen, who was suspended in August 2020 without public explanation, was subsequently held in custody from December 2021 to February 2022. He insists he is innocent.

“I never divulged any state secrets. I reject the allegations”, he told Danish news agency Ritzau in June, criticising the handling of the case as “ridiculous”.

Prosecutors accuse Findsen of leaking state secrets and other confidential information after his suspension to six people, including two journalists, over a period of up to 17 months.

The leaks could “harm relations with other intelligence service partners and make their work more difficult if their work methods were revealed”, prosecutor Jakob Berger Nielsen said.
“Trust in the (Danish) intelligence service’s ability to protect sensitive information may have been weakened,” he added.
The prosecution said it would request a trial behind closed doors. A date has yet to be set.
While Denmark never publicly revealed why Findsen and the other agents were suspended, there have been suspicions that his service conducted illegal surveillance.
The government accused them of hiding “crucial information” and providing “false information to the authorities” between 2014 and 2020.
In May 2021, an investigation by several Danish media revealed that the NSA used Danish underwater cables to spy on officials in France, Germany, Norway and Sweden until at least 2014.
Former German chancellor Angela Merkel was among the NSA’s targets.
The revelations sparked an international scandal and the four countries demanded explanations from Washington and Copenhagen.