Often when we think of serial killers, we imagine these horrific animals in human skin compelled solely by bloodlust and rage. The habits of Dennis Nilsen, a serial killer in Scotland, seems to match this narrative perfectly. Throughout his life, Dennis Nilsen claimed that he repeatedly tried to stop killing, but ultimately gave into his sick temptation and brutally ravaged more and more victims. By the time police cuffed and charged Dennis Nilsen he had murdered 15 young men and boys, at least that victim number is what he claimed. The details of this case, however, are more disturbing than you can imagine.
As a child, Dennis Nilsen was a strange kid often quiet and withdrawn, which became more pronounced once his mother remarried and brought four new siblings into his life. Even at a young age, Dennis had a disturbing interest in death. Later on, his mother would report that it was seeing his grandfather’s corpse that had corrupted him and pushed him to commit these atrocities so many years later. A common area of focus for Dennis that police believed would ultimately drive him to carry out his terrible crimes was his repressed his own homosexuality. Being gay in the 1900’s was a constant struggle and not as accepted as in current times. The negative stigma was something that Dennis had so deeply absorbed that he reportedly hated himself for it. In fact, it was this loathing of his own sexuality that is believed to be the reason that he specifically targeted young men.
Over the years, Dennis had a great many setbacks. He spent two years living with a close friend, which ultimately ended when the friend moved out. Devastated and lonely, Dennis began to spend time out at local bars where he would eventually start to pick up his victims one by one. It is unclear if all of his victims were potential sexual interests or if they were merely invited over as friends, but either way, he would ask the men to hang out at his place. More often than not, the men who went home with him would end up dead.
Dennis’ most common way of killing was strangulation, but he also reportedly drowned several of the men in his apartment’s bathtub. Though this is disturbing enough, nothing could prepare police for the confession that they received. After killing these men, Dennis would find himself enamored with the bodies. He began to carry out a ritual that involved bathing the bodies and having them spend the night with him. Sometimes he would have sexual intercourse with the bodies. Other times he would merely spend time with them, often talking to them as if they were still alive.
Dennis admitted to stuffing the bodies underneath the floor boards in his apartment and burying others in the garden. Over time, he would sometimes pull the bodies back out and continue to spend time with them until it came time to start to dispose of them. Disposing of bodies is not an easy task. Rather than actually removing the bodies, he would instead wait for them to begin to rot and then carve them up, oftentimes smuggling pieces of them out in small bags or using the home sewage system to get rid of them.
Ultimately, it was Dennis’ lack of properly disposing his victims that brought on his arrest. Dennis admitted to moving apartments in hopes that it would slow his killing spree by making it more difficult to store the bodies. It did not stop him, but it did get him caught.
A plumber was called out to his new apartment complex to address a drain blockage. The plumber ultimately found that the blockage was composed of human remains. Dennis tried to remove the blockage before they arrived but was reported by police.
Upon questioning, he admitted to all of his crimes.
Dennis was immediately charged and found guilty, where he was sentenced to prison. He died in jail after suffering health complications and denied additional medical care. The very nature of his crimes is beyond disturbing and sadly e. Most of his victims were never identified. This means that these individuals very likely have family still wondering where their loved ones went. In the end, it appears that the only thing that stopped his reign of terror was simply the fact that he got caught.