In February of 1983 a drain specialist was called out to Cranley Gardens apartment complex in order to investigate a sudden drainage problem tenants began complaining of. All five of the complex’s tenants, including a tenant by the name of Dennis Nilsen, were present as the plumber began pulling out the source of the drain blockage from an outdoor manhole. Inside were pieces of decomposed human flesh and bone.
A swift investigation proceeded the discovery. Other tenants within the complex had spotted Nilsen by the manhole cover the previous night attempting to remove the clog. Detectives went to Nilsen’s apartment in order to question him on the decomposed human remains. The sour stench of death immediately permeated their nostrils upon entering into Nilsen’s home. Knowing that he had been caught, Nilsen admitted that he had more body parts stored in bags around the apartment.
Referred to as Britain’s Jeffrey Dahmer, Nilsen was found to have murdered at least 15 young men, most of which he picked up at local bars around town. Having never come to terms with his homosexuality, Nilsen claimed he would often find himself disturbed by, what he believed to be, his deviant behavior and an incredible sense of loneliness. Often he would strangle or drown his victims, then ritualistically bathe them. After he had bathed the men, he would then engage in sexual acts and sleep with the corpse before dissecting and disposing of the body.
Before moving into Cranley Gardens, Nilsen resided in a home where he could easily hide the bodies in his back garden and by burning them in the yard. After having killed three men, Nilsen made the decision to move into a flat, believing that the close living quarters would force him to cease his lust for killing his lovers. This decision seemed to have the opposite effect, however, and a majority of Nilsen’s victims were killed within the apartment.
Without a yard to dispose of the bodies and plenty of people around to witness any suspicious activities, Nilsen was forced to become more creative in his methods for disposing of his victims. Nilsen told investigators that he would boil his victims’ heads in a large pot in order to liquefy the brain matter. The rest of their bodies would be chopped up and placed into bags, which he would store in closets and other places around the apartment.
Naturally, decomposing bodies would begin to smell and attract insects. Nilsen was forced to spray his apartment at least twice a day in order to kill fly larvae and to mask the smell. Many neighbors had been complaining for months about the strong odor coming from the area of Nilsen’s apartment, but the matter was never investigated. Once Nilsen realized how overpowering the smell was becoming, in spite of his attempts to mask the odor, he began flushing what body parts he could fit down his toilet.
Parts and pieces of 12 victims were found stored within Nilsen’s apartment, but the body count would have been nearly 20, had he not let at least seven of his victims go. Nilsen claims that he would go into a trance as he was murdering his victims. The times he had allowed his victims to go free he recalls snapping out of this trance he describes and came to his senses. In fact, many of these victims who survived their encounters with Nilsen immediately made reports to the police, but for unknown reasons the police never pursued a full investigation on him.
Although he showed little remorse for the men who died at his hands, it would seem that Nilsen felt at sense of relief at the time of his capture. Going against his lawyer’s instructions, Nilsen fully confessed to the murder of 15 men, though he was only accused of murdering 12. Nilsen also admitted to the seven potential victims he had allowed to go free and took investigators to his former home in order to point out where he had buried and burned bodies on the property.
While awaiting trial, Nilsen further helped the prosecutions by filling nearly 50 notebooks with detailed accounts of his murders. At the time of his trial, Nilsen handed over his notebooks and “sad sketches” depicting the grotesque acts he had performed on his victims. Though Nilsen attempted to get off on an insanity plea, he was found guilty of six counts of murder, as well as an additional two counts of attempted murder. Dennis Nilsen is now serving life in prison.