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Dennis Nilsen

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Dennis Nilsen
Birth name: Dennis Andrew Nilsen
Born: Nov. 23,1945
Fraserburgh, Aberdeenshire, Scotland, UK
Penalty: Life Imprisonment
Killings
Number of victims: 15
Span of killings: December 1978 through Feb 1, 1983
Country: United Kingdom
Date apprehended: Feb 8, 1983

Dennis Andrew Nilsen (born November 23, 1945 in Fraserburgh, Scotland) is a British serial killer who lived in London. He is known to have killed at least 15 men between 1978 and 1983, when he was eventually caught after his disposal of a body blocked his household drains and drew the attention of the police.

Early life and leadup to murders Edit

Nilsen was born at 47 Academy Road, Fraserburgh, Aberdeenshire to a Scottish mother and a Norwegian father, Olav Magnus Moksheim, who adopted the surname Nilsen. His father was an alcoholic and his parents divorced when he was four years old. His mother remarried and sent her son to his grandparents, but after a couple of years he was sent back to his mother again.

Nilsen claimed the first traumatic event to shape his life came about when he was a small child, when his beloved grandfather died. His strict Catholic mother insisted that he should view the body before burial. During Nilsen's childhood, his mother and stepfather frequently lectured him about the "impurities of the flesh".

In 1961, Nilsen left school and enlisted in the British Army where he became a cook in Aden, Cyprus, Berlin and the Shetland Islands. He served in the army for 11 years before leaving in 1972 and served briefly as a police officer. From the mid 1970s, Nilsen worked as a civil servant in a jobcentre. He was also active in the trade union movement, even going on other people's picket lines in solidarity.

Aspects of the murders and arrest Edit

Nilsen is known to have killed 15 men. Most of his victims were students or homeless men. He picked them all up in bars and brought them to his house either for sex or just for company, invariably drinking heavily throughout the evening. Nilsen strangled and drowned his victims during the night, waking up with little memory of what he had done. He used his butchering skills, which he gained from his time as a cook in the army, to help him dispose of the bodies. The bodies were not immediately dismembered, but were kept, sometimes for several months, in different locations in his home. Nilsen had access to a large garden when living at 195 Melrose Avenue, Cricklewood in NW London, and was able to burn many of the remains in a bonfire. Entrails were dumped over the garden fence to be eaten by wildlife.

In 1981, however, Nilsen moved several miles eastwards to an attic flat at 23 Cranley Gardens, Muswell Hill. As his murders continued, he found it difficult to dispose of the remains and had bin bags full of human organs stored in his wardrobe. Neighbors had begun to notice the smell. Three people were murdered at this address, and all were stored in cupboards and chests. Nilsen attempted to dispose of the bodies by boiling the heads, hands and feet to remove the flesh and by chopping the entrails into small pieces and flushing them down the toilet. When he tried to dispose of the bodies by flushing them down the toilet, he blocked the sewers of the flats.

Nilsen's murders were first discovered by a drain cleaning company responding to a blocked drain. The company found the drain was packed with a flesh-like substance. The drain inspector then called his supervisor, but no assessment was made until the next day, by which time the drain had been cleared. This aroused the suspicions of the drain inspector and his supervisor, who immediately called the police. Upon closer inspection, some small bones and what looked like chicken flesh were found in a pipe leading off from the drain; these were later discovered to be of human origin. Detective Chief Inspector Peter Jay was called to the scene with two colleagues and waited outside until Nilsen returned home from work. As they entered the building DCI Jay introduced himself to Nilsen and explained that he had come about his drains. Nilsen asked why would the police be interested in his drains and also if the two officers were health inspectors. He was told they were police colleagues and given their names. They then climbed the stairs together and as they entered the flat DCI Jay immediately smelt rotting flesh. Nilsen queried why the police would be interested in his drains, so the officer told him they were filled with human remains. "Good grief, how awful!" exclaimed Nilsen. "Don't mess about, where's the rest of the body?" replied Jay. Nilsen responded calmly by saying they were in two plastic bags in his wardrobe. He was then arrested and cautioned on suspicion of murder and taken to the police station. On the way back to the station, Nilsen was asked how many bodies they were talking about, and replied "15 or 16".

