Dennis Nilsen story 40 years on – from sickening rituals to bodies under floor

It's four decades since the crimes of one of Britain's most evil killers Dennis Nilsen was discovered.

It was on February 8, 1983, that complaints of blocked drains at 23 Cranley Gardens in Muswell Hill, north London, prompted a call out to plumber Michael Cattran who would make the horrific discovery.

After taking up a manhole cover outside he found what looked to be bone fragments and flesh-like substances.

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After deciding to return the next day as it was getting dark, Michael spoke to one of the tenants Dennis Nilsen who suggested it looked like someone had been “flushing their Kentucky Fried Chicken”.

Unknown to him at the time, Michael would be speaking to one of Britain's most notorious serial killers.

Just hours later Dennis Nilsen, also known as Des, would have his brutal crimes uncovered after it became apparent he killed 12 young men and boys in a spree over five years.

In the years after the chilling discoveries, the darkest sides of the crimes Nilsen committed have been revealed.

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But there was already a hint of what Nilsen would later go on to do.

While based in Germany, he and another man ended up passed out on his floor and despite the pair not having sex, the sight of an unconscious man next to him sparked a desire in him. He would later cover his own body in talcum powder as if he were dead, whilst looking at himself in the mirror.

He would lure vulnerable young men who were usually homeless or gay back to his home where he'd offer them alcohol, food and a place to sleep.

In the case of one of his victims Stephen Holmes who was only 14, Nilsen had let him stay the night before strangling and drowning him in a bucket of water.

After the brutal murder of Holmes, he bathed him before putting him in his bed and masturbated. He would then, like he did with many of his tragic victims, place them under his floorboards and try to disguise the smell of their rotting bodies with deodorant.

He would go on to kill a further 11 men and boys before being brought to justice in 1983 when he was sentenced to life imprisonment – which was later changed to a 'whole life tariff'.

Among his horrific array of killings included the murder of Kenneth Ockenden in December 1979 after he invited him home and strangled him to death after meeting in the pub. It was also revealed that he'd place his corpse and sit him on a chair whilst he watched tv.

His last victim Stephen Sinclair was strangled on January 26, 1983, and Nilsen slept in bed with his body before storing his body parts in wardrobes, a drawer under the bath and a tea chest.

He then even proceeded to boil the head, hands and feet in a pot on the stove to remove the flesh before flushing the remains.

It was actually Nilsen himself who complained of the blocked drains, who later told police it was him who was the murderer.

“I’ll tell you everything,” Nilsen said. “I want to get it off my chest. Not here – at the police station.”

Once arrested and on the way to Hornsey police station, he was asked whether there was just the one, or maybe two bodies, in his flat. But he simply replied: “15 or 16.”

He died on May 12, 2018.


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