The lad joined the army in 1961 at 15. His first three years in the army were spent undergoing training at the Aldershot Barracks. This was a very happy time for Nilsen who thrived on the hard work, discipline and comradeship of army life. He was no longer an outsider.
Nilsen's chosen army trade was in the catering corps - he trained as a butcher in Aden, Cyprus and Berlin. When Nilsen reached the rank of Corporal, his successful army career had lasted 11.5 years, but he disliked the Army's role in Northern Ireland and left.
In Dec 1972, he enrolled in the Metropolitan Police, hoping to recapture army-type comradeship. He was fascinated seeing autopsied bodies in a morgue. But he wasn’t happy and resigned in Dec 1973.
From the mid 1970s, Nilsen worked in a job centre. He met a man there who was looking for a job. They went to Nilsen's flat but David Painter saved himself and rushed to hospital. NB Nilsen was questioned by the police and released!
195 Melrose Avenue North London By 1974, Nilsen's life revolved around cruising bars. One night David Gallichan came home with Nilsen and stayed. It was Nilsen’s happiest affair. The two men went flat hunting together and rented 195 Melrose Ave for 2 years. When the relationship ended, Nilsen filled the void by visiting London’s bars and drinking.
The killings re-started a year after Gallichan left. As 1978 ended, Nilsen sank into a deep depression, until the old death fantasy came back out to comfort him. By New Year he went to a pub and returned home with an unknown teenager. The men drank themselves into a blear, and when Nilsen awoke, he wanted to keep this lad as a companion forever. So he strangled the youth with his necktie, drowned him and placed him under the floorboards.
In Oct 1979, a year after the first murder, another young student went home with Nilsen. Andrew Ho informed the police, but no charges were brought!!
All his partners were young men whom he picked up in bars and brought home for sex or for company. Nilsen strangled and drowned his victims during the night, then carefully used his butchering skills to help him dispose of the bodies. Nilsen had access to a large garden and was able to burn many of the remains in a bonfire.
Later on, the police inspected Nilsen's home at 195 at Melrose Avenue and found another 13 bodies.
23 Cranley Gardens in Muswell Hill, North London. The new house at Cranley Gardens had been divided into 6 flats and an attic for Nilsen. He’d lost the use of a garden and even of a space under floor boards, so he was certain this would be a deterrent for his compulsive homicides. Wrong!
Nilsen met a student in a Soho bar and invited him home. The student awoke the next morning not remembering the previous evening, but knew enough to see a doctor because of neck bruising. The doctor said the student had been strangled and advised him to go to the police. Alas the student would not.
Rather than being appalled by the sight of corpses, Nilsen thought them quite beautiful. He did not really know why he had killed any young men - he just wanted them to stay. Sometimes he decided to have sex with the corpses. Or he would make dinner and watch television with a corpse propped upright on the couch.
In just 1.5 years, Nilsen had killed twelve unemployed or homeless young men in Muswell Hill, largely unidentifiable. As his murders continued in the attic, Nilsen had to dispose of the human remains in suitcases; they were full of human organs stored in his wardrobe. Neighbours gagged at the smell. When he tried to dispose of the bodies by flushing them down the toilet, the sewerage clogged up. In 1983 the drain inspector immediately called the police who discovered the bones were human.
Despite being cautioned, Nilsen unburdened himself in nauseating detail. And he also accompanied police back to 195 Melrose Avenue and pointed out where he had buried body parts and made bonfires.
At the 1983 trial at Old Bailey, Nilsen’s interviews with the police were read verbatim, taking four hours, and surviving victims gave chilling evidence. Because this professional butcher knew how to cut up a body well and boil flesh off the heads in a large pot, they presented his pot, dissecting board and butchering knives in court. Finally Dennis Nilsen was convicted of 6 murders and 2 attempted murders, sentenced to life in prison, never to be released. Read Killing for Company 1985, by Nilsen’s friend Brian Masters.
Conclusion Different decades, countries, preferred victims, motives and killing methods. Yet the outcome was equally tragic for hundreds of people in the USA and Britain.
The police were rarely told of Dr Holmes’ killings for financial windfalls and few missing person’s reports were filed. Yet Holmes openly placed ads in newspapers offering jobs for young women, hotel rooms for guests and positions for potential wives. Did the parents do nothing when their daughters didn’t come home? And from the early insurance claims, the insurance companies must have understood what was happening. It was unthinkable that the insurance companies could make endless payouts to one person!
Of the victims who managed to escape lonely Nilsen’s grasp, many had made hospital records and police reports, so the police knew that they had been given solid evidence over four years. If only the various hospitals and police stations had been able to coordinate with each other, a more urgent & proactive police investigation may have saved many lives. If only the neighbours, workmates, sexual partners and parents had not averted their eyes and noses, even when they knew (or suspected) that the army butcher was psychotic.