Dennis Andrew Nilsen was born an only child in Scotland in 1945
. In 1961
he enlisted in the British Army
as a cook
, picking up some skills which would prove useful in his later career. In 1972
he joined the Police Force
but left after a year, eventually settling in North-West London, becoming an interviewer
for the local job centre
Wracked with loneliness and seeking companionship, Nilsen spent his out-of-work hours from 1978 to 1983 picking up young men, taking them back to his house for tea and sympathy and strangling them, fifteen in total. Unlike Jeffrey Dahmer he did not eat the corpses; he merely used them as social and sexual partners, before cutting them into bits and disposing of them beneath the floorboards and in the gardens of three separate houses in which he lived. He was eventually caught by drainage inspectors who noticed pieces of human flesh blocking his drains.
After a detailed and thorough confession, the mild-mannered, bookish-looking Nilsen was convicted of six counts of murder and two counts of attempted murder, and sent to prison for life commencing in 1983. He is still there, and will be eligible for parole in 2008.
His defence counsel argued, against his wishes, that Nilsen was insane; the jury thought otherwise. "No one wants to believe that I am just an ordinary man come to an extraordinary and overwhelming conclusion."
Brian Masters' book 'Killing for Company', based on extensive interviews with Nilsen himself, documents the above in fine style. Nilsen himself continues to write about his crimes, as well as producing drawings - 'sad sketches', he calls them - of his victims. Nilsen is one of the most fascinating serial killers; in his writings he seems cogent and rational, often horrified and sickened by the things he does, but nonetheless unable to stop.