Dennis Andrew Nilsen ( A.K.A ‘Des’ / ‘Muswell Hill Murderer’ ) was a cold and calculating Scottish serial killer back in the late 1970’s / early 1980’s. Not content with just the act of killing itself, he would dismember and boil up his victims after partaking in a little self satisfaction with the remains, earning himself a dedicated spot on the necrophile list. Often referred to as the ‘British Jefferey Dahmer’, the convicted serial killing fiend thrived on his notoriety, proudly boasting in a letter to his pen-pal that he was more famous than David Beckham:
For those interested, here is the waxwork exhibit he was referring to…
It is believed he murdered, at the very least, 12 males and attempted to kill a further 7 after luring them to his home in North London. Most of victims were homeless and / or vulnerable. After his arrest he initially confessed to killing 15 men and boys, but was ultimately only convicted of six counts of murder and two of attempted murder. He was sentenced to life imprisonment, to serve at least 25 years but this was later upgraded to a whole life sentence. He served just over 34 years before he died of a pulmonary embolism and a retroperitoneal haemorrhage.
Here’s Dennis Nilsen’s story…
Dennis Andrew Nilsen was born in Fraserburgh, Aberdeenshire, Scotland, on November 23rd 1945. He was the 2nd of three children born to parents Olav Magnus Moksheim and Elizabeth Duthie Whyte. Moksheim (who changed his surname to Nilsen) was an alcoholic, Norwegian soldier. He’d met Whyte in Scotland after travelling there as part of the Norwegian resistance during the Germans occupation of Norway in WWII. Moksheim was absent throughout most of his marriage to Whyte and when Nilsen was only 4 years old he upped and left, abandoning Whyte and their young family completely.
Whyte and her 3 children , Olav Jr., Dennis and Sylvia, resided in a single bedroom at her parents house, Nilsen’s maternal Grandparents, Andrew and Lily Whyte. Nilsen was especially close to his Grandfather, a fisherman by trade, who he would later describe as his “great hero and protector”. They would often take long walks together, with Nilsen sitting contently upon his Grandfather’s shoulders.
In October 1951, Andrew Whyte tragically died of a heart attack whilst at sea and his body was returned to the family a day or so before the funeral. It was at this time, 5 year old Nilsen viewed the corpse of his beloved Grandfather in an open coffin, an act which Nilsen described as the first traumatic event in his life.
After the death of his Grandfather, Nilsen became withdrawn and increasingly solitary. He avoided family activities and repelled affection from anybody.
Whyte eventually remarried and went on to have a further 4 children in quick succession. Nilsen was resentful of his stepfather, Andrew Scott, and all 6 of his siblings but as time went on he somewhat begrudgingly discovered a new found respect for Scott and the pair began to get on better. However, his disdain towards his siblings, especial Olav Jr. never really changed. As he grew up, Nilsen realised he was gay. His older brother Olav Jr. suspected as much and would tease Nilsen about it, calling him ‘Hen’- meaning ‘girl’, in Scotland. Later in life the brothers permanently cut all ties with each other over the issue of Nilsen’s sexuality.
Nilsen dreamt of a life away from Scotland, his family and their impoverished lifestyle. He excelled at school and was certainly above the national average, especially in history and art and upon completing his education he wasted no time in enlisting in the Army and leaving his homeland behind for good.
In 1961, Nilsen began his training as a Military chef at St. Omar Barracks in Aldershot, Hampshire, U.K. Once again he excelled in his learning and training and in 1964 he was officially assigned to the Royal Fusiliers in Osnabrück, Germany. Whilst stationed in Germany he began drinking to excess and it was here he began to have sexual fantasies about men and his fellow soldiers which involved unconsciousness and necrophilia. He would often lay himself face down and pretend to be unresponsive whilst masturbating to his reflection in the mirror. Other times, whilst in the company of others, he would fake being unconscious in the hope that someone would take advantage and rape him.
It was whilst he was stationed in Yemen, in the 1960’s, that he found himself on the receiving end of violence in real life. He was beaten and kidnapped by an Arab taxi driver who shoved him into the boot (trunk) of the car. Later, as he was pulled from the vehicle, Nilsen attacked the driver with a jack hammer, beating him until he was unconscious, before returning the favour and locking him into the boot.
