Thursday, 29 October 2009

Icon #31 Dennis Nilsen

For this weeks Icon theme Jen chose serial killers/mass murderers. It is Halloween after all....


Usually I try and write about someone or something that has some kind of personal connection for the Icon Post as most of you will have noticed. For serial killers that was always going to be tricky... until I remembered one small thing.

My Dad was a Prison Officer working at Parkhurst Prison on the Isle of Wight during the 1970's and '80's and whilst there he 'looked after' two of the UK's most notorious serial killers of more recent times, Peter Sutcliffe and Dennis Nilsen. I don't remember him really saying anything about the Ripper but I do remember him telling me about Nilsen and how his eyes just looked 'dead'. It's a weird thing to remember your father saying to you I guess, but when Nilsen was suggested tonight it reminded me of my Dad, always a good thing, and my choice was made. That line, that my Dad used, still makes me go cold, because here was someone he was clearly afraid of. Maybe it was the only time I remember him admitting that he had a pretty scary job where he dealt with awful people all the time, but whatever, the memory stuck.

Nilsen killed 15 or 16 people. He was never very sure how many exactly he'd killed. He lured men back to his home, choosing his targets carefully, only one was ever listed as missing and most went unidentified.

He'd spend time with them, cook them dinner, share in a drink and then strangle them, or drown them, sometimes both. Nilsen would then chop up the body, sometimes keeping the bits for ages, before burning them. Entrails he would dump over the garden fence for the local wildlife. Nice.

He came unstuck when he moved to new house in Muswell Hill in 1981. (Well he carried on killing for another two years, so it wasn't initially a completely disaster for him.) He was struggling to dispose of the bodies at his new abode and resorted to flushing 'bit and bobs' down the toilet.

This led to blocking a drain with human flesh and bit of bones and that... brilliant.

Drain cleaners were called in 1983 and they raised the alarm after their gruesome discovery. The police entered and discovered bodies (well bits of) in plastic bags in his wardrobe.

Nice eh?

Evil stuff I think you'll agree. What caused him to kill? Who knows, guilt over his sexuality, some morbid kick from extreme and deadly violence, but whatever it was it led to one of the UK's most notorious serial killers killing the sad lonely and disaffected men that he picked up on the streets of London.

That he chilled my Father so much just adds to the mystique for me.

'In the morning he was lying dead on one of the beds fully clothed. He was dead. I got the impression he wanted to go, and I must have killed him. I can't remember strangling him. I just sat there shocked.'

Tonight's post is dedicated to @CHESTMORGAN who suggested tonight's icon via twitter.