How a blocked toilet led to the unmasking of a lonely serial killer
He was a former police officer and civil servant who previously worked as a butcher, and he used his experience to become one of the most prolific serial killers operating in London.
Dennis Nilsen, who died in prison yesterday aged 72, lured gay men to his home, then killed them to prevent them leaving in the morning.
He would then dismember their bodies, hacking off their heads and hands, and keep them beneath the floorboards of his home.
For him these bodies allowed him to be close to his victims and stop being the lonely figure he had been since childhood. It also finally gave him the power he had craved, authority over the young men he had sought to overpower who he would then hack to pieces, boil and bury.
Even his disposal of the victims was calculating. When the remains got too smelly in his London flat Nilsen would move them to the garden, hiding his crimes in a grim makeshift cemetery where he could retain his physical closeness and the "spiritual communion" he felt he had with the dead.
As he explained his twisted fantasies he told police about how he would make the men he killed appear "even better", washing and dressing the bodies. He said: "The most exciting part of the little conundrum was when I lifted the bodies."
Commenting on his four year murderous spree, Dr David Holmes tells CBS Reality programme Voice of a Serial Killer: "Dennis Nilsen was a serial killer who was a wonderful chameleon. He disappeared into society, he didn’t stand out. He was probably someone who would make others probably feel at ease, usually the destitute.
"In the case of Nilsen he enjoyed people that were very passive. He didn’t want interaction much. he enjoyed the company of someone who was pronate, didn’t do anything. Who he could kind of feel strong and powerful with."
Nilsen, a gay serial killer butchered at least 12 men in the 1970s and had a particular propensity for younger, often teenage, victims.
He would lure men back to two properties in London, drowning or strangling them before bathing and dressing their bodies which he would keep for a few months. He would then dismember his victims before burning their bodies, or simply boiling or setting fire to them. Nilsen would later admit to having sex with some of the corpses.
Another method of disposing the bodies was to boil them – a sinister act that would eventually become his undoing as flushing the parts down the toilet ended up blocking the system, leading to cleaners having to be called.
Everything he did with those he murdered was calculated.
With each victim he would cut the head off first, before then moving to hack away at the hands and feet. Next he would remove the organs and deposit them in different places. Some heads were kept in suitcases under rubble in his garden.
When they got too decomposed he would then bury some of them in his garden – keeping those he had murdered as close as possible in a sort of grotesque cemetery while making sure the hoard of limbs he kept didn’t create a smell that would arouse suspicion.
In recordings of his police confessions, played on CBS Reality programme Voice of a Serial Killer, he said: "In the end there were two or three bodies under the floorboards. They began to accumulate."
"Come the summer it go hot and I knew there would be a smell problem. So I knew I was going to have to deal with the smell problem and I thought what would cause the smell. And I came to the conclusion it was the innards, the soft parts of the body, the organs, things like that."
He would also add that he would pull up the floorboards at weekends – something he described as "totally unpleasant" which he would only do when "blinding drunk." He said after hacking up his victims he would then go out into the garden to be sick.
He would describe his murders in the same cold calculating detail he decided to dispose of the bodies.
"You know these black plastic bags you have, bin liners. You slit one of those so it sort of forms a sheet and then you haul the body out onto the floorboards, put it on the sheet and then cut it up."
Nilsen was eventually convicted of six murders but admitted he had killed more. Among his victims were Stephen Holmes, Kenneth Ockenden, Martyn Duffey, William Sutherland and Malcolm Barlow.
When he was first arrested he appeared unable to remember how many he had killed – saying "was it 12, 15 or 16?"
And he appeared to delight in the celebrity status he achieved as a serial killer. He once dressed as a corpse and horrified detectives as he revealed his killings in grim meticulous detail.
Dating back to 1978, Nilsen had waged a four year campaign of terror which senselessly ended the lives of 12 young victims.
Nilsen was arrested on 9th February 1983 and taken to Hornsea Police Station in London.
On being questioned by detectives, he willingly confessed to a string of horrific murders that would send shockwaves across the country.
One of Nilsen’s stalking grounds was Camden, North London. He frequented the Black Cap pub, which was a popular haunt for gay men at the time. There he would present himself as a shy and friendly figure; a ruse that enabled him to seduce his victims. Once taken back to his home, Nilsen’s victims were strangled and drowned in a bucket, and were later burned, buried, or even boiled – the latter method of disposal ultimately leading to his dark secrets being exposed after he attempted to flush blanched innards down the toilet.
Nilsen claimed that he killed for company, enjoying the companionship of the dead men in his flat, and turning his garden into a graveyard when the decomposing bodies became unbearable to live with.
Serial killer nurse "heard God" laughing in her head after telling her to murder desperately ill patients
When he moved to a flat without a garden, he developed a new means of corpse disposal, but the old plumbing in his home would prove to be his undoing.
Had he not blocked the drains with the body parts he attempted to flush he may well have killed even more.
Criminologist Prof David Wilson was working as a prison officer at the time of Nilsen’s conviction and described the murderer as rather than the terrifying serial killer you may expect, in fact a "weedy and needy" man, lacking any sense of humour whatsoever.
After he spoke to Prof Wilson he continued to send him a number of documents detailing his philosophy about why he committed the killings.
Prof Wilson believes the bodies took on an existential meaning for Nilsen – one that gave full flight to his twisted fantasies – and Wilson labels him the ultimate narcissist.
He said: "In the dominion of his flat with the door closed and the outside world shut away, Nilsen was King."
Nilsen had a tough upbringing and his murderous actions may have sought to readdress that. He was not very popular in school and had to endure bullying. He was seen as a troubled and lonely character, keenly aware of his sexuality.
His first victim was 14-year-old Stephen Holmes. When Stephen wanted to leave the next morning Nilsen wasn’t happy with this and murdered him – the first in his campaign of killings.
And he was able to use his previous knowledge – his butchering skills to hack up the bodies – and as a police officer – making him aware of the need to dispose of the bodies he was hoarding over the summer months.
Dennis Nilsen’s confessions featured in the second series of Voice of a Serial Killer
Source: Read Full Article