After 11 years of service and being stationed around the world, in 1972, Nilsen decided to end his military career, having earned the rank of Corporal. After careful thought and consideration, he decided to join the Metropolitan police and move to London. He enjoyed his new work role but found it incredibly lonely. His drinking increased and he began to frequent gay bars where he would hook up with men for casual sex. He later described the hook ups as “soul destroying” because deep down he was yearning for a long term committed relationship. Nilsen came to the conclusion that his job was causing conflict with his love life and, in 1973, he chose to leave the police force, after less than a year of employment. It was around the same time he was informed his biological father had died. It’s not clear how his death effected Nilsen, if at all.
Following his resignation from the force, Nilsen gained employment as a Civil Servant within the Jobcentre, in 1974. He worked his way ‘up the ladder’, ultimately being promoted to executive officer at the Jobcentre in Kentish Town in 1982. He remained there until his arrest the following year.
It is infamously known that Nilsen committed the murders within two properties, the first being 195 Melrose Avenue. It is estimated he killed 12 people in the ground floor flat in Cricklewood, London. Nilsen moved into the flat in 1975 with his then boyfriend, David Gallichan. The pair split in 1977 and Gallichan moved out, leaving Nilsen to his own solitary devices, which mainly consisted of working and drinking extreme amounts of alcohol – until 1978, when he brutally took the life if his first victim….
14 year old, Stephen Holmes, was Nilsen’s first known victim. Holmes had been at the Cricklewood Arms pub, unsuccessfully attempting to buy alcohol. Nilsen, who had been drinking all day, invited Holmes (who he stated after his arrest, he thought was 17) back to his flat in Melrose Avenue, with the promise of booze and music. The pair ate , drank and were merry through out the night. The following morning, 30th December, 1978, when Nilsen awoke, he found Holmes asleep on his bed and was reluctant to wake him because he was afraid Holmes would leave. Nilsen decided there and then that Holmes would:
“stay with me over the New Year whether he wanted to or not”Dennis Nilsen
In fact, he decided Holmes would be staying forever. He strangled the young lad with a necktie he’d retrieved from the bedroom floor. The action naturally awoke Holmes who struggled for his life, but Nilsen pulled the tie tighter until the teen was unconscious, before submerging and drowning him in a bucket of water. After a cup of coffee and several cigarettes, he tenderly washed Holmes in the bathtub before arranging him back on the bed, where he caressed him as if he was merely asleep. Fulfilling his fantasies, Nilsen proceeded to masturbate over Holmes’ lifeless body before stashing his corpse under the floorboards where it remained for eight months. On August 11th 1979, Nilsen burned Holmes’ remains on a bonfire in the garden area behind his flat. He was the only victim whose body was not dismembered afterwards.
“I eased him into his new bed [beneath the floorboards] … A week later, I wondered whether his body had changed at all or had started to decompose. I disinterred him and pulled the dirt-stained youth up onto the floor. His skin was very dirty. I stripped myself naked and carried him into the bathroom and washed the body. There was practically no discoloration and his skin was pale white. His limbs were more relaxed than when I had put him down there.“Killing for Company: The Case of Dennis Nilsen.
In regards to killing Holmes, Nilsen later commented:
Sadly, It would be another 27 years until Stephen Holmes’ family would be informed of the fate of their loved one. The connection between Nilsen and Holmes was only announced on January 12, 2006, after Nilsen was shown a photograph of the missing teenager and he confirmed Holmes was his indeed his first victim:
“It was the beginning of the end of my life as I had known it. I had started down the avenue of death and possession of a new kind of flatmate.”Nilsen’s prison journal
On 11th October 1979, Nilsen met Andrew Ho, a student from Hong Kong, in The Salisbury pub on St Martin’s Lane. The pair agreed to head back to Nilsen’s flat for mutual sex. Nilsen got carried away and attempted to strangle Ho, just as he had Holmes. Fortunately for Ho he was able to fight back and struck Nilsen in the head with a brass candlestick before making his escape. Although the incident was reported to the police, Nilsen denied the incident, and Ho later decided not to press charges.
Nilsen had left work early for the day when he met Canadian student, Kenneth Ockenden, 23, at the Princess Louise Pub in the West End on December 3rd 1979. Ockenden was touring England and visiting relatives and after the pair hit it off they spent the remainder of the day sightseeing and drinking together around London. They visited the major hotspots, doing the typical touristy things one does in London – feeding the birds in Trafalgar Square, taking photos of Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey and Downing Street. Afterwards, they happily headed back to Nilsen’s flat for dinner, music and more drinks. For Ockenden, who was not homosexual, the evening was purely platonic. The same could not be said for Nilsen.
