The Nilsen Files | Who was Dennis Nilsen?

Dennis Nilsen – one of Britain’s most notorious serial killers – has been the subject of multiple documentaries and dramas over the last few years, with David Tennant delivering a chilling performance as the murderer in ITV’s Des, while Netflix looked at his crimes in the documentary Memories of a Murderer: The Nilsen Tapes.

Now BBC Two is recounting the North London killer’s horrific crimes in a new brand new docuseries – The Nilsen Tapes.

From the creators of The Shipman Files and The Yorkshire Ripper Files, this three-part true-crime series will explore how Nilsen’s murders weren’t discovered earlier and sheds more light on the lives of his victims, many of whom are still unidentified to this day.

Here’s everything you need to know about serial killer Dennis Nilsen ahead of the documentary’s release.

Who was Dennis Nilsen?

Please note: this section contains a description of Nilsen’s crimes, the details of which some readers may find upsetting.

Dennis Nilsen was one of the UK’s most prolific serial killers, having murdered at least 12 men between 1978 and 1983.

Born in Aberdeenshire in Scotland, Nilsen moved to North London in 1973 after serving in the Metropolitan Police and is known to have begun killing men and boys five years later.

The number of Nilsen’s victims is disputed, with the convicted killer claiming to have murdered 15 people. He is believed to have tried to kill seven others.

Nilsen murdered nearly all of his victims through strangulation before drowning them while they were unconscious in some cases. He hid the bodies in his flat and after several days, he would dissect them before burning them on a bonfire and boiling the remains, which were flushed down the drain.

The civil servant was also a necrophile, which is a person who is sexually attracted to corpses, with Nilsen admitting to having engaged in sexual acts with six of the victims’ bodies.

He was finally caught by police after a plumber, who was responding to the complaints of Nilsen and his neighbours, found human remains in the drains at Nilsen’s property Cranley Gardens in February 1983.

Whilst being interviewed by police, Nilsen admitted to storing human remains in his living room tea chest, with the body parts of three men being found – however, Nilsen was unable to name several of his victims and only offered vague victim profiles to the police.

The police were able to identify six victims – Stephen Holmes, Kenneth Ockenden, Malcolm Barlow, John Howlett, Graham Allen and Stephen Sinclair. At least six of Nilsen’s victims have never been identified.

What happened to Dennis Nilsen?

Nilsen was brought to trial in October 1983 on six counts of murder and two of attempted murder. He was found guilty on all charges.

The convicted killer was sentenced to life imprisonment with the judge recommending he serve a minimum of 25 years.

Whilst in prison, Nilsen wrote an autobiography and began recording audiotapes, which were explored in Netflix’s Memories of a Murderer: The Nilsen Tapes.

He died on 10th May 2018 at the age of 72 after suffering a ruptured aneurysm.

The Nilsen Files starts on BBC Two on Monday 24th January at 9pm. For something else, visit our TV Guide our check out dedicated Documentaries hub.

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