Dennis Nilsen

1945 - 2018

Serial killer, known as the Muswell Hill Murderer. Born in Fraserburgh (Aberdeenshire), his parents divorced when he was only three years old. His father was a Norwegian soldier, who saw little of his wife and children. His mother remarried and the family moved to Strichen. He was greatly effected by the early death of his grandfather and an incident where he almost drowned while swimming at Inverallochy in 1954. He served in the British Army 1961-72, working as a cook, then briefly as a police officer and then as a civil servant. Nilsen was gay, but his relationships failed and his sexual fantasies became more extreme. Between 1978 and 1983, Nilsen killed at least twelve young men, who were often homeless and lured to his flat with offers of drink or accommodation. When interviewed by the police he claimed to have killed more. He strangled or drowned his victims but retained their bodies for weeks or months, before dismembering them. His activities were revealed when body-parts were found in a blocked drain. He was arrested, confessed and sentenced to life imprisonment on 4th November 1983. Nilsen's motives seem to have been a mix of loneliness, inadequacy and sexual frustration. He died in York following complications after surgery. His crimes are explored in film and television, including the ITV drama Des with Nilsen played by actor David Tennant (b. 1971) and his autobiography, The History of a Drowning Boy, was published in 2021.

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