Dennis Nilsen - Killing For Company

When And Where?: Muswell Hill, London. 1978 - 1983

Who?: Dennis Nilsen was 37 years old when he was arrested in February, 1983. (See Photo) He was known to co-workers as a quiet,  mild-mannered man would wouldn't harm a fly. Nilsen, a former army cook, lived with a tom cat and a mongrel dog named 'Bleep'. He had served a short tenure as a police officer and developed a tendency to drink heavily. Dennis Nilsen had only had one relationship with a woman in his life, and found that he could not cultivate that union to the point of marriage. The bachelor was the product of an alcoholic father and a Scottish mother, who were constantly feuding. They divorced when Nilsen was only four years old. An early rejection happened in 1954, when Nilsen's mother re-married. It was decided at that time that 9 year old Dennis would be raised by his grandparents from then on. Nilsen was happy with his grandfather, but that happiness was short-lived. His grandfather died while Nilsen was ayoung teen. Nilsen felt that life was hopeless. A string of sad events cemented his beliefs. Nilsen went to live with his mother and her 'new' husband, but never felt as though he belonged. He was subjected to lectures about the evils of the flesh, and was told that it was improper for people to see each other's 'flesh', even if they were related or of the same sex. Later in life, Nilsen always had male roomates. When his companion of 2 years left in 1978, Nilsen found the separation difficult to handle. His drinking increased.

The Murders: On one of his drinking binges in late 1978, Nilsen met a man in a pub not far from his home on Melrose Avenue ( See photo). The two went back to Nilsen's flat after closing and continued to drink. When Nilsen's invitation to spend New Year's together was refused, he became enraged and strangled the man with a necktie. After the killing, Nilsen found that he had a need to wash the body thoroughly, from head to toe. When the ritualistic washing was complete, Nilsen carefully dried, then dressed the body. He had remembered that uncovered flesh was impure. Dennis Nilsen did not own a car. Removing the body from his apartment would cause problems. He therefore opted to hide the body, wrapped in plastic, under the floorboards in his bedroom. Eight months later, Nilsen removed the body under cover of night, and burned it in the back garden. Nilsen's second victim was a Canadian tourist, who 'rejected' Nilsen while at his apartment by listening to music with headphones on, instead of engaging the killer with conversation.The 23 year old was strangled in an armchair with the music still pounding in his ears. In all, it is believed that Nilsen's victims , all males, at the Melrose address numbered 12 or 13. All were washed, dried, dressed, dismembered and burnt. When Dennis Nilsen moved to a new address in Cranley Gardens, the killings continued. He became more experimental, boiling one victim's head in a pot on the stove while he took Bleep out for a walk. 'Macabre' is the best word to describe the capture of Dennis Nilsen. Residents in the Cranley Gardens building realized that their plumbing was old and therefore prone to odours. When complaints arose, a plumbing firm was hirm to rectify the difficulties. When a serviceman found chunks of flesh in the building's drains, Dennis Nilsen's killings ended. Brian Masters' book "Killing For Company" is aptly titled. Rejection was a driving force behind the murders. Nilsen was only looking for happiness. His fifteen, or so, victims simply failed to meet his needs. Yikes.

Trial And Outcome: Nilsen's defense team wanted him to plead insanity when his trial began in October of 1983. Nilsen was charged with six murders and two charges of attempted murder. Nilsen was against being found insane. He was found guilty on all counts, and given a term of life in prison. While imprisoned, Nilsen produced a number of twisted writings, such as "Dismembering A Body", and a number of vivid sketches showing details of his crimes. He has described himself as a 'creative psychopath.'

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