Serial Killer Project Part 2

By: Melissa Puentes

Dennis Nilsen (Foreign)

DOB: 23 November 1945

DOD: -

Nickname(s): Muswell Hill Murderer & Kindly Killer


  • Elizabeth Duthie Whyte (Mother, Scottish)
  • Olav Magnus Moksheim (Father, Norwegian)


  • His parents separated when he was four.
  • Father was an alcoholic.
  • What he claims was his first traumatic childhood experience: When his grandfather died, his very strict and demanding catholic mother insisted that he be able to see the body before burial. Loved his grandfather very much and became detached for a while when he passed away.
  • He was 14 years old when he decided he was homosexual. (But he kept it a secret.)
  • He said that he was ridiculed by his brother because his brother caught suspicions of him being homosexual, referring to him as a "hen," which means girl in Scottish.
  • He noticed that he was poorer than most his friends so he was ashamed to take them to his home.
  • He later desired to join the army at the age of 15. He became a butcher for the Army Catering Corps. He says that this was a valuable lesson for when he went on his killing spree.



  • Nilsen did not conform to the behaviors that the criminal profilers believe that children exhibit.

  • He was very talented when it came to school, which is why he was able to enter the army at 15.
Interview with Dennis Nilsen (Murder In Mind, Carlton TV, 1993)

Work History/ Past Criminal Behavior

Work History:

  • He worked in the army and became a Corporal, but he found someone and feel in love, but what he noticed that the man didn't love him back and so he quit after 11 years and 3 months.
  • December 1972 Nilsen enrolled in the metropolitan police. He resigned a year later in December 1973.
  • He became poor and as he was going in for unemployment he got offered a job for the English Civil Service and remained in that field until his arrest for murder in 1983.

Criminal Behavior:

  • No past criminal behavior.

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Social Life/ Health

Social Life:

  • He was an average kid in school. but was ridiculed by his brother.
  • Once joining the army he said that he had become popular and there was a huge sense of comradeship.
  • After resigning the army he joined the police, but said it was not the same and he was substantially lonely.
  • In his last job in the English Civil Service his way of thinking put him at odds with his employers and other employees, which led to him having few ties at the end.


  • Considering he was in the army for a bit over 11 years and then joined the police, he was required to undergo a certain amount of training and had to most likely take physicals, meaning he had to have been healthy or he might have not been hired otherwise.


In total he killed 12-15

He found his first victim in a pub on December 29, 1978, and invited him home. The next morning, overcome by a desire to prevent the man from leaving, he strangled him with a tie and then drowned him in a bucket of water. Taking the corpse to his bathroom to wash it, he then placed it back in his bed. He attempted to have sex, unsuccessfully, then spent the night sleeping next to the dead man. He finally hid the corpse under his floorboards for seven months, before removing it and burning the decaying remains in his back garden.

Nilsen encountered his second victim, Canadian tourist Kenneth Ockendon, at a pub on December 3, 1979. At his apartment Nilsen strangled Ockenden to death with an electrical cable, before cleaning up the corpse as before, and sharing a bed overnight. He took photos, engaged in sex and afterwards put the corpse under the floorboards, removing it frequently and engaging in conversation.

His third victim, around five months later, was Martyn Duffey, a homeless sixteen year old, who was invited to spend the night. As with his first victim, Nilsen strangled then drowned him, before bringing him back to bed and masturbating over the teenager's corpse. Duffey was kept in a wardrobe for two weeks, before being put under the floorboards.

His next victim was prostitute Billy Sutherland, 27, who had the misfortune of following Nilsen home one night. He too was strangled.

Malcolm Barlow, 24, was an orphan with learning disabilities, who was soon murdered by strangulation.

By 1981, Nilsen had killed 12 men in the apartment, of whom only the above could be identified.

To get rid of the corpses, he would remove his clothing and dismember them on the stone kitchen floor with a large kitchen knife, sometimes also boiling the skulls to remove the flesh, also placing organs and viscera in plastic bags for disposal. He buried limbs in the garden and in the shed, and stuffed torsos into suitcases until he could burn the remains in a bonfire at the end of his garden. On occasions he would burn fires all day, without raising any suspicion from neighbors. He generally crushed the bones once the fire had consumed the flesh, and police found thousands of bone fragments in the garden during later forensic examinations.


Nilsen's murders were first discovered by a Dyno-Rod employee named Michael Cattran regarding the drains of the property being blocked on 8 February 1983. Opening a drain cover at the side of the house, Cattran discovered the drain was packed with a flesh-like substance and numerous small bones of unknown origin. Prior to leaving the property, Nilsen and a fellow tenant named Jim Allcock convened with Cattran to discuss the source of the substance. Upon hearing Cattran exclaim how similar the substance was in appearance to human flesh, Nilsen replied: "It looks to me like someone has been flushing down their Kentucky Fried Chicken."

The three officers followed Nilsen into his flat, where they immediately noted the odour of rotting flesh as Nilsen queried further as to why the police would be interested in his drains, to which he was informed the blockage had been caused by human remains. Nilsen feigned shock and bewilderment, stating, "Good grief, how awful!" In response, Jay replied: "Don't mess about, where's the rest of the body?" Nilsen responded calmly, admitting that the remainder of the body could be found in two plastic bags in a nearby wardrobe.

The officers did not open the cupboard, but asked Nilsen if there were any other body parts to be found, to which Nilsen replied: "It's a long story; it goes back a long time. I'll tell you everything. I want to get it off my chest. Not here—at the police station". He was then arrested and cautioned on suspicion of murder, before being taken to Hornsey Police Station.

Detective Chief Inspector Jay asked Nilsen whether the remains in his flat belonged to one person or two. Staring out of the window of the police car, he replied, "15 or 16, since 1978".

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