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The Serial Killer Dennis Nilsen

Updated on June 14, 2013

Dennis Nilsen

One of the U.K's most notorious serial killers was on the rampage between 1978 and 1983. In all he murdered fifteen men and boys, keeping some of the corpses to practice his horrendous sex acts on before dismembering their corpses and trying to dispose of the body parts in domestic drains and sewers.

Nilsen was born in Fraserburgh, Scotland. His mother was a Scot and his father was Norwegian. They divorced when Nilsen was four years old. His upbringing was not stable as he was sent to live with his grandparents when his mother re-married, but two years later he was sent back to her.

When he finished his education he joined the British Army as a cook, serving eleven years and gaining the General Service Medal. He left the army in 1972 after serving in the army, travelling worldwide. His army service was his qualification to join the London Metropolitan Police Force, but after eight months he decided a policeman's life was not for him and he resigned. Nilsen was gay and also an alcoholic, both of which he tried to keep secret. As he never 'came out,' his desires were never suspected and he became an introvert, supressing his real feelings. After leaving the police force he became a Civil Servant and was employed in job centres in London. He was an active trade unionist and joined in enthusiastically when he was needed on picket lines.

Serial Killer

The killing begins

In November 1975 he moved to Cricklewood in London and it was here that his murderous career began. His homosexuality enabled him to pick up men and boys and take them back to his house. Once there he would murder them, either by strangling or drowning, sometimes keeping the bodies under the floorboards, to later perform despicable acts with. His butchery skills from his time in the army enabled him to eventually cut up the bodies. As his garden was large in Cricklewood he was able to burn the body parts in his garden.

In October, 1981, Nilsen moved to an attic flat at 23 Cranley Gardens, Muswell Hill London which made things difficult for him, as he had no garden and the flat did not have floorboards to hide things under. Which meant that as the murders continued, he had to find other means of disposing of the bodies. His wardrobe became filled up with black bin bags of human organs, and others were stored in cupboards and chests. The neighbours began to notice the smell. Deciding that he would have to do something, Nilsen boiled some of the parts, ground them up and put them in the drains. Others he flushed down the toilet. This was when he blocked the sewers of the flats. A drain cleaning company was called in and when the operatives found human remains in the sewer, his career was at an end.


The police waited for Nilsen to get home from work and accompanied him up to his flat. There they found human remains in a tea chest and in plastic bags. His previous address was searched and human bones were found in the garden. Nilsen was asked how many people he'd killed and he said, 'fifteen or sixteen.'

Nilsen was tried at the Old Bailey in London on 24 October 1983. He pleaded guily to manslaughter with diminished responsibility, but he was convicted of murder in six cases with two other attempted murders.

The trial judge set Nilsen's minimum term to 25 years, but the Home Secretary imposed a whole life tariff, which meant he would never be released. In 2006, he was denied any further requests for parole.

A full record of the individuals that Nilsen murdered is available from records.


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    • scarytaff profile image

      Derek James 6 years ago from South Wales

      Yes, indeed, Amanda. I wrote a hub on Fred West but it was so horrendous that I deleted it. The things these animals were capable of doing was absolutely horrific.

    • Amanda Severn profile image

      Amanda Severn 6 years ago from UK

      I remember reading about this case when it was all happening. There was a period back then when there seemed to be loads of these serial killers on the prowl. Imprisoning Peter Sutcliffe, Fred West and Dennis Nilssen must have made a huge dent in the crime stats!

    • scarytaff profile image

      Derek James 6 years ago from South Wales

      Case1worker Thank you for commenting.

      CWanamaker Thank you for reading the hub.

    • CWanamaker profile image

      CWanamaker 6 years ago from Arizona

      Serial killers are always interesting to read about. Thanks for the info!

    • CASE1WORKER profile image

      CASE1WORKER 6 years ago from UNITED KINGDOM

      an excellent hub- what a horrible man

    • scarytaff profile image

      Derek James 6 years ago from South Wales

      Yes, I agree, gaizy. Unbeleivable.

    • Gaizy profile image

      Gaizy 6 years ago from Denbigh, North Wales, UK

      It's frightening how someone so oviously deranged can manage to pass themselves off as "perfectly normal", sometimes for decades before they are found out.