Once back at his Flat in Melrose Avenue, Nilsen showed Ockenden his record collection as they continued to drink and chat. As he did so, he began to have the familiar feelings of dread that Ockenden was going to leave him and he didn’t want that to happen. As Ockenden naively listened to records, Nilsen grabbed a pair of headphones and proceeded to strangle Ockenden with the cable, dragging him across the floor as he did so. Presumably because Ockenden struggled against the restraint. Nilsen’s dog Bleep barked frantically and continuously during the struggle. When discussing the murder after his arrest, Nilsen claimed he couldn’t actually remember the murder itself but knew it was with a headphone cable.
After killing Ockenden, Nilsen poured himself a glass of rum and continued to listen to music, on the very headphones he had just strangled Ockenden with, as if nothing had happened. Using a polaroid camera, he took photographs of Ockenden’s lifeless corpse in various sexual positions before storing him in under the floorboards, just as he had done so with Stephen Holmes. Nilsen revealed that, several times over the next few weeks, he would retrieve Ockenden from under the floor and place him on the chair beside him so they could ‘watch’ T.V’, ‘chat’ and have a drink together.
Less than 24 hours after his death, an investigation into Ockenden’s disappearance was already underway after he had failed to return to his hotel room and relatives hadn’t heard from him. Ockenden became only one of a few of Nilsen’s murder victims that received widespread media attention regarding his disappearance, despite this, there was nothing to link him to Dennis Nilsen so the case went cold. It was only after Nilsen’s arrest that a new lead was generated and police were finally able to confirm the tragic fate of Ockenden.
When discussing Ockenden’s murder, Nilsen said:
“I destroyed the records which reminded me of him afterwards, smashed them with a spade and put them in the dustbin.”Yahoo Sport
Catering student, Martyn Duffey, 16, had ran away from his home in Birkenhead, Merseyside and was living rough in London when he had a chance encounter with Nilsen on May 17th 1980. Whilst on his way home from a conference, Nilsen spotted Duffey, who was extremely tired and hungry, in Euston railway station. Good Samaritan, Nilsen, offered Duffey a hot meal and a warm bed for the night. Sadly, the desperate 16 year old gratefully accepted. That night, as Duffey slept, Nilsen sat on his chest and tightened a ligature around his neck until he was unconscious. He then drowned the youth in the kitchen sink before conducting his usual ritual of tenderly bathing the corpse. Nilsen commented that Duffey’s lifeless body was:
“the youngest-looking I had ever seen.”Wikipedia
The fact Duffey had been so young seemed to appeal to Nilsen. He place Duffey back onto the bed, where he began kissing, stroking and complimenting him before masturbating over his dead body. He was so enamoured with him that rather than place him under the floorboards, he decided to keep him for a while, opting instead to place Duffey’s corpse into a cupboard for ease of access. However, after a couple of days, as dead bodies so often do, Duffey’s body began to bloat and a ‘freaked’ out Nilsen stowed him under the floorboards after all.
Nilsen decided to keep some of the personal possessions Duffey had been carrying with him (perhaps as kill trophies, which is a common trait in serial killers.) – a briefcase, which Nilsen began using to carry his sandwiches to work in and a set of chef knives, engraved with Duffey’s name, believed to be the knives Nilsen used to dismember the bodies later on. Duffey’s family confirmed:
“He also took Martyn’s chef knives that had been a present from our dad, and he used the chefs’ knives to cut the victims up, that was a shock.”Liverpool Echo
Nilsen bumped into fellow Scotsman, William Sutherland, 26, in a pub near Piccadilly Circus, London. The pair had previously met in the Jobcentre where he (Nilsen) worked. Sutherland, a chef, had recently arrived in the area with his girlfriend and their infant son, having moved from Scotland and was searching for work. It’s reported Sutherland would sometimes moonlight as a male prostitute and had accepted Nilsen’s offer of a drink, later going home with the monster, one fateful night in August 1980. Not much is known about Sutherland’s murder as Nilsen claimed to have forgotten the details, but he did state that he remembered strangling him and waking up the next morning to a dead body in his flat. Sutherland’s remains were found in Nilsen’s garden and were identified primarily by a piece of tattooed skin. His family recently condemned an ITV serial-drama based on Nilsen, (called ‘Des’) claiming the T.V station was cashing in on their misery:
In November 1980, Nilsen took home Scottish barman Douglas Stewart. Whilst Stewart slept in a chair Nilsen tied his ankles to the chair legs, straddled him and then attempted to strangle him with a tie. Fortunately, Stewart awoke, managed to escape and reported the attack to the police who paid Nilsen a visit. Nilsen feigned surprise at the accusations and claimed they had had a drunken argument and fallen out. Shockingly, despite the angry red marks on Stewart’s neck, police believed him. Stewart later testified that as soon as police found out the pair were homosexual they instantly lost interest and accepted Nilsen’s explanation of a lovers tiff.
