Best Known For
Dennis Nilsen is best known as the English murderer of many young men in the late 1970's and early 80's.
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He buried limbs in the garden and in the shed, and stuffed torsos into suitcases until he could burn the remains in a bonfire at the end of his garden. On occasions he would burn fires all day, without raising any suspicion from neighbors. He generally crushed the bones once the fire had consumed the flesh, and police found thousands of bone fragments in the garden during later forensic examinations.
In 1982, in a desperate attempt to stifle his homicidal behavior,
Nilsen moved into a top-floor apartment at 23 Cranley Gardens, Muswell Hill, also in North London, which had no garden and no convenient floorboards. Still unable to quell his impulses, a further three victims were killed in this apartment between his arrival and February 1983. These victims were identified as John Howlett, Archibald Graham Allan and Steven Sinclair, and presented Nilsen with much greater disposal challenges, given the apartment's lack of direct access outdoor space. He overcame these obstacles by boiling the heads, feet and hands, and dissecting the bodies into small pieces that could be flushed down the toilet, and disposed of in plastic bags.
There were five other tenants at Cranley Gardens, none of whom knew Nilsen very well and, in early February 1983, one of them called out drain specialists Dyno-Rod to investigate a drain blockage. In the presence of the tenants, including Nilsen, the technician discovered rotting human remains when he descended via the outdoor manhole, and it was decided that a full inspection would be conducted the next day, after which the police would be called in to investigate. Nilsen, increasingly aware of the prospect of capture, tried to cover his tracks by removing the human tissue from the drains that night, but was spotted by the downstairs tenant, who became suspicious of his actions. It was reported that, on the morning of February 9, 1983, he told a work colleague laughingly, "If I'm not in tomorrow, I'll either be ill, dead or in jail."
Nilsen was met on the evening of February 9 by Detective Chief Inspector Jay, who informed him that they wished to question him in relation to the human remains that had been discovered in the drains. On entering the apartment, Jay noticed the pervasive foul odor, and asked Nilsen what it was, at which point he calmly confessed that what they were looking for was stored in bags around the apartment, which included two dismembered heads and other larger body parts.
Upon his arrest, he immediately provided exhaustive details about his killing spree, admitting to killing 15 young men, despite receiving a legal caution. He also admitted to the attempted murder of seven others, although he could name only four of them. At no point did he show any remorse, and appeared eager to assist the police with amassing evidence against him, even taking them to his old address to point out specific disposal details.
After the confession, Nilsen was held at Brixton Prison pending trial. Whilst there, he wrote over fifty notebooks of his memories to assist the prosecution, and also drew what he referred to as "sad sketches" which detailed his treatment of some of his victims.
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