“Fifteen or sixteen”
The first recognized homosexual serial murderer in Britain was born at 47 Academy Road, Fraserburgh, Aberdeenshire, Scotland on 23 November 1945. After an 11-year stint in the Army (1961-1972), he became a policeman with the Metropolitan Police Force and then worked for a security company before becoming a civil servant in 1974, working in a London labour exchange. The job gave Nilsen the perfect opportunity to meet lonely, disaffected and often homeless men. He also spent a lot of time in pubs chatting up men and then inviting them back to his home to carry on drinking or for sex.
His actions turned to murder on 30 December 1978 after he met 14-year-old Stephen Dean Holmes in a gay bar. They went back to Nilsen’s house where he strangled Holmes with a tie and then drowned him in a bucket of water. Nilsen then bathed the corpse and went to bed with it. Thus began a pattern that would carry on for five years, until 26 January 1983 when he murdered Stephen Sinclair after meeting him in Oxford Street.
Nilsen murdered and attempted to murder 22 men. A biography of him claimed that Nilsen enjoyed the intimacy of gay sex but then did not want his lovers to leave, so murdered them —he killed for company. He burned the bodies in a large bonfire in his back garden. In November 1981 Nilsen moved to an attic flat in Muswell Hill where it was difficult to get rid of the remains of his victims. He took to flushing them down the lavatory. It was here that he murdered his last victim and put his remains down the drain, blocking it.
A man from Dynorod found a white sludge and left to return the next day. That night Nilsen walked to Muswell Hill Broadway and bought some fried chicken which he put down the drain, hoping to avert suspicion. The police were called and arrested Nilsen as he returned home from work. They found human remains scattered about his flat. When the police asked Nilsen how many bodies they were dealing with, he nonchalantly replied, “Fifteen or sixteen.”
Garden Flat, 195 Melrose Avenue, Cricklewood; Attic Flat, 23 Cranley Gardens, Muswell Hill, London, England
Saturday 30 December 1978—Wednesday 26 January 1983
Nilsen went on trial at the Old Bailey in October 1983 and was sentenced to life in jail on 4 November.
YOU SHOULD KNOW:
Some of Nilsen’s property ended up in Scotland Yard’s Black Museum. The house in Cranley Gardens remained empty until 1984.