Nilsen’s had another 7 victims (4 if you don’t include the ones he claimed to have made up) that remain unidentified, however he did reveal some details based on what he could remember.
- An Irish Labourer, 27-30 yrs old. Nilsen specified he was tall, with rough hands and was dressed in an old suit and jacket. Years later Nilsen insisted he had made this victim up.
- A Filipino or Mexican male prostitute aged between 20-30 yrs old. They’d apparently met in October 1980 in a pub called The Salisbury Arms.
- Nilsen recounted this victim as being a homeless Englishman in his 20’s, extremely thin with several teeth missing. When talking about the murder, Nilsen said he took the young man back to Melrose Avenue where he strangled him in his sleep. In regards to the murder, he said it was “as easy as taking candy from a baby”
- Nilsen’s last victim for 1980, allegedly, was an unknown, long haired hippy aged around 25-30. Nilsen claimed to have met the man in the West End but then later retracted his comments saying he made this victim up as well.
- On or around January 4th, Nilsen met who he later described as a “blue eyed Scot” at the Golden Lion pub in Soho. He recalled the man as being 18 years old and wearing an athletic green top and trainers. He enticed the Scotsman back to his flat for a drinking contest but in reality he killed him and then later dismembered his body.
- Nilsen met this victim in the West End of London in February 1981. Described as an Irishman from Belfast, around 20 years old, slim and approximately 5 ft 9 in tall, he was strangled with a tie before being hidden under the floorboards.
- Another victim Nilsen confessed to killing but later claimed he made him up was a 20ish year old who he met in April 1981 at food stall in Leicester Square, London. Nilsen described the victim as a Skinhead, leather Jacket, muscular and claimed he had a tattoo on his neck which said cut here. He originally claimed that after killing him he kept the victim’s torso in the bedroom for a few days before placing it under the floorboards.
As you can imagine, with the number of bodies piling up, the smell arising from Nilsen’s floor boards was probably similar to that of the bog of eternal stench! When removing a corpse from under the floor, Nilsen would often witness insects and maggots crawling out of eye sockets and other extremities. Undeterred, he still thoroughly enjoyed spending time with his victim’s remains and as the months got warmer, and the smell of decay got stronger, he merely placed deodorant cans and insecticide beneath the floorboards in a useless attempt to hide the lurid smell and insect infestation. However, his attempts were in vain as it made no difference.
For Nilsen, there was only one option left available to rid himself of the pungent smell and never ending insects. It was bonfire time! One by one he removed the bodies of each of his victims from beneath the floorboards of his living room, placed them on a plastic sheet on the kitchen floor and proceeded to dismember and dissect each one into smaller, more transportable pieces. He removed the head, limbs, and internal organs before chopping the rest off the body up into smaller parts. The bodies were in the advanced stages of decay so the task was not a pleasant one, even for Nilsen, who had to drink to get through it, retching as he went. Although he didn’t struggle (physically) too much with the actual process itself as he later commented proudly:
“No saws or power tools had ever proved necessary”Serial killers, Laura Formean
He then placed the bodily remains in the centre of the bonfire which he had built in an area behind his flat in Melrose Avenue, just as he had done with Holmes’ remains the year before. In order to mask the reek of burning flesh, he placed a rubber car tyre on the top of his homemade funeral pyre.
At one point, after his conviction, Nilsen recalled three neighbourhood children had been attracted to the fire and he mused:
“It would seem in order if they danced around it”Dennis Nilsen
For the following couple of months, life for Nilsen continued as if nothing out of the ordinary had occurred. He appeared unaffected by his previous actions and went on dates, had one night stands and let everyone live.
