Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Dennis Nilsen

A Taste for Death

In October 1979, nearly a year after the first murder, a young Chinese student, Andrew Ho, went home with Nilsen. The young man wanted to try some bondage play. Nilsen was disinclined, but put a tie around his neck and told him he was playing a dangerous game. Ho left and informed the police, but no charges were brought.

By 1981, Nilsen had killed twelve men in that apartment. Only four were identified: Kenneth Ockendon, Martyn Duffey, Billy Sutherland, and Malcolm Barlow. Many of them may have been unemployed or homeless young men looking for a way to make money. Some were homosexual, and a few were male prostitutes. Nilsen claimed he went into a "killing trance," and on seven occasions, actually freed the men rather than complete the act, because he was able to snap out of it.

The second victim was Kenneth Ockendon, a Canadian tourist.

Nilsen's sketch of Ockendon in the wardrobe
Nilsen's sketch of Ockendon in the wardrobe

He met Nilsen at lunch at a pub on December 3rd, 1979. They drank together for several hours, took a tour of London, and ended up in Nilsen's flat. They got along very well, and the more Nilsen enjoyed Ockendon's company, the more desperate he felt at the thought that the Canadian was flying home the following day.

He strangled Ockendon with an electrical cord from some headphones, dragged him across the floor, and then sat down to listen to several pieces of music while the body lay there on the floor. Then he removed the clothing and took him into the bathroom to clean him up. Once finished, he placed the corpse in bed and slept with it the rest of the night, caressing it frequently. In the morning, Nilsen stuffed the body in a cupboard, tossed out the clothing, and went to work.

During the day, the body rigidified in a doubled up position.

Nilsen took him out a day later and cleaned him up again. Then he dressed the corpse and sat him in a chair, taking photos of it in various positions. When he was finished with that, he took the young man into his bed and positioned it, spread-eagled, on top of him. He spoke to Ockendon as if he could hear. Then he crossed his legs together and had sex between his thighs. Finally, Nilsen relegated Ockendon to the space beneath the floorboards. He took him back out several times so they could sit together and watch television.

Nilsen's floorboards concealed victims
Nilsen's floorboards concealed victims

"I thought that his body and skin were very beautiful," Nilsen said later. Then he would dress him in something fresh, put him to "bed" and tell him good night.

Five months went by before it happened again. On May 13th, 1980, Martyn Duffey, 16, turned up missing. He was homeless and he accepted Nilsen's invitation to spend the night. After two beers, he went to bed. Nilsen climbed on top, trapping his arms under the covers, and strangled him. He went limp, but was still alive, so Nilsen carried him into the kitchen and drowned him by pushing his head into a sink full of water. Then he took him to the bathroom and got into the tub with him. "I talked to him and mentioned that his body was the youngest looking I had ever seen." Nilsen brought him back to bed and kissed him all over, then sat on his stomach and masturbated.

Duffrey went into the cupboard for two full weeks, and then was placed under the floorboards.

The next one, Billy Sutherland, 27, slept with men for money. Nilsen did not even want to take him home, but he followed Nilsen after they went bar-hopping one night. Nilsen barely recalls strangling him and finding a body in his home the next morning.

Malcolm Barlow, 24, was an orphan with mental problems. He was also a pathological liar. Nilsen found Barlow loitering outside his home, complaining of weakness from epilepsy, and he took him home and called an ambulance. When Barlow was released, he came back and sat on Nilsen's doorstep to await his return from work. Nilsen invited him in and they drank together before Barlow fell into a deep sleep. Nilsen found his presence a nuisance, so he strangled him. The next day, he stuffed Barlow in the cabinet under the kitchen sink. He sat in the flat with a half dozen other bodies awaiting disposal. Some of them Nilsen had kept in bed with him for sexual purposes for as long as a week. Having control over these men thrilled him and the mystery of a dead body that would not respond fascinated him. It was his feeling that he appreciated them more deeply than they had ever been appreciated before.

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