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1983: Nilsen 'strangled and mutilated' victims

Civil servant Dennis Nilsen has gone on trial at the Central Criminal Court accused of six murders and two attempted murders.

Mr Nilsen, aged 37, from Cranley Gardens in Muswell Hill, north London, was arrested after human remains were found in a blocked drain at his home.

The court heard Mr Nilsen had later told police he had killed 15 or 16 people.

He denies all charges of murder and attempted murder.

Allan Green for the prosecution said the remains of three bodies were found at the house and bones from at least eight bodies were discovered at a house in Melrose Avenue, Cricklewood in north-west London where Mr Nilsen had also lived.

Mr Nilsen had also admitted attempting to kill another seven men. Eight of his victims had not been identified.

The court heard how each killing followed a similar pattern. The suspect met his victims, all of them male, in a pub. Most were homeless, some were homosexuals and some were prostitutes.

He would then take them back to his flat for a drink and in most cases he would then try to strangle them.

Mr Nilsen was arrested in February after he and other tenants in his block of flats had complained to the landlord about the smell from the drains. A plumber found human remains.

Mr Green added that Mr Nilsen had spent 11 years in the Army. Some of his service had been spent in the catering corps where he learned certain butchery skills.

After leaving the army, he served briefly as a probationary police constable before becoming a security officer with the Manpower Services Commission in 1974.

Mr Green described how Mr Nilsen strangled many of his victims with a tie and then disposed of the bodies, either through hiding them under the floorboards or in one case by cutting up the body and flushing parts down the toilet.

The defence is likely to raise the question of Mr Nilsen's diminished responsibility. In a statement to police, he claimed to be an alcoholic.

In Context
Nilsen was convicted on all counts on 4 November 1983 and sentenced to life in prison. The judge ordered he should not be eligible for parole for at least 25 years.

During his time in prison Nilsen has written his autobiography, titled "The Drowning Man".

He sent it to a publisher, but the manuscript was seized by the prison authorities and became the subject of a court battle.

In March 2002 Nilsen lost his bid to have the book published uncensored. His lawyer argued it was a breach of his human rights to vet the manuscript but the argument was rejected and he was refused leave to appeal.

Two years later, in May 2004 a panel of three Appeal Court judges, headed by Lord Justice Brooke, ruled there were "compelling reasons" why the court should hear the appeal.


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