On September 17th 1981 that all changed when Nilsen met 23 year old Malcolm Barlow. He was to become Nilsen’s last victim at 195 Melrose Avenue. Barlow was an orphan who had been living in care. He had learning disabilities and suffered from epilepsy. On that fateful day in September, Barlow had visited Nilsen’s property to thank him for assisting him the previous day. (his medication had caused him to weaken and Nilsen had called an ambulance for him) The pair had a couple of drinks together before the effects of mixing alcohol and prescription meds kicked in, causing Barlow to fall asleep. Concerned, Nilsen tried to rouse Barlow but was unsuccessful. Fearful of what would happen if he called an ambulance a second time – for the same person, in as many days, Nilsen decided the best course if action would be to strangle him instead. Afterwards, he stored Barlow’s lifeless body in a cupboard under his kitchen sink before later dissecting him as he had the others.
Not long after, Nilsen’s Landlord informed him that he wanted to renovate 195 Melrose Avenue and to do so he would need Nilsen to move out. However Nilsen didn’t want to move out. He liked living there and he had the small matter of the stashed bodies to think about. But it didn’t concern him for long because when offered £1000 to vacate the properly Nilsen readily accepted. On October 5th 1981 Nilsen left Melrose avenue and moved into his new flat at 23D Cranley Gardens, Muswell Hill district, London. But not before he dismembered Malcolm Barlow’s corpse and destroyed it on a bonfire, alongside four of his other victims, just as he had done with the others.
Nilsen behaved himself after moving into Cranley Gardens. For a while anyway. He was living in an attic flat with no garden access and using the space under the floorboards wasn’t an option – so he had little choice, because where would he hide the bodies? Once again, those who liaised with him survived and had no idea who the real Nilsen was.
That was until Nilsen met Paul Nobbs, 19, a student he met whilst he (Nilsen) was out celebrating his 36th birthday on November 23rd 1981. The pair returned to Nilsen’s flat where they continued to celebrate before heading to bed together. Nobbs woke in the early hours of the morning with a banging headache but managed to fall back to sleep until around 6am. As he got ready for the day he looked in the mirror and saw an angry red mark across his neck, bruises on his face and bloodshot eyes. Seeking medical advice later that day Nobbs was informed that the injuries implied he had been strangled. He declined to report the incident to the police and it remains a mystery as to why Nilsen decided not to kill Nobbs after all.
December 31st, 1981, saw another victim of Nilsen’s manage a lucky escape. Originally he had invited his neighbours over to celebrate New Years Eve but they declined due to having other plans. Undeterred and already drunk, Nilsen decided to take his celebrations out into the town before returning home with Toshimitsu Ozawa. Neighbours reported hearing a commotion in the flat above just before seeing Ozawa leaving the top floor apartment – crying and clearly distressed. Toshimitsu Ozawa reported to police that as far as he was concerned, Nilsen was intending to kill him because he had approached him with a tie outstretched between his hands, in a menacing manner. The police decided to ignore the allegation and no follow-up inquiries were made.
In March 1982 Nilsen was drinking alone in a pub when John Howlett approached him and the pair began to chat. They had already met each other once before and the conversation flowed easily. As with the others before him, Howlett went home with Nilsen where they drank rum and watched a movie together. Drunk and tired, Howlett climbed into Nilsen’s bed, despite Nilsen’s pleas for him to leave and go home. In the end, with Howett refusing to leave, Nilsen decided he would have to kill him instead and so he strangled him using a long piece of upholstery strap from his armchair. However, Howlett fought back and almost succeeded in over powering Nilsen (and strangling him in return) but a bang to his head caused him to weaken. Nilsen used the opportunity to tighten the strap and finish him off. Believing Howlett to be dead, Nilsen was shocked to discover he was in fact still alive so he strangled him some more. Much to Nilsen’s frustration, Howlett just wouldn’t die. Realising he’d have to try something else he submerged Howlett underwater in the bathtub, until he eventually succumbed to the attack and died, becoming another victim of Dennis Nilsen.
Interesting side note: Nilsen had clear fingerprint impressions on his neck for over a week from where Howlett had fought back and tried to strangle him in return.
Two months after killing John Howlett, Nilsen met Carl Stottor, 21, at the Black Cap pub in Camden, London. After striking up a conversation with the young man, Nilsen discovered Stottor had just come out of a relationship and wasn’t coping too well with it. The two drank together for a while before Nilsen invited him back to his place, promising Stottor the invite was purely platonic. Back at Cranley Gardens, the drinking continued until Stottor fell asleep on an open sleeping bag. He later awoke to Nilsen telling him to lay still and in his semi-conscious, boozy mind, Stottor thought Nilsen was trying to untangle him from the sleeping bag. Nilsen was actually in the middle of strangling him. The next thing Stottor was aware of was the sound of water as Nilsen submerged him in the bathtub, attempting to drown him. During Nilsen’s trial, Stottor recalled begging him to stop…
“No more, please! No more!”