He later apologized to the police for not being able to tell them the exact number of people he had killed. When his flat was searched they found human remains inside a tea-chest in a wardrobe. His former address was also searched.

Victims Edit

  • Murder 1: Nilsen's first murder took place on December 30, 1978. Nilsen claimed to have met his first victim in a gay bar. Nilsen strangled him with a necktie until he was unconscious and then drowned him in a bucket of water. On January 12, 2006, it was announced that the victim had been identified as Stephen Dean Holmes, who was born on March 22, 1964 and was therefore only 14 at the time; Holmes had been on his way home from a concert. On November 9, 2006, Nilsen finally confessed to the murder of Holmes in a letter sent from his prison cell to the Evening Standard.[1] Nilsen was not charged for the murder due to a lack of evidence.[2]
  • Between the first and second murders, Nilsen attempted to murder Andrew Ho, a student from Hong Kong he had met in The Salisbury public house in St. Martin's Lane. Although questioned by police, the student decided not to prosecute, and Nilsen was released without charge.
  • Murder 2: The second victim (on December 3, 1979) was 23-year-old Canadian student Kenneth Ockendon. Nilsen strangled him during sex. Ockendon was one of the few murder victims who was reported as a missing person.
  • Murder 3: Martyn Duffey was a 16-year-old homeless boy from Birkenhead. In May 1980, he accepted Nilsen's invitation to come over to his place. He was strangled and subsequently drowned in the kitchen sink.
  • Murder 4: Billy Sutherland was a 26-year-old prostitute from Scotland. Nilsen could not remember how he murdered Sutherland; however, it was later revealed that the victim had been strangled by bare hands.
  • Murder 5: The fifth victim was another male prostitute; however, this one was never identified. All that is known is that he was probably from the Philippines or Thailand.
  • Murder 6: Nilsen could recall very little about this and the following two victims. All that he could remember about number six was that he was a young Irish laborer that he had met in a bar.
  • Murder 7: The seventh victim was what Nilsen described as a starving "hippy-type" he had found sleeping in a doorway in Charing Cross.
  • Murder 8: Nilsen could recall nothing at all about his eighth victim except that he kept him under the floorboards of his flat until he removed the corpse and cut it into three pieces then put it back again. He burned the corpse one year later.
  • Murder 9 and Murder 10: Both were young Scottish men, picked up in pubs in SoHo.
  • Murder 11: The eleventh victim was a skinhead Nilsen picked up in Piccadilly Circus who had a tattoo around his neck saying "cut here". He had boasted to Nilsen how tough he was and how he liked to fight; however, once he was drunk, he proved no match for Nilsen, who hung his naked torso in his bedroom for 24 hours before he was buried under the floorboards.
  • At some point between murders 6 and 11, on November 10, 1980, a potential victim of Nilsen's, a Scottish barman called Douglas Stewart, met at The Golden Lion in Dean Street, woke up while being strangled and was able to fend off his attacker. Although he called the police almost immediately after the attack, no action was taken by the officers who, it is reported, considered the incident to be a domestic disagreement.
  • Murder 12: The 12th victim (and the last before Nilsen moved home) was a man named Malcolm Barlow. He was murdered on September 18, 1981. Nilsen found him in a doorway not far from his own home, and took him in and called an ambulance for him. When Barlow was released the next day, he returned to Nilsen's home to thank him and was pleased to be invited in for a meal and a few drinks. He was murdered that night.
  • In November 1981, after moving to a new house in Muswell Hill in October, Nilsen met Paul Nobbs, a student, at The Golden Lion in Soho and invited him back to his new home. The student awoke the next morning with little recollection of the previous evening's events, and later went to see his doctor because of some bruising that had appeared on his neck. The doctor revealed that it appeared as if the student had been strangled and advised him to go to the police. However, afraid of his sexual orientation being disclosed, the student decided not to.
  • Following this attempted murder, Nilsen met Carl Stotter, a drag queen known as Khara Le Fox at The Black Cap in Camden Town. After passing out from strangulation, he came to while Nilsen was trying to drown him in a bath of cold water, though Stotter managed to gasp air four times before losing consciousness. He was revived by Nilsen after his dog lapped his face and uncovered signs of life. Nilsen then led Stotter to a train station, through a forest where he may have intended to finally kill him, and the pair parted ways. Stotter, due to memory loss from the event and alcohol before, did not realize for several years that he had almost been killed.
  • Murder 13: John Howlett was the first to be murdered in Nilsen's Muswell Hill home, in December 1981. Howlett was one of the few who was able to fight back; however, Nilsen had taken a disliking to him and was determined that he should die. There was a tremendous struggle, in which at one point Howlett even tried to strangle Nilsen back. Howlett was eventually drowned, however, after having his head held under water for five minutes. Howlett's was the first body to be dismembered, and the various body parts were either hidden around the house or flushed down the toilet.
  • Murder 14: Graham Allen was another homeless man who met Nilsen in Shaftesbury Avenue. After murdering him, Nilsen left Allen's body in the bath, unsure how to dispose of it. After three days, he was dismembered like Nilsen's previous victim.
  • Murder 15: Nilsen's final victim was a drug addict named Stephen Sinclair. They met in Oxford Street and Sinclair managed to scrounge a hamburger off Nilsen, who then suggested that they go back to his place. After dropping into an alcohol and heroin fueled stupor, Sinclair was strangled and his body dismembered. This was on February 1, 1983, seven days before he was arrested. It was Sinclair's dismembered remains in the drain outside Nilsen's home that first alerted the police to Nilsen's murders.

