Dennis Nilsen is one of the more well-known serial killers to emerge from the UK in the late 1970s and early '80s. Dubbed the Muswell Hill Murderer by the British press, Nilsen amassed over a dozen kills, his victims often homeless young men and prostitutes - easy prey for a seemingly benevolent stranger.
Nilsen's predilection for necrophilia - coupled with his habit of keeping corpses around for weeks on end - has drawn comparisons to Jeffrey Dahmer, one of America's more deranged murderers. While Nilsen did not quite share the Milwaukee cannibal's culinary palette, he certainly engaged in enough strange corpse play to put him in that same unique echelon of killers. He was also the inspiration for the movie Cold Light of Day.
The following list explores some of the most bizarre and gruesome facts about a man sometimes called "The Kindly Killer"; the deadly dossier of a charming English stranger who just happened to keep a heap of dead bodies back at his flat.
Dennis Nilsen Became Obsessed With Death After Seeing His Grandfather's Corpse
Dennis Nilsen was born in Fraserburgh, Scotland, in 1942. A child of an unhappy marriage, Nilsen spent a lot of time with his maternal grandfather and was traumatized by his sudden death; he would later claim that viewing his grandfather's corpse at his funeral was the root of his later obsession with the dead. After his mother married again and had several more children, Nilsen became isolated and distant, eventually leaving Scotland for a stint in the army.
Settling into north London in 1975, it was a few short years later that he began his murderous spree. Between December of 1978 and February of 1983, Nilsen murdered and dismembered at least 15 young men. He committed these crimes over a six-year period at two different addresses, always just barely avoiding the suspicion of his neighbors.
He Lured In His Victims With Booze And Shelter
Dennis Nilsen's M.O. was to prey on the vulnerable. He often went out and picked up young, destitute men, or even those who were more plainly homeless. He would ply his victims with offers of food, booze, or shelter - phantom promises that lured them into his house of horrors.
In the case of 20-year-old Steven Sinclair - his final victim - Nilsen actually claims to have tried to help the young man with his drug addiction, in hopes that the two could have a prolonged sexual relationship. It was not meant to be, however, as Nilsen could not control his urges and killed him hours after bringing him home.
He Typically Killed By Strangulation Or Drowning, And Sometimes He Revived His Victims
After successfully luring a man back to his flat, Nilsen would often feel overcome with a sense of abandonment when they attempted to leave - and this was usually a death sentence for his guests. Using household items like electrical cables or neckties, Nilsen would strangle his victims to death with whatever he had handy, ensuring they could never exit his company.
If his evening guests were incapacitated enough by drugs or alcohol, Nilsen would sometimes drown them. He did this by either drawing a bath and submerging his victims underwater, or by more simply placing their heads in a bucket full of water.
Curiously, Nilsen claims to have revived at least three men he asphyxiated, all of whom he then let go, ironically stating that he took great satisfaction in saving a life. In at least one instance, a young man went directly to authorities, who simply brushed off his claims and allowed Nilsen to continue his grim streak.
After Their Deaths, He Bathed And Dressed His Victims
After completing the act of murder, Dennis Nilsen went to great lengths to tend to the appearance of his victims. He would immediately bathe and clean his newly possessed corpses, all the while speaking to them as though they were still alive. Once his dead victims were sufficiently spick and span, Nilsen would dress them in pajamas and haul them off to bed, where things would proceed to get really weird.