However, Nilsen kept submerging him until he believed Stotter was dead. He placed the body into an armchair as he anxiously considered his next move. It was then that Nilsen’s dog Bleep began licking Stotter’s face and Nilsen realised he was not dead after all. Perhaps it was seeing Bleep’s caring actions which snapped Nilsen out of his murderous frenzy, perhaps it wasn’t, either way he began massaging Stotter’s limbs and chest to increase his circulation and tenderly wrapped him in blankets to warm him up before putting him to bed.
When Stotter came to, he found Nilsen beside him, holding him close. Nilsen explained to Stotter that he had become entangled in the sleeping bag zip during a nightmare, strangling himself. He told Stotter he had resuscitated him before placing him in the bathtub of water to try and reduce the shock. A few days later, when Stotter was feeling stronger, Nilsen accompanied him to the train station and said his goodbyes, but not before adding that he hoped the pair could meet again soon.
Although at the time Stotter accepted Nilsen’s version of events, he went to a doctor for a check up where he was informed his injuries were consistent with deliberate strangulation. Despite this, he didn’t report the attack to the police and actually arranged to meet with Nilsen again, but ultimately decided against it and failed to show up.
Nilsen’s next victim was Graham Allen, 27, in September 1982. Although Nilsen’s memory of Allen’s murder was sketchy, he did recall that they met as Allen was hailing a taxi. For whatever reason, Allen accepted Nilsen’s invite to return to his flat in Cranley Gardens for dinner and whilst he was eating an omelette Nilsen strangled him to death. For the next 3 days Nilsen kept Allen’s remains in the bathtub before dismembering him on the kitchen floor. He is known to have taken time off work on sick leave at the time of the murder / dissection. When describing the murder, Nilsen claimed he couldn’t determine if Allen had choked to death on the omelette or of he had actually strangled him. However, he conceded that since omelettes don’t leave red angry marks on someone’s neck, he must have strangled him after all.
Graham Allen’s son spoke out against ITV’s portrayal of Nilsen in the serial drama ‘Des’, just as William Sutherland’s family had done:
‘No one gives a shit about Nilsen or the people and lives left behind. And that’s fine… I don’t expect people to care… I’ve learnt the world rarely cares about anyone. But don’t pretend to care when really what you care about are viewing figures and pay-per-view numbers. Take your money and go and buy some decent hair-pieces.’Shane Levene / Facebook
Nilsen killed his last victim, Stephen Sinclair, 20, on January 26th 1983. He was last seen walking towards the London Underground with a strange man. That man was Dennis Nilsen. He took Sinclair back to his Cranley Gardens flat where Sinclair took drugs and drank alcohol whilst Nilsen sat listening to The Who on his record player. Sinclair fell into a drink / drug induced sleep on a chair and as he slept Nilsen approached and knelt before him and menacingly said
“Oh Stephen, here I go again.”
He strangled Sinclair to death with a homemade ligature made from a tie and rope. As per his usual ‘aftercare’ routine, Nilsen bathed his victim and laid the corpse on his bed. Whilst bathing Sinclair, Nilsen discovered bandages on the dead mans wrists and realised he had recently tried to end his own life.
He then proceeded to place three mirrors around the bed before laying naked beside Sinclair and acting out his depraved sexual fantasies, after which he kissed Sinclair on the forehead and wished him goodnight.
Stephen Sinclair’s body was dismembered in the same way as Nilsen’s previous victims and placed into plastic bags, which he kept closed using the bandages he’d discovered on Sinclair’s wrists. The bags were stored in a wardrobe and chest for disposal at a later date.
Capture, Arrest and Trial
In February 1983, Nilsen contacted the agents responsible for letting the property to complain the plumbing system was blocked. He had previously boiled the head, feet and hands of Howlett and Allen in a big pot to remove the flesh which was then flushed down the toilet along with small bone fragments and organs. That was the reason for the blockage. The very next day he dismembered Sinclair’s remains and flushed them down the toilet too, adding to the blockage.
