Birthday: November 23, 1945
Died At Age: 72
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Also Known As: Dennis Andrew Nilsen
Born Country: Scotland
Born in: Fraserburgh, Aberdeenshire, Scotland
Notorious As: Serial Killer
father: Olav Magnus Moksheim
mother: Elizabeth Duthie Whyte
Died on: May 12, 2018
place of death: York, North Yorkshire, England, United Kingdom
Who was Dennis Nilsen?
Dennis Nilsen was a Scottish serial killer infamous for killing more than 15 young men and boys and indulging in necrophilia. Born and raised in Aberdeenshire, Dennis grew up as one among three children in the family. He was a shy and introvert kid since childhood and following his high school graduation, he joined the British Army as a cook. He later retired from the army in the early 1970s and began working first as a police officer, then as a security guard in London. He was gay and he remained closeted for the most part of his life but in the 1970s, the urges to have a long term relationship with men consumed him. In 1978, he committed the murder of a 14 years old boy in London after inviting him to his place to drink alcohol. He picked up many of his victims in the same fashion and later murdered them, performing sexual acts with their bodies and using the corpses as a company for his loneliness. In 1983, a plumber got suspicious and informed the police. Dennis was arrested and during the trial, he was found guilty of six murders and one murder attempt and was sentenced to a life in prison, where he passed away in 2018.
Childhood & Early Life
Dennis Nilsen was born Dennis Andrew Nilsen, on November 23, 1945, in Fraserburgh, Aberdeenshire, Scotland, to Elizabeth Whyte and Olav Moksheim. His father was originally a Norwegian, who had arrived in Scotland following the German occupation of Norway, as he was a soldier in the Norwegian army. His father later adopted the surname Nilsen, which was also adopted by Dennis as well. Dennis was raised as the middle one of three children.
Dennis’ early childhood was difficult. His father was an alcoholic and this led his mother to divorce his father when Dennis was 4 years old. His mother took all three children with her and remarried. Dennis was later sent to live with his grandparents. However, he did not want to live there and moved back with his mother.
One of the early traumatic experiences of his life was witnessing the death of his grandfather. It was reported that he was very close to him and he never quite recovered from the death of his grandfather.
Following the incident, Dennis became quieter than before and spent hours alone at the harbour. He also hated his elder brother as he was everybody’s favourite and did not participate in any family gathering. He was very close to his younger sister though.
As he attained puberty, Dennis began to realize that he was attracted to boys and he inappropriately touched his brother one night, which led his brother to bully and shame him in public. Dennis claimed that he also found ‘fondling’ his little sister to be pleasant enough, which meant that he was bisexual.
He wanted to join the British Army and also wanted to come out of the rural area where he was growing up. Hence, during the junior year of high school, he joined the Army Cadet Force.
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Dennis was a shy, introvert and an anti-social young man but he was above average when it came to the academics. With history and art his favourite subjects, he completed his high school in 1961 and before joining the army, he did some odd jobs. A few weeks after working in a canning factory, he expressed his desire to join the British Army as a chef, in front of his parents.
He cleared the entrance exam and joined the Army Catering Corps, and got posted to Hampshire. He described his time there as the happiest time of his life. He also felt sexual arousal from time to time in presence of other men around him, but he never disclosed his sexual identity to his peers. Instead, he bathed alone in the bathroom to further control his urges.
Dennis passed his official catering exam and became a chef in the army as he wanted. He was deployed to Aden, Cyprus and then to Berlin. In 1972, he left the army with the rank of corporal. He decided to become a police officer next and in April 1973, after training, he was hired as a junior constable in northwest London.
By then, he had turned into an alcoholic and sexually deprived lonely man. In the early 1970s, he began visiting gay clubs and engaged in sexual activities with a lot of gay men. However, he did not find happiness there as he wanted a long term relationship.
He quit his job in the police department and worked as a security guard and later as a civil servant. He was profoundly unhappy with the life he was leading and sought a long-lasting companionship. As he became increasingly desperate for that, by 1978, his psychological condition pushed him to an edge, as he had been through three failed relationships by then.
Dennis’ first victim was a 14-year-old boy named Stephen Holmes, who was trying to buy alcohol from a pub in north London, on December 30, 1978. Dennis invited Stephen to his place and they drank together all night. In the morning when Stephen decided to leave, Dennis strangled him to death. He then masturbated on the body and later burned the corpse.
A few weeks later, Dennis met a student named Andrew Ho, who was invited by Dennis to engage in sex. At his house, Dennis tried to strangle him, but Andrew escaped and pressed no charges.
His next victim was a Canadian student named Martyn Duffey, who was strangled and later drowned in the kitchen sink to ensure his death. Dennis then took his body and sat with it on the couch and watched television for hours. He hid the body under the floorboards after wrapping it in plastic and dug it out quite a few times to watch television, with the corpse sitting next to him.
He repeated more or less the same pattern for each one of his victims. Between 1978 and 1983, Dennis was reported to have killed 12-15 victims. He would dismember the bodies and burn the parts with car tyres, to camouflage the smell of the human flesh burning. Almost all his victims were young men he picked up from bars or the homeless men he invited to his house.
Arrest & Trial
On February 4, 1983, Dennis complained to his estate agent about clogged drains. When a plumber informed him that the drains were clogged by some fleshy substance, Dennis became cautious. He cleared the blockage himself, which got the plumber suspicious as he had promised to come by the next day. The plumber examined more pipes and found human bones and flesh and immediately contacted the authorities.
The police entered his house and asked about the smell of decomposition coming from his house. Dennis reluctantly led them to one of the closets where he kept the bodily remains.
While on his way to the police station, Dennis revealed that he had killed about 15 or 16 young men. When asked about his intent for the murders, Dennis said he could not fathom and that he was banking on the authorities to tell him that. He also said that he did not have any intention of murder until right before the moment he committed them.
The trial began in October 1983 where he was charged with six murder counts and two counts of attempted murders. Dennis pled not guilty. But following the testimonies of two men who had escaped his strangulation attempts, there was nothing more Dennis could have said or done to prove his innocence.
On November 24, 1983, the jury verdict held him guilty of six charges of murder and one attempted murder and he was sentenced to life imprisonment. Later in 1994, his chances of getting paroled were ended by the home secretary. Dennis also said that he had no will to be free again. He was kept in Full Sutton Prison, Yorkshire.
Dennis Nilsen complained of stomach pain in May 2018. He was taken to a hospital in York.
Dennis passed away in the hospital, following the complications after stomach surgery, on May 12, 2018.
1989 film titled Cold Light of Day featured the Dennis Nilsen story, along with many TV series’ such as Born to Kill, Encounters with Evil and Real Crime etc.