Dennis Andrew Nilsen

From Real Life Villains Wiki

Warning sign 2.png
This article's content is marked as Mature
The page Mature contains mature content that may include coarse language, sexual references, and/or graphic violent images which may be disturbing to some. Mature pages are recommended for those who are 18 years of age and older.

If you are 18 years or older or are comfortable with graphic material, you are free to view this page. Otherwise, you should close this page and view another page.

Dennis Andrew Nilsen
Dennis Nilsen.jpg
Full Name: Dennis Andrew Nilsen
Alias: The Muswell Hill Murderer
The Kindly Killer
Origin: Fraserburgh, Aberdeenshire, Scotland
Occupation: Metropolitan Police constable
Hobby: Murder
Crimes: Serial Murder

Hiding and destroying evidence

Type of Villain: Serial Killer

The devil makes work for idle thirsts. But given the choice between booze and cannabis, I go for ganja every time.
~ Dennis Andrew Nilsen

Dennis Andrew Nilsen (November 23rd, 1945 - May 12th, 2018) was a Scottish serial killer known as the Muswill Hill Murderer. He committed 15 murders by strangling, drowning, and other completely evil methods. One of these may include the act of cannibalism. Most of the men that he killed or targeted were either black, homosexual, or homeless. He burned most of the bodies, and may have killed more people. He is considered to be one of Scotland's most infamous serial killers.

The murders

Between 1978 and 1983, Nilsen is known to have killed 15 men and boys. The majority of Nilsen's victims were homeless or homosexual men whom he would typically meet in bars or on the streets and lure to his home with an offer of food, alcohol or shelter. Once at Nilsen's home, the victims were usually given food and alcohol, then strangled and drowned during the night. He used his butchering skills, which he gained from his time as a cook in the army, to help him dispose of the bodies. The bodies were not immediately dismembered, but were kept, sometimes for several months, in different locations in his home, usually under the floorboards. Nilsen later admitted to having engaged in sexual acts with the corpses of his victims.

Nilsen had access to a large garden when living at 195 Melrose Avenue, Cricklewood. He was able to burn many of the remains in a bonfire. Entrails were dumped over the garden fence to be eaten by wildlife.

In October 1981 Nilsen moved several miles eastwards to an attic flat at 23 Cranley Gardens, Muswell Hill. Here he had no access to a garden and the flat itself had no floorboards. This meant that, as his murders continued, he found it difficult to dispose of the remains and had bin bags full of human organs stored in his wardrobe. Neighbours began to notice the smell. Three people were murdered at this address, and all were stored in cupboards and chests. Nilsen attempted to dispose of the bodies by boiling the heads, hands and feet to remove the flesh and by chopping the entrails into small pieces and flushing them down the toilet. This eventually blocked the flats' drains.

Nilsen's murders were first discovered by Dyno-Rod, a drain-cleaning company responding to a blocked drain. The company found the drain was packed with a flesh-like substance. The drain inspector then called his supervisor, but no assessment was made until the next day, by which time the drain had been cleared. This aroused the suspicions of the drain inspector and his supervisor, who immediately called the police. Upon closer inspection, some small bones and what looked like chicken flesh were found in a pipe leading from the drain, with rats feeding on them; the remains were passed to pathologist Professor David Bowen, who advised that they were human.

Detective Chief Inspector Peter Jay was called to the scene with two colleagues and waited outside until Nilsen returned home from work. As they entered the building, DCI Jay introduced himself to Nilsen and explained that he had come about his drains. Nilsen asked why would the police be interested in his drains and also if the two officers were health inspectors. He was told they were police colleagues and given their names. They then climbed the stairs together and as they entered the flat DCI Jay immediately smelled rotting flesh. Nilsen queried why the police would be interested in his drains, so the officer told him they were filled with human remains. "Good grief, how awful!" exclaimed Nilsen. "Don't mess about, where's the rest of the body?" replied Jay. Nilsen responded calmly, admitting that they were in two plastic bags in his wardrobe. He was then arrested and cautioned on suspicion of murder and taken to the police station. On the way back to the station, Nilsen was asked how many bodies they were talking about and replied "15 or 16, since 1978".

Nilsen later apologised to the police for not being able to remember the exact number of people he had killed. When his flat was searched, human remains were found inside black bin liners in a wardrobe. When interviewed by police he confessed there were further remains in a tea chest in his living room and in an upturned drawer in his bathroom. The dismembered body parts were the bodies of three men. His former address was also searched and numerous small bone fragments were found in the garden.


At his trial, The defense witness, Dr. James MacKeith, discussed the various aspects of an "unspecified personality disorder" from which he believed Nilsen suffered. When questioned by the Crown, Dr. MacKeith did state that borderline personality disorder was the most likely personality disorder at play in Nilsen, but Dr. MacKeith declined to make the diagnosis and left it at "unspecified personality disorder". However, He then described how Nilsen had always had "trouble expressing his feelings, and he always fled from relationships that had gone wrong. His maladaptive behaviors had been in place since childhood. He had the ability to separate his mental and behavioral functions to an extraordinary degree, which implied diminished responsibility for what he was doing". The psychiatrist also described Nilsen's association between unconscious bodies and sexual arousal. He stated that Nilsen "also had narcissistic traits, with the added hindrance of blackouts from excessive drinking. He had an impaired sense of identity and was able to depersonalize others to the point where he did not feel much about what he was doing to them". Dr. MacKeith did concede that impairments in sense of identity were classic symptoms of borderline personality disorder. On strenuous cross-examination, MacKeith was forced to retract his judgment about diminished responsibility in all of the cases. He said that was for the court to decide.

The second psychiatrist, Dr. Patrick Gallwey, diagnosed Nilsen with borderline personality disorder with occasional outbreaks of schizoid disturbances that he [Nilsen] managed most of the time to keep at bay. Such a person is most likely to disintegrate under circumstances of social isolation. In effect, Nilsen was not guilty of "malice aforethought."


  • Nilsen was portrayed by David Tennant in a 2021 three-part mini-series about his crime spree, called Des.