Dyno -Rod employee, Michael Cattran, attended the property on the evening of February 8th 1983 to sort out the plumbing issues. He discovered a suspicious fleshy substance and small bones in the outside drains and arranged to investigate it with his supervisor, Gary Wheeler, in the morning. Nilsen and a neighbour from another flat spoke to Cattran about his findings and a panicked Nilsen commented:
“It looks to me like someone has been flushing down their Kentucky Fried Chicken.”
However when Cattran and Wheeler returned the next day, the blockage had already been removed, rousing their suspicions further. Neighbours reported hearing a scraping noise outside at around midnight the previous night and said they saw Nilsen outside wearing just a vest. This struck them as odd as it was in the middle of winter. Nilsen nonchalantly told them he was going for a wee.
Cattran spotted a few bone fragments and flesh that had been left behind in a drain pipe and they called the police. Pathologist, Professor David Bowen examined the remains and determined they were human. He was even able to identify ligature marks on what he concluded to be flesh from a human neck.
Detectives discovered that the remains had come from the drains from the upstairs flat and paid Nilsen a visit. Detective Chief Inspector Peter Jay and Detective Inspector Steve McCusker were waiting for Nilsen when he returned home from work and asked to see inside his flat. Feigning ignorance, Nilsen allowed them access.
As they entered Nilsen’s flat they were instantly hit with the smell of rotten flesh. At first Nilsen tried to deny everything but eventually he calmly told the officers they would find more body parts, concealed in plastic bags, in the wardrobe. With further prompting about what had happened Nilsen told Detective Chief Inspector Peter Jay and Detective inspector Steve McCusker:
“It’s a long story; it goes back a long time. I’ll tell you everything. I want to get it off my chest. Not here—at the police station.”Nilsen
Dennis Nilsen was promptly arrested. Whilst on route to the police station he was asked if the remains belonged to one or two victims? He simply replied:
“Fifteen or sixteen, since 1978.”Nilsen
That was the moment the police realised they were dealing with a serial killer.
In the wardrobe they found x2 dissected torsos plus another torso with the arms (no hands) still attached, a bag full of human organs, a human skull and a severed head. Nilsen later confessed he had boiled the heads in an attempt to evaporate the brains and internal matter. Further searches led to the discovery of remains being found in a tea chest and a bathroom drawer. these included a lower torso, x2 legs, another skull, a partial torso and many bone fragments.
Nilson told police one of the remains belonged to Stephen Sinclair, his most recent victim. He also calmly confessed to the killings at 195 Melrose Avenue and the attempted murder of another 7 – 8 men. Fully co-operating with the investigation he led police to where he had burned his previous victim’s in the back garden of Melrose place.
Pathologist, Professor David Bowen was able to positively identity the remains of Stephen Sinclair via finger print analysis and Nilsen was formally charged with his murder on February 11th 1983.
During hours of interviews, Nilsen admitted his victims had become a prop in his murderous fantasies. He described how after killing them he would bathe them, shave their chest, dress them in pants and socks and arrange them on his bed or chair before masturbating over the corpse, sometime engaging in intercrural sex. He was adamant he never penetrated his victims after death, insisting they were:
“too perfect and beautiful for the pathetic ritual of commonplace sex”Nilsen / Wikipedia
Intercrural sex is a type of non-penetrative-sex, where the penis is placed between the receiving partner’s thighs and thrusted to create friction.
Nilsen was unable to offer any reason for the killings, telling detectives he hoped they could tell him the motive. Although he later admitted he enjoyed the thrill of socially seducing his victim, enticing them back to his flat, the killing itself and even the disposing of the body. When discussing whether he felt any remorse he replied:
“I wished I could stop, but I couldn’t. I had no other thrill or happiness”Serial Killers. Laura Foreman
“I have no tears for my victims; I have no tears for myself, nor those bereaved by my actions”Murder in Mind: Dennis Nilsen
I could only relate to a dead image of the person I could love. The image of my dead grandfather would be the model of him at his most striking in my mind. It seems necessary for them to have been dead in order that I could express those feelings which were the feelings I held sacred for my grandfather … it was a pseudo-sexual, infantile love which had not yet developed and matured. The sight of them [my victims] brought me a bitter sweetness and a temporary peace and fulfilment.Nilsen’s Prison Journal / Killing for Company: The Case of Dennis Nilsen.
