Serial Killer Dennis Nilsen, the subject of ITV drama Des, would keep the bodies of his victims for months – engaging in disturbing sexual acts with some of them
Twisted killer Dennis Nilsen present himself as a shy and friendly figure while seducing his victims.
Rather than the terrifying murderer you would expect, Nilsen has been described as a « weedy and needy » man who was uncomfortable with his sexuality.
One of his stalking grounds was a pub in Camden, north London, which was a popular haunt for gay men at the time.
It was there that Nilsen would seduce vulnerable young men, luring them back to his home with the promise of booze and shelter.
He murdered at least 15 young men and boys between 1978 and 1983 in London – each in a very similar manner.
After strangling his victims, he would typically drown them in the bath if they were still alive but unconscious, before beginning his disturbing ritual.
His first victim was Stephen Holmes, 14, who he invited back to his flat on Melrose Avenue, Cricklewood in December 1978, by promising him alcohol when he wasn’t served at a nearby pub.
The next morning, Nilsen strangled the teenager with a tie until he was unconscious, then drowned him in a bucket full of water.
Nilsen had developed a fascination of the dead with morgue visits and autopsied bodies, so kept the dead bodies of his victims in his home.
Beginning a ritual which he would keep up with further victims, Nilsen washed Holmes’ corpse in the bath then placed the body on his bed and slept beside it.
Writing about the first murder, Nilsen admitted: « I had started down the avenue of death and possession of a new kind of flatmate. »
In October 1979 a young student from Hong Kong accused Nilsen of trying to strangle him during a bondage-play session, but he decided not to press charges.
His next victim was 23-year-old Canadian student Kenneth Ockenden , who he met in a West End pub in December 1979 and invited home with the promise of food and drinks.
He strangled Ockenden with the wire of his headphones as he listened to music, then continued listening to music with the murder weapon.
Nilsen watched TV with the body for hours then put it under the floorboards, but brought it back up on multiple occasions in the next two weeks to put in his armchair while he drank.
In May 1980, rough sleeper Martyn Duffey, 16, was lured to Nilsen’s home with the offer of a meal and place to stay.
After strangling Duffey he drowned him in the sink, then bathed with the body in the bathtub and using it for sexual activity.
He initially put the body in a cupboard but decided to put it under the floorboards when he noticed signs of bloating.
By the end of 1980 the psychopath, who would have sex with some of the corpses, had killed a further five victims – but only one of these men, William Sutherland, 26, was identified.
Rapidly running out of storage for the bodies and with the horrific smell becoming uncontrollable, Nilsen started to remove and cut up the bodies.
Having enlisted in the Army aged 16, it was during a stint in the catering corps that he learned the butchering skills he would use to hack up bodies.
After leaving the Army in 1972, he took up police training, making him aware of the need to dispose of his victims’ remains.
To get rid of the corpses, he would dismember them on the kitchen floor with a large kitchen knife, sometimes boiling the skulls to remove the flesh.
He buried limbs in the garden and stuffed torsos into suitcases, storing them until he could burn them.
His final victim at Melrose Avenue was Malcolm Barlow, 23, in September 1981, who he found slumped on a wall outside his home.
Barlow was an epileptic and returned to Nilsen’s flat to thank him for calling an ambulance when he suffered a seizure, but was then strangled in his sleep and stuffed under the kitchen sink.
Forced to leave the flat by his landlord, Nilsen burned the remains of his last five Melrose Avenue victims in a bonfire in the garden behind the flat.
Nilsen moved to a flat in Cranley Gardens, Muswell Hill, North London, where he would strangle another three men, and attempt to murder two others.
In March 1982, the serial killer strangled John Howlett, 23, back home after a night drinking following a ferocious struggle, then drowned him in the bath after three unsuccessful attempt to kill him.
Graham Allen, 27, was murdered that September then his body was dissected on the kitchen floor after being left in the bathtub for three days.
Nilsen’s final known victim was Stephen Sinclair, who was strangled while asleep, then bathed and laid on the bed while the murderer slept alongside the body.
With nowhere to burn the bodies in his new abode, Nilsen resorted to dismembering his next three victims and boiling body parts in his kitchen so the flesh would dissolve.
He then tried to dispose of the internal organs, flesh and small bones of the men he killed by flushing them down the toilet.
The sick necrophiliac was caught by accident after the drains became clogged with bits of rotting corpses he tried to flush away.
He and other tenants in his block of flats had complained to the landlord about the smell from the drains, so drain clearage company Dyno-Rod visited the property
After making the horrifying discovery of bones and a flesh-like substance being eaten by rats, they called the police and Nilsen was rumbled.
A police search then turned up three men’s bodies in a wardrobe, tea chest and chest of drawers.
Nilsen claimed his memories of he attacks were vague, and that he went into a trance during the killings, saying of one victim: “In the morning he was lying there dead on one of the beds, fully clothed.
« I got the impression he wanted to go, and I must have killed him. I can’t remember strangling him.”
The killer, who seemed to have no remorse, once said: « I don’t lose sleep over what I have done or have nightmares about it. »
« He was a serial killer interested in power and control. Nilsen was a genuine cannibal, necrophiliac and trophy killer. »
Nilsen was convicted of six counts of murder and two attempted murders on November 4 1983.
The serial killer was sentenced to life behind bars and spent the last days of his life as « a loner in prison ».
He died from natural causes aged 72 after being found slumped over a toilet in ‘excruciating pain’ at HMP Full Sutton near York.
An inquest heard that Nilsen died after having a pulmonary embolism and bleeding in his abdominal cavity on May 12, 2018.
Dennis Nilsen, ITV, David Tennant, Serial killer
Actu monde – GB – How Dennis Nilsen killed his victims and twisted sexual ritual with their bodies