Nilsen, serial killer who slaughtered 16, dies in jail aged 72
SCOTS-BORN Dennis Nilsen, one of the most prolific serial killers in British criminal history, died last night in prison, aged 72.
The bespectacled and outwardly respectable civil servant led a secret life between 1978 and 1983, befriending lonely gay young men in London pubs and taking them home to kill them.
He was found guilty of ‘only’ six murders and two attempted murders but it is believed up to 16 young men died at his hands in a number of grubby properties he occupied in North London.
In 2006, 23 years after his imprisonment, prosecutors said they would not be taking him to court to face an allegation of murdering a 14-year-old boy, believed to have been his first victim.
Fraserburgh-born Nilsen was caught only because a Dyno-Rod plumber called to a blockage in the drains at his house had discovered lumps of human flesh in a pipe.
By this stage Nilsen had been killing so many victims that his house was stacking up with corpses, so he resorted to flushing them down the lavatory.
The head of the final victim, Stephen Sinclair, had been boiling on Nilsen’s stove the night before. Police found two other heads in the house as well as plastic bags full of limbs, hidden in a wardrobe.
Nilsen, who died at HMP Full Sutton in Yorkshire, was said to have had an unhappy childhood in the north-east of Scotland. His father was a drunk and his mother, Betty, suffered from depression.
Nilsen’s fascination with death is believed to have started when he viewed the open coffin of his grandfather, who had largely raised him.
He served as an army cook with The Royal Fusiliers in Osnabruck, Germany, and later during the Aden Crisis in South Yemen. There was also a spell with the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders. In Aden, Nilsen was kidnapped by an Arab taxi driver, who beat him unconscious and stuffed him into the boot of his car. As the cabbie was removing him from the vehicle, Nilsen struck him with a jack-handle before placing him in the boot of his own vehicle.
It was during his time in the Middle East that Nilsen saw a number of bodies, which are said to have fuelled his sexual fantasies when he returned to civilian life.
On his return to the UK, Nilsen had a brief spell as a policeman.
One of his later victims, Stephen Dean Holmes, had the misfortune to attract the psychopath when he was drinking one Friday night in a London pub.
After enticing the curly-haired Irish teenager back to his house, Nilsen was terrified the next morning that his guest would leave. So he strangled him with a tie and drowned him in a bucket.
In a foretaste of his behaviour towards his victims’ corpses, Nilsen slept beside Holmes that night before stuffing his body under the floorboards. The smell became unbearable, so Nilsen burned the remains in his back garden, before pounding the ashes to dust and raking them into the soil.
Nobody seems to have missed the young Irishman, which allowed Nilsen to continue with his grisly killing spree.
Children in the playground next door had no reason to suspect the man who would light regular bonfires in his back garden.
He strangled Canadian tourist Kenneth Ockendon with the cord of the headphones his victim was wearing. Nilsen had sex with the corpse and kept it hidden under the floorboards for months.
A hushed court would later hear Nilsen would occasionally bring out the body and prop it up in a chair so the pair could watch TV ‘together’.
His depravity knew no bounds. Nilsen met Martyn Duffey when the 16-year-old homeless boy suffered an epileptic fit. Nilsen called an ambulance but when the teenager went round to his house the next day to say thanks, Nilsen killed him and sexually assaulted his corpse. He hid the body in a wardrobe for a fortnight, before placing it beneath the floorboards.
A criminologist later said loneliness was the driver behind Nilsen’s atrocities. Nilsen, he said, killed for company.
His whole-life term at the Old Bailey meant that he would never be released.
‘Hid body in wardrobe for a fortnight’
CALLOUS KILLER: Dennis Nilsen