Nilsen was eventually charged with six counts of murder and two of attempted murder. His trial was held at The Old Bailey on October 24th 1983 before Mr Justice Croom-Johnson and following advice from his solicitor Nilsen pleaded not guilty by diminished responsibility. However, after testimony from some of the survivors – Douglas Stewart, Paul Nobbs and Carl Stottor as well as psychiatrist Paul Bowden, who testified Nilsen did not suffer from a mental abnormality and was responsible for his actions, he was ultimately found guilty on all counts. Dennis Nilsen was sentenced to life imprisonment and recommended to serve at least 25 years. He remained in prison until his slow and painful death from a pulmonary embolism and a retroperitoneal haemorrhage, (blood clot and internal bleeding) caused by post surgery complications, on May 12th 2018. His body was cremated after a secret funeral service and his ashes were given to his next of kin.
- References: Mirror: https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/serial-killer-dennis-nilsen-boasted-22634453 https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/home-killer-dennis-nilsen-slaughtered-9747953
- Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dennis_Nilsen
- The Scottish Sun: https://www.thescottishsun.co.uk/news/6011446/dennis-nilsen-des-david-tennant-david-beckham/ https://www.thescottishsun.co.uk/news/5108808/des-dennis-nilsen-itv-david-tennant-killer/ https://www.thescottishsun.co.uk/news/6053674/dennis-nilsen-des-killer-itv-victims/ https://www.thescottishsun.co.uk/tv/6053653/dennis-nilsen-carl-stotter-serial-killer-des/
- The Express: https://www.express.co.uk/showbiz/tv-radio/1334070/des-itv-where-did-dennis-nilsen-live-are-houses-still-there-Cranley-Gardens
- Irish Times: https://www.irishtimes.com/news/woman-living-in-dublin-told-her-brother-was-first-victim-of-killer-1.1000983#
- The Daily star: https://www.dailystar.co.uk/tv/tragic-story-stephen-holmes-how-22694093
- Yahoo Sport: https://uk.sports.yahoo.com/news/heres-more-information-kenneth-ockenden-200000103.html?guccounter=1&guce_referrer=aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cuZ29vZ2xlLmNvbS8&guce_referrer_sig=AQAAABYLhEdsg2jObwpGFB5UDDnZPVpmNpTbexbf5ESSf_bhP6iLDC115qfcI7ndGbM1SXWHdySAC7XocEgQBx9IqewbQrVvwm65ymbcoI-cApvOR8lNd-loduKq5uwvXVBaNjwTU7KEMxQ1GLznXC67tX32KXw8Zp1CAmyOtzAJz6fR
- Liverpool Echo: https://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/tv/family-dennis-nilsens-birkenhead-victim-18954052
- Archive.org: https://archive.org/details/serialkillerspro00edit/page/142/mode/2up
- Murderpedia: https://murderpedia.org/male.N/n/nilsen-dennis-victims.htm
- Criminal minds: https://criminalminds.fandom.com/wiki/Dennis_Nilsen
- Polari Magazine: http://www.polarimagazine.com/opinion/reflections-black-cap/
- The Sun: https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/12686342/what-happened-dennis-nilsen-dog-bleep/ https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/6292422/dennis-nilsen-house-cricklewood-london-dead-serial-killer/
- Hello Magazine: https://www.hellomagazine.com/film/2020091797410/the-real-dennis-nilsen-story-what-happened-carl-stotter/
- The Daily Mail: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-8781567/Son-one-Dennis-Nilsens-murder-victims-slams-ITV-garbage-dark-new-drama-Des.html
- True Crime England: https://truecrimeengland.wordpress.com/2019/07/13/dennis-nilsen/
- Reddit: https://www.reddit.com/r/serialkillers/comments/n7t8mm/childhood_photos_of_serial_killer_dennis_andrew/
- ITV: https://www.itv.com/news/2020-09-14/dennis-nilsen-who-was-the-serial-killer-who-boiled-his-victims-body-parts
- Fr24news: https://www.fr24news.com/a/2020/09/inside-the-house-of-horrors-where-dennis-nilsen-chopped-and-cooked-his-victims.html
- Hertfordshire Mercury: https://www.hertfordshiremercury.co.uk/news/hertfordshire-news/itv-des-dennis-nilsen-killer-4517584
- The Times: https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/professor-david-bowen-f98k2t0sz0q
- Reprobate Press: https://reprobatepress.com/2020/09/17/murder-in-mind-and-the-dennis-nilsen-scandal/
- Gov.uk: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/1-400-new-prison-places-approved-at-full-sutton
- The Paranormal Guide: http://www.theparanormalguide.com/blog/dennis-nilsen-the-kindly-killer