Who were Dennis Nilsen’s victims? Nov 16th 2016
It is unclear exactly how many men Dennis Nilsen killed. Although convicted for six murders, he told police he was responsible for far more.
At one time he boasted he was the “killer of the century” – and claimed to have murdered more often than Yorkshire Ripper Peter Sutcliffe, who killed 13 women between 1975 and 1980. But he later admitted he had exaggerated the scale of his crimes.
He is believed to have killed about a dozen people. The six men he was found guilty of murdering were:
The Canadian tourist was holidaying in London in December 1979 when he met Nilsen in a west end pub. They went back to the killer’s home, where Nilsen murdered him. In the weeks after, there were several newspaper articles about his disappearance.
Hailing from Merseyside it has been reported that Martyn Duffey had a troubled childhood, spending some time in care and on the streets. He met Nilsen as he was trying to turn his life around in May 1980.
Nilsen’s third victim was one of three men he killed from Scotland. He came from Edinburgh and met the murderer in a pub before heading to his flat after reportedly telling him he had nowhere to go.
Malcolm was 24 when Nilsen murdered him. He was an orphan and had spent most of his time in care. In September 1981 he was found in the street by the serial killer and taken back to his flat.
He was the first to be murdered at Nilsen’s new address, 23 Cranley Gardens. He was reportedly never out of trouble with the police and met Nilsen on two occasions, first in 1981 and then again in March 1982 when he was killed.
The 20-year-old was Nilsen’s final victim and was killed in January 1983. His body was later found by police when they searched Nilsen’s flat a month later. PRESS & JOURNAL
ItiIt was the autumn of 1951, the tattie holidays had been and gone, and all over the north and north-east youngsters were getting ready for the annual celebration of all things supernatural.
But for one wee boy, Halloween that year represented something far darker in his life than the ghosts and goblins of fables and myths and the evil grins on the carved neep lanterns carried door-to-door by guisers.
Dennis Nilsen’s dad Olav, who was a Norwegian soldier, spent little time at home, and eventually one day upped and left his wife and children for good.
That meant the young Nilsen, along with his mother Betty Whyte and his two siblings, going to live with his grandparents.
His grandad Andrew Whyte became the father figure in his life, and the pair became particularly close.
When he died, Nilsen was aged just five, still a few weeks short of his sixth birthday.
Effectively, it was the second time a “father” had left him, and he is convinced the trauma of his loss had a lasting impact of him and indeed put him on the path to murder.
After his death on October 31, 1951, Mr Whyte’s body was returned to the family home
Nilsen’s mother took him to see his grandfather’s body – although she told him he was sleeping.
Nilsen believes it was this failure to explain death to him which provided the catalyst for his shocking crimes in later life
“My troubles started there,” he is quoted as writing in Brian Masters’s book, Killing for Company.
In the years after his grandfather’s death, Fraserburgh-born Nilsen spent some time in the nearby village of Strichen before joining the Army Catering Corps and serving across the world, as well as closer to home at Fort George near Inverness and Ballater.“It blighted my personality permanently.”
He later moved to London and joined the Metropolitan Police as a cadet, before leaving and embarking on a career at the Job Centre where he was working when his string of gruesome murders was uncovered.
So what was it, more than 20 years after the death of his grandfather, that drove Nilsen to kill for the first time?
Does he still view that childhood bereavement as the genesis of a series of killings which to this day make him one of the most notorious figures in British criminal history?
And does he now – many years after her death – understand his mother’s reluctance to explain the death to a five year old?
I never got an answer to those questions, but in his letters to me Nilsen did speak about his childhood in more general terms, despite telling me that asking about memories from his childhood was a “dangerous invitation”.
He said: “I don’t think your readers are interested in anything abrasive to disturb their peace at the breakfast table of their comforts. So I will keep my reporting moderate and omit the personal and emotional traumas of social and family interactions.”
He told me there was an instance recently when memories of his childhood came flooding back as he watched TV.
“Alex Salmond was being interviewed live and he was standing on the grassy back of the River Ugie in front of one of the two ‘Ald road Brigs’ which were so familiar to me in Strichen in the childhood years I spent there prior to me joining the British Army.”
He then pointed out that he joined the “British Army”, not an independent Scottish Army, as although “born a Scot”, he remains welded to his Britishness.
He also said he has “never been ashamed of my (then) Buchan Doric speech” or his working class origins. He added: “Or the Protestant work ethic which was most naturally drummed into me from the first.”
When asked about specific places where he spent his youth he said:
“Fraserburgh harbour, Kinnaird Head and Waughton Hill. Well, in my formative years, they stood as physical and psychological ‘permanences of uncritical stability in my early boyhood. They stood as strong facts that would outlive and outdistance all we passing and temporary actors on its solid stage of confused human events. Here is a recollection of the summer of 1954 and I am sunbathing on Fraserburgh beach aged nine. There is a sudden summer shower of rain. Luckily, it almost immediately passes. I wander off on my own, through the harbour with its ‘painted’ herring boats, and off towards the point, up along the rugged cliffs. I look out over the vast scale of distantly blue horizons. I’ve never seen the sea so deep blue. I’ve never seen the sun so smilingly and cheaply easy with its free intensity. I’ve never felt such a tingle of joy on my skin. If you have all this, I thought, who would have need of a God?”
Tomorrow: Why Nilsen is still battling to tell his story in his own words.
Among those voicing their anger were relatives of the men who the Fraserburgh-born killer had murdered.
Seaton Sutherland is the younger brother of Billy, one of three Scots killed by Nilsen.
The Edinburgh man met the murderer in a pub before heading to his flat after reportedly telling him he had nowhere to go.
Mr Sutherland said at the time of the publication: “This man is a monster and he should not be allowed a voice. This is attempting to glorify what he did. It is disgraceful that reputable sites are being used to get round the ban. Gag the monster before it’s too late and before more damage is done.”
Another relative of one of the victim’s had a different outlook.
He questioned what was the difference between his autobiography being published and Nilsen being quoted in newspapers, and argued the document could be important for professionals such as psychiatrists and criminal profilers to get some answers from. PRESS & JOURNAL
- Would you buy Dennis Nilsen’s ‘House of Horrors’?
- Who were Dennis Nilsen’s victims?
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