Trial and sentence Edit

Nilsen was tried at the Old Bailey and convicted of six murders and two attempted murders. He was sentenced to life imprisonment on November 4, 1983.

Nilsen's minimum term was set at 25 years by the trial judge, but the Home Secretary later imposed a whole life tariff, which meant he would never be released. After the Home Secretary was stripped of his powers to set minimum terms in November 2002, however, Nilsen could be freed on life license as early as 2008 because of his original 25-year minimum sentence. His case could also be helped if a European Court of Human Rights case - currently being considered - outlaws lifelong imprisonment as a violation of human rights. In 1993 he was given permission to give a televised interview from prison.

Imprisonment Edit

Nilsen is currently held at Full Sutton (HM Prison) maximum security prison.

During his time in prison he has proved a thorn in the side of prison authorities, bringing judicial review proceedings over Whitemoor prison's decision not to allow him access to gay pornography. This application was refused by the single judge at the permission stage. He did not establish that there was any arguable case that a breach of his human rights had occurred, nor that the prison’s rules were discriminatory. He also failed to receive any greater access to such materials as a result.

In 2003 he brought a further Judicial Review over a decision not to allow him to publish his autobiography, titled The History of a Drowning Boy.[3] Nilsen is awaiting an appeal on this decision at the European Court of Human Rights.

Footnotes Edit

  1. "Serial killer Dennis Nilsen confesses to first murder", Daily Mail, 2006-11-09. Retrieved on 2008-03-20. 
  2. "No prosecution for serial killer", BBC, 2006-12-06. Retrieved on 2008-03-20. 
  3. Template:Cite court

References Edit

  • Odell, Robin; Gaute, J. H. H. (1989). The new murderers' who's who. London: Headline. ISBN 0747232709. 
  • Masters, Brian. Killing for Company. Random House (UK). ISBN 0099552612. 
  • Lisners, John (1983). House of Horrors Dennis Andrew Nilsen. London: Corgi.  ASIN B0012JFAC6.
  • McConell, Brian (1983). The Nilsen File. London: Futura. ISBN 0708824307. 

External links Edit


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